With the 2019 Chevrolet Corvette entering a new generation for the popular sports car, we’re going to see more than just an average Corvette with a 2019 title slapped on. We got the news back in October 2017 about its production starting in January 2018, and now the news is the 2019 Chevrolet ZR1 will be the fastest production Corvette vehicle ever. Emphasis on the “Corvette” - Chevrolet has yet to make a vehicle that can beat the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon straight from the factory, but unlike the Demon, it won’t be limited to 3300 units (3000 in the US, 300 in CA). Still, there’s a lot of history for the Chevrolet Corvette, unmistakable anywhere. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and watch how the Chevy Corvette ZR1 evolved over the last 48 years.
The first Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 to appear was nearly 50 years ago when the sports car package was in limited production and only lasted for two years (1970 - 1972). It wasn’t the first time the Chevy Corvette ZR1 made an appearance - this was actually its fourth debut in the spotlight. Some consumers may be surprised to know it took General Motors nearly 20 years to add this package to the third generation lineup for the Corvette, known as the “C3.”
If equipped with the optional 5.7-liter LT1 V8 engine, consumers were offered the option to add the ZR1 special performance package onto their third generation Chevrolet Corvette. The ZR1 package added a heavy-duty four-speed manual transmission, more powerful brakes, an aluminum radiator, and upgraded suspension with improved springs, shocks, and anti-roll bars to the already high performance vehicle. All of this added up to $1,010 - not bad for some upgraded additions.
An identical high performance package was also offered to consumers who had the more powerful LS6 V8 engine under the hood, known as the ZR2 package. Only 60 units with the C3 ZR1 package were ever built, making it a rare vehicle to see. The ZR2 was even less common, and now, we’re doubtful to see third generation Corvettes any time soon with how great things are going now.
Enter the fourth generation of the Chevy Corvette, and we have a new ZR1 denoted by a hyphen (ZR-1). No longer just a package, the fourth generation Corvette (C4) ZR-1 was its very own model, powered by a Lotus-designed 5.7-liter DOHC V8 engine. General Motors (GM) actually introduced the ZR-1 with a Double Overhead Camshaft (DOHC) engine design in 1990 to demonstrate its benefits for decreasing the stress of the engine and increasing its performance.
The 5.7-liter DOHC V8 was able to generate up to 375 horsepower (and later optimized for 405 horsepower in 1993), making the engine the strongest V8 produced for the Corvette during its fourth generation. For added performance, an adjustable active suspension, upgraded braking, and steering systems were designed by Lotus and GM to give the driver better control when cruising around in a Chevy Corvette ZR-1. With a top-speed of 180+ mph and an acceleration time of 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds, the Corvette C4 was impressive.
Nearly 7,000 units of the C4 were produced before it disappeared. Due to the high price tag, the C4 ZR-1 only lasted five years before retiring. Of course, this only led to bigger and better things come the 21st Century.
It’s not uncommon for an automaker to retire a popular vehicle and then bring it out of retirement once technology and manufacturing costs catch up with their objectives and goals for the new product. This isn’t some Coca-Cola Classic stunt; come the 2009 model year, the sixth generation Corvette (C6) returned with the ZR-1 model, but now without the hyphen (ZR1) for whatever reason. Not confusing at all.
This round, the Chevrolet ZR1 is powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V8 that can deliver 638 horsepower and 604 lb-ft of torque. When tested, the C6 ZR1 recorded an acceleration from 0-60 mph in 3.3 seconds and a quarter-mile lap in 11.2 seconds, hitting a top speed of 130.5 mph. For those of you who still own a sixth generation Corvette, test this out for yourself at one of the Top Ten Raceways in North America.
For aesthetic appeal and differences, the C6 Corvette ZR1 came with a new roof, hood, front splitter, fenders, and rocker panels made out of carbon fiber. The C6 ZR1 also had its own assortment of standard equipment - magnetic dampers, Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes, and the largest wheels ever placed on a production Corvette. It’s hard to imagine Chevrolet topping this, but they did.
Entering its seventh generation (C7), the Chevy Corvette is returning with a bang. Introducing the new C7 ZR1, we’re about to see the most powerful production Corvette ever, rocking a 755-horsepower supercharged 6.2-liter V8 under the hood. Produced with a larger supercharger, larger front wheels, additional cooling, and more aerodynamic features that keep the Corvette in check, like the optional large rear spoiler that produces an estimated 950 pounds of downforce, this Corvette is offered with a seven-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission.
If looking for even more power, the C7 ZR1 will offer a $2,995 ZTK package adds stickier Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, increased spring rates, and even more aerodynamic capability. Some are saying this could be the Corvette that beats the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon’s numbers, able to accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.3 seconds, and covering a quarter mile in 9.65 seconds. Only time will tell.
The ZR1 coupe model has a starting MSRP of $122,095*; the convertible starts at $126,095*. Let’s talk more about it on NowCar social media.