When we think of Corvettes, we naturally think first of the National Corvette Museum.
But that’s not the only place you’ll find rare Corvettes on display.
Mercury Marine – which built the 5.7-liter, 375-hp LT5 engine that powered the legendary C4 ZR-1 in the late 1980s and early 1990s – marked its 75th anniversary with the opening of a museum in Fond du Lac, Wis.
Naturally, that museum features a prime example of the ZR-1 Corvette, done in a sinister black with its hood up to show off the LT5 engine.
The roots for the ZR-1 powerplant actually go back to 1985 when Chevrolet first teamed up with Lotus Engineering to design the LT5 that was ultimately manufactured by Mercury’s MerCruiser division in Stillwater, Okla.
Tony Rudd, engineering director for Lotus, had promised GM 400 horsepower, but it was not until 1993 that he delivered and then some, when the LT5’s output climbed to 405 hp thanks to changes in cam timing, engine porting, and exhaust and intake.
The engine became the first for GM to win the automaker’s highest-quality certification: GP3 Level 1.
On the track, the ZR-1 was a standout, with a team of drivers led by Tommy Morrison setting a 24-hour endurance world record by averaging 175.9 mph over 4,221 miles at the Firestone test track in Fort Stockton, Texas, smashing the old mark by nearly 15 mph.
ZR-1s also took the top two spots in the 24-hour World Challenge race in Canada two years later.
Despite its powerful performance, the ZR-1 saw sales steadily falling throughout its run, and production of the LT5 came to a close in 1994. But not without a big show. That year, 70 ZR-1 owners brought their Corvettes to join “Thunder in Stillwater” and arranged their cars on the Oklahoma State University football field to spell out LT5.
You can learn more about Mercury’s development from its start in 1939 at the Mercury Marine Museum, or by visiting the museum’s website.
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