• Dec 19th 2007 at 8:19PM
  • 211

Click the ZR1 for a high-res photo gallery of the new King of the Hill
The King of the Hill has returned! The new Corvette that has been variously known as the "Blue Devil" and SS for at least the past five years has now been officially designated as the ZR1. The new monster from Bowling Green has revived the ZR1 designation for the first time since the C4-based original faded away in 1995. Stories and spy photos of this mythical machine have been circulating the web and print media since well before the current C6 generation Corvette debuted in 2005.

The program has reportedly been killed and revived several times, but it is now very much alive and we have all the details of the fastest, most expensive production 'Vette of all time. Given the recent developments with fuel economy regulations (35 mpg fleet average by 2020) this new King may well turn out to be last and greatest member of this blood-line. The Corvette will no doubt live on with a C7 set to debut in the next few years. But like the descendants of the Porsche 917/30 Can-Am car of the early 70s, nothing may reach the heights of this ZR1. Of course, the same has been said many times before and look at where we are today. For now just follow the jump to find out what $100,000 will soon be able to buy you.

Related: Detroit 2008: The Heart of the King, the LS9 is born!

[Source: General Motors]

click on any image to enlarge

At the initial introduction to the new ZR1 in the design dome at the General Motors Technical Center, Vice Chairman Bob Lutz explained the rationale behind the car. The team wanted to create a car that was both the fastest Corvette of all time, one of the fastest cars ever built and yet something that was still easy to drive on the road at lower speeds. According to Lutz, they wanted something that was docile around town, while still providing a smooth, never ending rush of power. While the Z06 is supremely fast on the track, many drivers have complained that the car can be scary to drive in the real world. The goal was to create a total performance machine that went well beyond the Z06.

To that end Vehicle Line Engineer Tom Wallace, Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter and the team have thoroughly re-engineered the C6 to create the ZR1. The aluminum and magnesium frame of the current generation Z06 forms the basis of the new model. On the outside, the visual changes from the Z06 are subtle but become more apparent as your eyes pour over the car.

At the front end, the main visual difference is the C6R-inspired splitter. As would be expected on a Le Mans winning race car, the splitter is made of carbon fiber. Moving around the sides past the front wheels, the normal single fender vent has been replaced by a pair of larger vertically stacked vents. There is clearly a lot of hot air that needs to be extracted from this engine compartment. Following the pattern set by the mid-engine cars like the Ferrari F430, Chevrolet has decided to show off its new engine, at least as much as they can with a front engine layout . Front and center in the middle of the once solid hood sits a transparent lexan window to display the new LS9 V-8 which we'll get back to later.

Along with the front splitter, the roof of the ZR1 is also made of visible carbon fiber. One of the problems with using unpainted carbon fiber for body work is that the resin oxidizes over time, turning yellow and cracking just like the old plastic rear windows on convertibles. To overcome this, GM materials engineers put a lot effort into developing an additive for the clear coat that could be applied to the carbon to preserve it for the life of the car. The ZR1 is the first car ever to have a carbon fiber clear coat that will last the life of the car. The chemical additive costs $60,000 a gallon and the clear coat with the additive mixed in comes to $2,000 a gallon. The visible carbon isn't the only such material on this car. The entire front clip is made of the same material, although those parts are painted.

Like the original 1990 ZR1, the heart of this new model is the engine. Like the Lotus designed LT5, the new LS9 shares the important dimensions of the classic Chevrolet small block V-8 including its ninety degree vee-angle and 4.4 inch bore spacing. Beyond that they share almost nothing. The LT5 was a dual-overhead cam four valve per cylinder design. The LS9 keeps the single camshaft in the valley of the block. While the LT5 kept the classic 5.7L displacement, and the current Z06 engine has grown to 7.0L the LS9 settles in at 6.2L. In its final iteration, the original LT5 in the 1990 ZR1 produced 405 hp and 71hp/L with the Z06 just beating that at 72hp/L although it's 7.0L displacement brings the total to 505 hp.

