As we make our pick for the radical Corvette in the C4 class, we note that this model actually lasted for 5 years. The Corvette had been making huge strides in the sports car world with the advent of the C4 1984-1996 change.
It serves to note that in 1983 there were 33 corvettes made, all of which have been destroyed, except for one that remains on display at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green Kentucky. That in itself is another story, but we chose the 1990 ZR1.
The Corvette in 1990 with its ZR1 Option reaches the super-car status with the debut of a radical new small block Corvette, and takes the sports car world by storm.
At the time, Corvette Chief Engineer, Dave McClellan had been dreaming of a “Super Corvette”, since the late 70’s. With the change in 1984, he began to lay out the ground work for it to become a reality.
The work on this Radical Corvette began in 1985 and was eventually unveiled in Geneva, March 7, 1989, a strange place to show an American sports car. Chevrolet wanted to let Europe know that the Corvette was a world class engineered sports car and could now go toe to toe with the European exotics.
This new Super Corvette, designed to be second to none in acceleration, was the fastest true production car in the world, within the GT class. Chevrolet achieved this without giving up drive-ability, and also packaged with an engine that gave good fuel economy.
The 1990 ZR1 “KING OF THE HILL” was powered by the traditional small block V-8 but much different than the standard L98 Corvette engine. This RPO LT5, was a 4 cam, DOHC, 32 valve, with a unique 16-tube intake plenum fuel injection system. It was built by a joint venture with, then GM owned Lotus, Corvette engineering, and Mercrusier, the marine engine builder in Stillwater OK.
This aluminum block and heads, 350 c.i. small block engine, produced a huge 375 HP, and 370 ft lbs. of torque @ 5600 RPM. It was capable of 0-60 in 4.4 seconds with a top speed of 180 mile per hour.
The ZR1 went on sale, and was available only as a coupe (hardtop). It was distinguishable from the other Corvette coupes, with its wider tail section, to give room for the huge rubber Goodyear made for the car.
The LT5 ZR1 stayed glued to the ground with 315 40 ZR17 tires mounted on massive 11 inch wide rims on the back and 275 40 ZR17 on 9.5 inch wide rims up front. All of this finished off with a rounded out bumper with rectangular tail lights, This was unique for the ZR1 for one year, and later becoming the normal bumper in 1991. Added to this was an all syn-chronic six speed manual transmission. This Radical C4 Corvette was ready to run.
In March of 1990, at Firestone’s 7.7 mile test track this factory direct Super Vette set 7 new world records for a true production car. The speed and distance records it broke were the 24 hour ( 175.885 mph), 5000 mile (173.791 mph) and 5000 kilometer (175.10 mph) marks.
Corvette was now truly in the super car class and this was as Radical as you could get in the day. Thus, the Corvette slogan “Life Begins at 180 MPH” was born.