CHEVROLET’S RESPONSE TO VIPER IS A ZR-1 SS PROTOTYPE

Former GM Heritage Center Corvette Donated to Museum

SnakeSkinnerII_Barrett

In the late 80s, Chevrolet was not-so-secretly developing what some dubbed a ‘Super Vette.’ But at the 1989 New York Auto Show, it was the debut of the Dodge Viper RT/10, complete with a 488-cid V-10 engine that sent GM engineers on a new path to develop a ‘Viper-Killer.’ Dodge credited the ’65 Shelby 427 Cobra as the inspiration for the Viper, but the model wouldn’t be available until 1992.

By 1990, then Corvette Development Manager, John Heinricy, had three projects for his engineering team to tackle, which would affect future Corvettes:

1) Response to the Viper: The newest Corvette adversary would soon arrive, a car that was light weight, utilized simple technology, but wielded brutal power. Heinricy wanted to study ways to lighten their ZR-1, should Chevrolet need to “skin the snake.”

2) Drop the Pounds: New safety regulations added more weight to the Corvette, which in turn decreased fuel economy. With the gas-guzzler tax looming, GM faced reduced performance to make up the difference, and they couldn’t afford that either. Lightning the weight of the car would improve the speed and efficiency.

3) Ideas and Innovation: A new product would bring the team together and inspire new ideas from the development engineers.

With a common theme flowing between these ideas, it made sense to use the same car for development. A white non-saleable 1989 ZR-1, which had been used in Chevrolet’s 1990 model year media preview, was hand-picked (VIN 00081). It was one of only 84 production ZR-1s built in Bowling Green for evaluation, testing, media preview and photography. No 1989 ZR-1s were released for public sale initially, but several have since found their way into private hands.

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Categories: 1980's, 1990, 1990's, Barrett Jackson, Chevrolet, Corvette, National Corvette Museum

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