The Corvette ZR-1 is Chevrolet’s beloved two-door coupe sports car. The reason it is beloved lies behind Chevrolet’s economic pitfalls of the decades before this cars inception. The 1990 ZR-1 was Chevrolet’s saving grace, so to speak. It provoked a lot of anticipation as the American car manufacturer was promising big things. However, these promises were met with considerable skepticism and doubt from within the wider auto industry, especially given that generally speaking, European enthusiasts never really respected American cars. Chevrolet’s decline only added fuel to the European opinion of cars from across the pond as, ‘all talk, no walk’. What happened to Chevrolet’s production of high performing cars?
After Chevrolet’s worldwide success during the 60’s, the following decades were tumultuous for the company during the gas crisis as it nearly put them into bankruptcy. It is clear that Chevrolet decided that it must meet the challenge that it was facing, head on, and to silence its critics, by introducing its promised world-beater, the Corvette ZR-1. Boy, did it silence those critics.
“In its attempt to build anticipation, Chevrolet hyped the ZR-1 as ‘the king of the hill. When finally released, the ZR-1 became the world’s fastest ever production car.”
In its attempt to build anticipation, Chevrolet hyped the ZR-1 as ‘the king of the hill. When finally released, the ZR-1 became the world’s fastest ever production car. And where Chevrolet’s reputation previously was known for its straight line speed, the ZR-1 took their reputation to another level, cementing its legacy for being much more than that. This car could truly hold it own on the track with its exceptional handling and braking system. Its handling won universal praise from the industry erudite, which helped rejuvenate the Corvette’s reputation. The ZR-1 would even go on to set a world record for highest 24 hour-5,000 mile land-speed of 282 km/h.
The Corvette became wildly popular during the years following its release, not only because of its high performance but for its highly affordable price. The ZR-1 was by far the most affordable super car but only because it was a Corvette and didn’t match the prestige of its European counterparts, much to American displeasure.
Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 features
In terms of its appearance, the ZR-1 unapologetically has 80’s written all over it which probably has something to do with it not lasting too long in popularity as nothing from the 80’s ages well. The ZR-1 did look distinguishably different from preceding Corvette’s due to its much wider tail section and wide rear wheels.
The angular shape to its profile is reminiscent of many of its counterparts of that period. Its big silver rims also echoed cars of that time, along with its headlights and square rear lights. The digital dashboard too had a lot going on, with its many dials and knobs. However, the cabin had a lot cheap looking plastic and the steering wheel couldn’t look less sporty if it tried.
Cars, back then, tried to anticipate what the future would look like. The ZR-1’s style epitomised that, yet here we are feeling grateful for having moved on. We often look back at style and are rewarded for its charm and character. The 80’s for most, won’t reward with us with that.
The ZR-1 had a six-speed gearbox and was the first production car to offer this transmission. The Mercury Marine, built aluminium, 5.7 litre V8 generating 375-horsepower engine was instrumental to the Corvette’s resurrection. The ZR-1, whilst it didn’t age well, can be looked back on as an important car for Chevrolet. When it was released, it was the fastest production car on earth and it could’ve been bought for half the price of other supercars. This Chevrolet, in its brief spell in the limelight, was truly, ‘king of the hill.