GM Didn’t Plan to Offer a C7 Corvette ZR1

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Corvette ZR1

The most powerful Chevrolet Corvette wasn’t planned when the C7 was first in development.

The 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 has arrived with a 755-horsepower LT5 and an aerodynamics package that will make it the most track-capable Corvette ever.  This new ZR1 arrives after speculation that dates back to before the formal introduction of the C7 generation, so it seems like we have known since day one that this Corvette was on its way.

It turns out that everyone who was sure that the ZR1 was already underway back in 2013-2014 was wrong. Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter recently went on record as saying that when the company planned the C7 Corvette, there was no intention to offer a ZR1. In fact, when the C7 project began, there was no intention to offer a Corvette hotter than the modern Z06.

No Early Plan for a ZR1

Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter recently spoke with the crew from GM AuthorityIn that discussion, the head of the Corvette program was asked if there were plans for a C7 ZR1 from the beginning. He quickly stated that when the company laid out the plans for the C7 Corvette, their main focus was getting a new generation car on the road and there were no plans for a ZR1.

Corvette Z06

By the time that the C7 Corvette hit dealerships for the 2014 model year, the generation that it was replacing had been in existence for nine model years. As modern vehicles go – especially premium sports cars – nine years is fairly “old”, so GM knew that they needed to get the next generation in dealers. All-new vehicles are typically designed a couple of years before they reach showrooms, so the 2014 Corvette was likely being developed as early as 2010-2011. This means that the company was developing a low-volume, high-cost sports car within two years of declaring bankruptcy.

As you can imagine, when a company is dealing with the repercussions of bankruptcy, there isn’t a whole lot of money for the development of things like low-volume, high-cost sports cars. Because of the limited budget, the Corvette team put together a plan for the C7 which only included the Stingray and the Z06. With 650 horsepower and the greatest track capabilities of any Corvette ever, the team believed that the Z06 was going to be the top-of-the-line model and there were no considerations for a ZR1 above the Z06.

New Technology and a New ZR1

Although the Corvette team didn’t plan to build a C7 ZR1, they continued to work with different aerodynamic packages for the body of the Z06. They found that things like a massive rear wing and a more aggressive face made a big difference in terms of handling performance.

Corvette ZR1

Next, with continued advancements in engine technology, the team then developed the new LT5 and the ZR1 engine was born. By introducing a larger supercharger and a combination of both port- and direct-injection, the Corvette team was able to increase output up to 755 horsepower.

Once the team had designed the new aerodynamics package and the new LT5 engine, those upgrades were applied to the modern Z06 and the ZR1 was born. Even though the company had no plans for a C7 ZR1 when the generation was introduced, it took the team just four years to roll out the greatest Corvette of all time.

Patrick Rall is a regular contributor to LS1Tech and JK Forum, among other auto sites.

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