1990 ZR-1 Corvette – Finally! A Dedicated “Performance” Model Corvette
Dateline: 8.11.17 – Photos: GM Archives, Michael Beal, Illustrations: K. Scott Teeters – There’s an unwritten, unofficial “Law of the Jungle” that basically states, “If you are at the top of the food chain, you might not be there for long.” Such was the case for the C4 ZR-1 Corvette, for a little while. The C4 ZR-1 had a six-year production run with only 7,018 units produced. The ZR-1’s head-exploding price was the biggest limiting factor. The crummy economy in the early ‘90s didn’t help, and the much-rumored, all-new C5 no doubt was a drag on the ZR-1’s sales. And then there was also that pesky Dodge Viper. The 427 Cobra’s “Marley’s Ghost” was obvious, only this time disguised as a Dodge,
While armchair quarterbacking is easy and hindsight is 20/20, it is worth asking the question, why wasn’t such an awesome car more successful? “Timing” aside, the ZR-1’s aesthetics was a big factor. Stated simply: When viewed by itself, the C4 ZR-1s look like “regular” Corvettes. As an illustrator and stylist, I find it astonishing that Chevrolet would have done this, after all the engineering work that went into the ZR-1. The body panels from the doors all the way back to the rear bumper cover, are unique to the ZR-1 – made wider to cover the widest tires put under a factory-built Corvette body, to that point. This means that the panels had to be redesigned. But rather than make them visually unique, the Corvette stylists were commanded to imitate the basic design of the standard Corvette, with one exception Continue reading “
The Story of the ZR-1 Corvette – C4 1990-1991 ZR-1 Corvette: Part 2 of 4″ →
Chevrolet didn’t make a C4 ZR-1 Roadster, but Metalcrafters of California got the job done and today, Michael Beal of Connecticut is still enjoying this unique high-performance Corvette!
For most Corvette fans, there was “that day” when a Vette stole your heart. For Michael Beal, it was the jewel-like LT-5 engine that powered the C4 ZR-1 Corvette. The beautiful LT5 engine may well be one of the most underdeveloped engines in Corvette history. While the numbers don’t look impressive by today’s standards, when the first 375-horsepower ‘90 ZR-1 was finally unleashed, heads spun faster that the rear tires of the new beast. By ‘93, Corvette engineers tweaked here and there and bumped the LT-5’s power output to 405-horsepower. It is worth reminding readers that in March 1990, a race-prepared, Morrison Motorsports ZR-1 shattered records at the 7.71-mile Bridgestone Tire test track in Texas with an AVERAGE 24-hour speed of 175.885-MPH!!!
And least you think this was a stripped down, lightweight ZR-1 – no, no. FIA rules mandated that the car carry spare parts incase of a breakdown. Consequently, the ZR-1 was carrying an additional 300-pounds of gear! And, to add a little “sauce for the goose” for the story, the track was just three lanes wide and had no guard rails! One of the team drivers was the famous Kim Baker. You’ll get to learn a little of what Kim is up to these days in the below story. There’s also some insight as to how much red meat Chevy engineers left inside the LT-5.
Too bad the ZL-1/LT-5 didn’t arrive two or three years sooner. Too bad Chevrolet didn’t make a roadster ZR-1. Apparently, ZR-1 fans asked the same question, and a few did something about it! Below is Michael Beal’s delightful story of how he came to own one of the few ZR-1 Roadsters, and his meeting with Corvette legend, Kim Baker. Here’s Michael. Continue reading “Michael Beal’s 1991 ZR-1 Roadster!” →