The new King drops the displacement back to the 6.2L of the current base Corvette. From there it's a whole new ball game. The LS9 adds a supercharger nestled in the valley of the block with an air-to-liquid inter-cooler sitting on top. The blower is a new 6th generation unit from Eaton. The 5th generation superchargers had three lobe rotors. The new unit has rotors with four lobes. This helps to improve the efficiency of the unit and lower parasitic losses. GM hasn't finalized the calibrations of the LS9 yet, so they aren't announcing power output. Tom Wallace did however say that the engine would produce a minimum of 100 hp/L and speculation has ranged as high as 650 hp. The final rating will probably be somewhere between 620 and 650.

In keeping with the desire to build a car that was eminently usable, GM made a major effort to minimize the hood bulge. The windowed hood has a maximum height only one inch taller than the Z06. Helping to achieve that, the engine has been lowered in the engine compartment to compensate for the increased height.

All that power is pretty useless if you can't get it to the ground. That requires a stiff chassis and a mechanically sound suspension system that can keep the rubber on the road. Speaking of rubber, the ZR1 has more of it than any previous production Corvette. Steering forces are transmitted through Michelin Pilot Sport 285/30ZR19s while tractive forces go through 335/25ZR20s at the rear axle. Those steam rollers also transmit the braking forces, which this car also has no shortage of.

Back in the C4 days, Corvettes were able to generate some insane handling numbers with their enormous for the time tires. The problem is they often could only manage this on a smooth test track surface. The flexible chassis and stiff springs meant the car often had trouble keeping its tires in contact with the pavement on real roads. The current C6 is an order of magnitude better. The chassis vastly more rigid, allowing the suspension to do it's job of following the road. Nonetheless the Z06 is still mighty stiff and often difficult to drive quickly on the road. The ZR1 actually has softer springs than the Z06 but uses the same magneto-rheological dampers as the Ferrari 599. The fluid in these units is filled with iron particles and the viscosity can be instantly changed by varying an electric current passing through it. Sensors in the car take measurements every 0.001 seconds and adjust the dampers every 0.002 seconds. The grip is promised to be superior to the Z06 on road and track while being much more comfortable.

During the presentation, Tadge held up a 15" Brembo carbon ceramic brake rotor. He explained that the Ferrari Enzo used these rotors on the front wheels. The ZR1 team put them on the rear wheels(!), while the fronts get 15.5" diameter pieces. The brake linings are squeezed around the rotors by 6-piston calipers in front and 4-piston units in back, also supplied by Brembo. Helping to distinguish the ZR1 from the more pedestrian Z06, the calipers will be painted a bright blue, while the lesser car keeps its red calipers. Moving up the drive-line from the wheels, the engine is backed up by a Tremec 6060 gearbox with unique ratios from the Z06.

So what does all this hardware do for you? Again, GM isn't talking final numbers yet, but it did replace the 200 mph speedometer in the Z06 with a new unit that goes up to 220 mph. The ZR1 is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. At just over a third of the cost of a Ferrari 599, this is without a doubt a bargain among supercars. We can't wait for our chance to spend some quality time behind the wheel on the new road course that Maximum Bob had constructed at the GM Proving Ground. Then we want to try it on real world roads to see if this monster is really as livable as it's creators claim.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      larry zixx
      • 7 Years Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      i like the new corvette zr1 is pretty.............
      • 7 Years Ago
      15.5 inch rotors are closing in on the Continetal's 16 inch record (to my knowledge it's still standing). Minus about a ton of weight, and...well...wow
      • 7 Years Ago
      "C4-based original"

      You mean, C3-based, 1970-1972 original? :)
      • 7 Years Ago
      Really dont like the bonnet window, I think it really detracts from the overall look of the car. Same could be said about the rims but thats easily fixed.
      Other than that I think this is probably one of the best looking corvettes I've seen.
      Probably still wouldn't buy one though.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm sure it'll go like hell, but I'm thoroughly unimpressed with the visuals. Everything looks tacked on (though the bare CF roof is cool), and that Lexan hood section would be a lot more interesting if the engine looked like it was worth showing off. It'll have ridiculous performance, but I would never guess it from that lame plastic cover.

