The ZR-1 was too expensive to succeed - but too good to ignore | Jason Cammisa Revelations | Ep. 16

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One of the design briefs for the C4 Corvette was that it had a minimal frontal cross-section, so it was less visible to radar. In other words, it helped you get away with speeding.

Another target was to be the most powerful car sold in America. The 1990 - 1995 Corvette's ZR-1 option package was the most expensive in the history of Detroit, but it gave the Corvette world-beater firepower.

Its LT5 V-8 was designed by Lotus and built by Mercury Marine, an all-aluminum, four-cam V-8 that was developed from the Lotus Etna concept engine, not a Small Block. It shared the traditional Small Block 4.40-inch bore spacing (after a quick redesign) and used an early form of passive Variable Valve Timing.

The 32-valve V-8 breathed through 16 individual intake runners, half of which could be closed off at low loads. When opened, those runners breathed through valves that ran on a far more aggressive cam profile. This allowed the engine to be both torquey and efficient at low-rpms, but powerful at the top.

The 2023 Corvette Z06 is the first DOHC V-8 in a Corvette, but the ZR-1 was the only ever installed in the front.

And through the ZR-1 broke records, it wasn't the sales success that Chevrolet had hoped for - and there are many very interesting reasons why - culminating in the grudge-match development of the LS-series Small Block.

Host Jason Cammisa takes us through the story in this episode of Revelations.

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1 Ara 2021




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Smells Like GASOLINE
Whatever the subject is, it'll be interesting. Thx Mr. Cammisa, you're a legend :d
Jonathan Larsen
Thanks for bringing back many happy memories. As a young Engineer I organised those durability tests. The CHEVY cycle and the CORP cycle still bring me out in a cold sweat.
Axel Reunis
I love the C4's design. I love it. I know it's not everyone's favorite, far from it. But it looks so cool to me. The simple design is elegant and sporty with this mixture of straight lines and subtle curves.
Jedi_Mapper P
Brilliant history lesson. So good even a non-car person would be fascinated. The most interesting result was motivating GM engineers to improve their own pushrod engine.
Fun fact not in the video: Even with 4 chain-driven overhead camshafts, 32 valves, and moving secondary intake butterflies, the LT5 was so well balanced that you could balance a quarter on edge on the intake plenum with the engine running. I’ve repeated this little trick quite a few times on my Dad’s 1990 ZR-1. Also interesting, the C4 is the only generation of ZR-1 to feature the hyphen between the “R” and “1”. Future generations (C6 and C7) have no hyphen.
Felix Kramer
I go in every episode thinking "This is a car I never considered liking" and go out like "wow I need this car" :D
Jacob Burnette
Finally, it's so rare to find someone who doesn't just blindly hate on the C4 like everyone else. God the C4 ZR1 is so cool.
Kyle V
that lt5 is still one of the smoothest best balanced engines i have ever driven. also can't 100% hate the interior. the 90-93 seats are still considerably higher quality than anything we have seen out of corvette until very recently. MUCH better than the crap in my old 2002 z06, those were the low point in vette seats
Great video! As a car guy born in the 70’s, the C4 was my “first love,” and the ZR1 was of course the ultimate C4.
Tim C
There is actually a large exhaust restriction on these, they make all more power if you fix the issue in the collector outlet or crossover it steps down to 2 inches I believe.
The ZR1 style is, all things considered, probably my all-time favorite styled Corvette of all time. It was just such a pure and simple aerodynamic design.
I love the C4 ZR1, it's so underrated, it's so fast, absolutely love them.
michael strub
About a year ago I acquired a 1990 ZR-1 with 10k miles and thought I would just make it a garage queen while the values went up. Then I took it for a drive. A year later it has 13K on it and I wouldn't get rid of it. these cars are made to drive, and while I have owned a lot of fun cars, including two C7's, this thing is sooooo fun to drive and makes the best engine noise ever with an engine that is an absolute piece of automotive art. Thanks Jason for a great video!
Shawn Elliott
This was the Corvette engine I wanted when I was younger and snobbier. As I've gotten older and learned more about the LS engines, I've become impressed with how much GM is able to accomplish from simpler "old tech" -- without compromising on emissions or fuel economy. I would be happy to drive a LS-powered Corvette nowadays...if I could still sit-still and drive for long periods of time without getting lightheaded.
C Greenfield
The little tribute to motorweek in there lets me know this entire series is made by true car fans.
Bo Burwell
The original development of this engine by Mercury has led to the most powerful boat racing engines ever made.
Crusard Modding
I remember falling in love with this car as a kid in Gran Turismo on PS one.
Andy Dhillon
Excellent presentation!
Pablo Céspedes
I knew almost everything about this Vette, that is because I love this model and read every single bit of info about it, but as usual, Jason and Hagerty kept on feeding us enthusists with more unknown car-data, just like the fact of the radiator place in an angle in order of avoiding those nonsense radars!!! thanks for another good video!
"The sound of the LT5 engine might startle folks." ... In other words: Imagine if Lotus made an American-sized V-8! ;D
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