Temptation redefined: A new Corvette

By KEN WICKLIFFE • For The Star Press • March 29, 2009

Larry and Joyce Greenwalt picked up their 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 at American Chevrolet Cadillac of Muncie last weekend. The longtime Corvette enthusiasts from Zionsville ordered the car last August. Produced in limited numbers, the ZR1 features a 638-horsepower hand-built engine and numerous carbon-fiber parts. The Greenwalts’ ZR1 is only the 622nd to be made this model year. (Ken Wickliffe / For The Star Press)

MUNCIE, IN -- For Larry and Joyce Greenwalt of Zionsville, months of anticipation came to an end last Saturday at American Chevrolet Cadillac of Muncie, where they took delivery of Chevrolet's ultimate Corvette -- a 2009 ZR1.

A managing partner at Indianapolis-based Greenwalt Sponsel and Company Certified Public Accountants, Larry Greenwalt is a Muncie native and a longtime Corvette enthusiast. He and Joyce both attended Ball State University.

Getting a ZR1 is a process unlike that of buying most other cars, the Greenwalts said. While Chevrolet makes many Corvettes, very limited production of the ZR1 means dealers get only a few -- or, in some cases, none -- of that version.

"I had placed an order for a ZR1 with a dealership in Indianapolis, but I decided to give my place in line to one of my clients who wanted one," Larry said. "Several weeks later, Blake Absher at American Chevrolet Cadillac, who had taken good care of us on previous purchases of two Cadillacs, called to say that they had been allotted two ZR1s, and would we be interested?

"Well, the temptation was too great, so on August 16, 2008, we went to Muncie and ordered a black ZR1 with chrome wheels," he continued. "That's when the waiting agony began."

A two-month shutdown of the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky., delayed production of the Greenwalts' ZR1, but last month they were finally notified that their car would soon be built. Because the couple had arranged to take the Corvette owner's tour, they headed to the plant on Sunday, March 1, to see the final phases of their car's assembly.

When his black ZR1 reached the end of the production line, Larry got in and started the engine for the first time -- but he couldn't drive the new 'Vette back home to Indiana, as every ZR1 stays at the factory for two weeks after it's built to undergo additional testing and inspection. The car is then shipped to the dealer, who delivers it to the customer.

The Greenwalts' ZR1 is the 622nd one to be made this year, Larry said. Indianapolis 500 veteran racecar driver Mario Andretti is said to have purchased ZR1 number 500.

While he will avoid leaving the ZR1 sitting in parking lots, Greenwalt plans to drive it often, taking it to work during periods of good weather, and to Corvette-enthusiast events. He may also enter it into some drag racing competitions.

"I will drive it," he said. "It's definitely not just going to sit in the garage as a 'collector's car.'"

The Corvette ZR1 is an exotic sports car with performance that equals or exceeds that of a Ferrari, Lamborghini -- or pretty much any other production car in the world, many auto critics say. The car's supercharged, 6.2-liter aluminum V8 engine is hand-assembled at the General Motors Performance Build Center in Wixom, Mich. At 638 horsepower, the ZR1's engine is the most powerful ever offered in a GM production car, Chevy says.

Other features include Brembo carbon ceramic brakes, selectable magnetic ride control, a short-throw six-speed manual transmission and numerous carbon-fiber parts.

"A lightweight material pioneered in racing circles, carbon-fiber has an undeniable air of exotic-ness and only a few production cars have ever employed the relatively expensive composite in their exterior panels," Chevrolet said in a press release. "On the ZR1, the roof panel, roof bow, lower rocker moldings, front splitter and the underside of the hood feature exposed-weave carbon-fiber. The other carbon-fiber parts of the ZR1 include the front fenders and hood."