      That said, the GT2 is also styled tastelessly, so I guess you can't win. The 430 Scuderia is the only race-y version that actually manages to look way better than its more pedestrian siblings.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Goodbye Ferrari, Supra, Skyline....
      • 7 Years Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Great news for the wealthy in Georgia and Alabama.
      • 7 Years Ago
      *** SUWEEETTT!!! ***

      I've died & gone to heaven. We are truly witnessing history here. > 600 HP factory showroom vehicles in the face of 35 MPG CAFE regs & $100/barrel oil.

      On one hand im signing a check after reading the new Skyline GTR 0-60 in 3.3 tested by Edmunds Inside Line! Immidiately after, im writing another check for the New ZR1 w Enzo brakes!

      Clear see through hood scoop? Great idea. I've been wanting one for ages. Now we can see that beautiful plastic engine cover! Arrrggghhh! How anti-climactic is that? Hey ladies! Check out my plastic engine cover. Yeah, I got one of those on my Prius.


      Why don't they let their engineers run wild with the actual engine design if they're going to show it off like the Cadillac Sixteen?


      The see thru is great, just remove the engine cover, detail & give us something to look at. ie. A HARD CORE MOTOR in the RAW! Not the censored version.


      Whats to stop somone from buying a base model & slapping on the super charger & saving about > $ 50-60,000 +-?

      *** Thank you Bob Lutz & GM for one of the best Xmas ever!!! Love to see this engine in a Camaro Cabrio A La SS-KR.

      **** Qn: How is it that motorcycle manufacturers with microscopic, itty, bitty budgets can manage to squeeze 200 HP/L while auto giants with HUGE cash captial reserves by comparison are struggling to achieve 100 HP/L???
      • 7 Years Ago
      its asham that you can't use a car like this in us roads, what a waste
      • 7 Years Ago
      Chevy already lost if they have to use a supercharger.
        • 7 Years Ago
        What a retarded comment:
        "GM already lost if they have to use a Supercharger".
        I'm guessing porsche, nissan and just about everyone else already lost when they used turboes...
        • 7 Years Ago
        But its cool for Nissan to use a twin turbo set-up for their GT-R? Hmm. Makes sense in an obtuse way. I'm gonna go peel some oranges.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Jim, while I like the "pureness" of an unboosted engine as much as anyone else, supercharger and turbo technology has come a LONG way.

        Also, this car was designed to be a much nicer daily driver than the Z06 (because of complaints *coming from Z06 owners*) and yet still is able to outperform it at the track. What's not to like about that?
        • 7 Years Ago
        I've been against the use of a supercharger on this car since day one, it (along with the tacky hood window) is why this does not surpass the Z06 on my "do want" list. With $3,500, you can have a Z06 that will happily put down 600 horsepower to the wheels, though more is still attainable without losing driveability. The other modifications to this car probably wouldn't be too hard to match either...

        Oh well, I hope it still blows the doors off of everything since regardless if it's a bastard child to me, it's still a Corvette.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I think the use of a supercharge is cleaver. Remember all those guys buying the 03-04 cobras and only getting 400HP? A few bolt ons and your into the 500HP range. Those internals must be strong to take the boost. What is to say that the car makes 650 from the factory? Well I bet only a few bolt ons and a tune will take it to the 750 hp range! I think this car is going to be hit and this will make the Z06 more affordable for people that want a good used supercar.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Why is that so bad? I don't see anything wrong with forced induction for power. They made this engine so it would last, They could have blown the LS7, but that engine would have quality issues like no other.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Blowers are for Fords.
        • 7 Years Ago
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