This is the Corvette that challenged the boundaries that previous models had achieved. Even in development it rapidly earned the nickname “King of the Hill” and emerged as “The Corvette from Hell.” It was the first model year of the reborn Chevrolet Corvette ZR1.
The 1990 Chevrolet ZR1 was birthed from difficult time both from the American muscle and sports car industries and Corvette in particular, was reeling. Gas shortages, environmental requirements and regulations impacted high energy cars. The folks at Chevrolet and Corvette had enough and the 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 was their answer. It took some courage and a few plays from their late 60s playbook.
First, the 1990 Corvette ZR1 had to move on from its pushrod V8 engine that generated 250 horsepower in favor of a 5.7 liter LT5 DOHC engine that boosted performance levels never before realized for Corvette. In one season the Corvette went from 250 horsepower to 380 horsepower. Corvette engineers and designers weren’t stopping there.
The 1990 C4 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 strapped on 17” wheels which were huge at the time. It had exceptionally wide rear hips that are distinctive to this day. Its suspension design borrowed elements from Porsche. The axle ratio was changed, it received an upgraded transmission and got upgraded brakes and an improved rollover prevention system. But of course, sports cars are judged on their numbers and Corvette and the fans were excited. The 1990 Corvette ZRI could launch from zero to 60mph in just 4.5 seconds. It could go from standing to 100 mph in 10.4 seconds and this new Vette had a top speed of 175 miles per hour. After a lackluster 1980s run, the Corvette was back and it was being brought back by the 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. This alone would make it notable to consider. Its extremely limited production run of just over 3,000 units adds to its rarity. It is also desirable because its all aluminum V8 5.7 liter engine (Referred to as the LT5 ) was the first and last Corvette power plant with dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder.
When in doubt, Corvette reached back to the original C3 ZR1 produced from 1969 to 1971 and wowed fans with the C4 ZR1 which it would manufacture from 1990 through 1995.
Any Chevrolet ZR1 model is an impressive find and acquisition. The backstory and subsequent ramifications that followed the introduction of the 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 makes it particularly so.
Classic and vintage automobiles are often best viewed in the context of the times they were produced and the role they played in model, manufacturer and even automotive history. The 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 is the perfect example of this philosophy.
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