Last week GM debuted the new ZR1 Corvette at the Milford Proving Grounds. During the celebration they brought out several older versions of the ZR1 to show people how far they had evolved. The first of them was from the early â€˜90s.
The original ZR-1 was built from 1990-95 and, as with the new model, its engine was the heart of the car. In the late ’80s when the ZR-1 was conceived, GM owned Lotus. The British sports car specialist designed the LT5 V8 specifically for the ZR-1.
Aside from sharing bore spacing with the regular small-block, they had nothing else in common. The LT5 was an all-aluminum, dual overhead cam, 32 valve V8. At the time of its introduction, the motor had an output of 375 hp (eventually bumped to 405 hp in the last couple years of production), which was huge for the day, though tame by today’s standards.
While the expensive ZR-1 never sold in huge numbers, it did spawn some interesting derivatives that GM keeps in its Heritage Collection. Among the ones brought to Milford were one of the active suspension prototypes. These used a fully active hydraulic suspension system with no springs, but the hydraulics reportedly consumed upwards of 40 hp.
One unique car from the collection is the DR-1. This was the only ZR-1 convertible ever built and was produced for Don Runkle, who at the time was chief engineer at Chevrolet.