Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby will you be mine?
Dion – Ruby Baby
Unlike the first few years of Corvette’s existence, the early 1990s were heady times for the marque. Dave McLellan’s engineering team and Jerry Palmer’s design team had done a stellar job introducing the fourth generation Corvette (C4) for model year 1984. It was the first all new Corvette since 1968 and the new body design with vastly improved aerodynamics and reduced weight, coupled with a completely new chassis, gave the Corvette world class handling.
The really big news in 1990 was the introduction of the long-awaited ZR-1, elevating the Corvette to genuine supercar status. The ZR-1 had the superb handling of the previous C4s in addition to a killer new LT5 engine designed by Lotus Engineering and built by Mercury Marine. The 350 cu. in. LT5 had four overhead cams with four valves per cylinder and was rated at 375 hp. Although the ZR-1 was not inexpensive, no other car in the world could match its performance at anywhere near the ZR-1’s price. It was dubbed the King of the Hill within GM, and was described by Corvette Chief Engineer Dave McLellan as being “… a Corvette, only more so.”
The good news for 1990 continued with a redesigned interior for all C4s that included a new dash layout with analog and digital gauges, eliminating the previously all digital dash. Driver-side airbags and a glove box were now standard on all Corvettes.
1991 brought the redesign of the front and rear body portions, giving the Corvette a clean new look. In 1992 the LT1 engine arrived, providing the C4 with 300 hp as standard equipment. A major milestone was achieved on July 2, 1992 with the production of the one millionth Corvette. Appropriately enough, the car was a white convertible with a red interior, the same color combination as the first Corvette back in 1953.
Corvette celebrated its 40th anniversary in 1993 by offering a special anniversary edition package. Regular Production Option (RPO) Z25 adopted a ruby red theme since, according to tradition, the 40th wedding anniversary is the ruby anniversary. RPO Z25 included:
- Ruby Red paint
- Ruby Red interior with leather seats embroidered with the 40th anniversary logo
- 40th anniversary logo emblems mounted on the body sides behind the front wheel openings
- Ruby Red wheel centers
- Ruby Red tops for the convertibles
The anniversary package cost $1,455 and was available on the coupe, the convertible and the ZR-1. Production was not limited, and 6,749 were made, including 220 ZR-1s, slightly fewer than half the number of ZR-1s produced that year.
The Rubies, as they have come to be known, have gained an enthusiastic following. In addition to their own web site, the 40th Anniversary Corvette Registry, a special section devoted entirely to Rubies can be found on just about any Corvette internet forum worthy of the name. The Ruby Registry is somewhat unique among car clubs in that they do not charge a membership fee—if you own a Ruby, you are automatically a member. Please check their web site for further information.
One of those Ruby enthusiasts is Ray Katona of Fairfax, Virginia, the owner of the convertible shown above and in our slideshow. Ray, a member of the Old Dominion Corvette Club, has double the reason to celebrate—his Ruby is also his first Corvette!
Ray first became interested in Corvettes at 7 years of age when he received an AMT scale model of a 1963 Sebring Silver split window coupe. The fiberglass bug bit him really hard three years later when his neighbor came home with a 1968 big block convertible. However, the practicalities of finishing school, going to college and raising a family intervened and Ray postponed the day when he would become an owner—but the spark never died.
In the fall of 1992, Ray stopped by to look at a friend’s new 1993 Ruby convertible. The time wasn’t right, but Ray thought to himself, Someday I’m going to get one of those.
In 2003, Ray attended the Bloomington Gold event in St. Charles, Illinois. While there, he shopped around, but came home empty-handed. He didn’t find anything he wanted at a price he was willing to pay.
A month after returning from Bloomington Gold, Ray saw his friend with the Ruby convertible and suggested that the friend sell it to him. Later that week, Ray received an e-mail with the asking price, took the car for a test drive and finally became a Corvette owner. Was he happy? Ray says, “It was great to find a special car at home, knowing the first owner and having all the service records.”
Ray has added a removable hardtop for winter driving and, except for updating the CD player, has kept the car stock. Ray’s Ruby is not a trailer or garage queen. It now has about 39,000 miles on the clock and Ray enjoys driving it to local Corvette events, trips to Skyline Drive and making an annual trek to Corvettes at Carlisle. Ray has waited long enough—it’s now time for some Corvette driving!
Ray is now looking to add to his “collection”. A chrome bumper C3 with a small block and manual transmission is at the top of the list. Now that he is an owner, it seems Ray has learned what most Corvette owners already know—you just can’t have too many Corvettes!
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Copyright February 2010 by Bruce H. Troxell