Just take a closer look at the title, and reserve your letters of correction until you finish reading this piece. I’m not talking about the current Corvette ZR1, which eliminates the hyphen according to GM’s present day alpha-numeric designations. Nor am I talking about the 1970-1972 Corvette, 53 of which were sold with an optional ZR1 package that swapped luxuries like power steering for performance upgrades.
There’s only one generation of Corvette that used the designation ZR-1, and from 1990 through 1995 it positively ruled the roadways of America, not to mention holding its own against the world’s best super cars of the day. I’m of course talking about the original “King of the Hill” Chevrolet, the Corvette ZR-1. The fourth generation Corvette was little more than a 205 horsepower, stiffly-sprung ironing board with a sci-fi instrument cluster when the 1984 models finally hit dealer showrooms. The C4 ‘Vette gradually progressed through the auto evolution of the 1980s to become a reasonably enjoyable sports car, but it still lacked the beans and bite to be a world-class athlete.
The Corvette ZR-1 was more than just a fancy engine, however. Adjustable suspension allowed the ‘Vette to retain some civility while still offering a proper sports car swagger when set to firm. Leather seats, power everything, and a dash that still had some ‘80’s digital with a blend of proper gauges helped the interior immensely, and steamroller-sized rubber—315/35 ZR-17s in the back—helped the ZR-1 put its power to the pavement. Thankfully, the only transmission offered was a six-speed manual, and though it wasn’t the most delightful box to shift, it was up to the task of shuffling all that power to the rear wheels without exploding. With everything in sync, the ZR-1 could reach sixty miles per hour in a scant 4.6 seconds, turn quarter mile times just north of 13 seconds, and with no electronic nanny limiting the fun, continue all the way to about a buck eighty.