Video: The Legendary Corvette ZR-1 And Why The LS Was Produced Because Of It

The Driver’s Manual that came with the Corvette ZR-1 warns operators that this iteration of the Corvette might be too awesome to handle. Its engine might disrupt other drivers, the brakes might be too efficient for other motorists to handle, and Jason Cammisa is here to tell you all about it.

Before the announcement of the C8Z engine, the ZR-1 was the only Corvette to have more than one camshaft, and it actually had four. Additionally, it had 32 valves, 16 fuel injectors, and 11 throttles. At the time, it was the quickest car you could buy, and the fastest besides one 12 cylinder Ferrari. It held high accolades as a car that was so capable, it could smoke the Porsche 911 Turbo, for half the price. Despite having so much to offer, the ZR-1 was not a marketplace success.

Built-In the fourth generation of the Corvette, the ZR-1. The C4 came on the tails of GM ramping up the price of the Corvette, and it was the first Corvette not made under the supervision of the “Father of the Corvette”, Zora Arkus-Duntov. Since the public had gotten used to the Corvette coming in with higher pricing, it freed up GM to add some high-tech elements, like a 5-link rear suspension that contributed to its notable handling. Another interesting part of the design was angling the radiator back to help drivers evade radar detection, to some degree, since the body didn’t feature any metal. Despite these little details, the C4 Corvette was an overall bomb and was facing fierce competition from the Japanese market, mainly the Acura NSX.

Turbocharging the C4 wasn’t an option because of fuel economy standards and lacking the transmissions to handle the extra torque. Thanks to a vision by Lotus and execution by MercCruiser, the LT5 engine was born. The massive and beautiful engine posed some challenges and the price of addressing the issues, causing GM to not throw much into the rest of the car, like the unpopular interior.

The ZR-1s could beat a Ferrari and Lotus, people were not having a car that cost $60K, and could near $100K, which offered little in terms of luxury. To kick the ZR-1 while it was down, it had massive issues with the LT5 at cold. Internally, GM engineers were not happy about the Lotus engine, and GM engineers produced the LS as an act of payback.

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Elizabeth Puckett

Elizabeth is hardcore horsepower enthusiast with unmatched intensity for making things faster and louder. She wakes up for power and performance and only sleeps to charge up for the next project that’s heading to the track. From autocross to drag racing, Elizabeth is there with you, so stay tuned for her unique perspective on horsepower news, builds, tech info, and installs — with her, it’ll never be boring!

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