Late last week news broke that General Motors had filed a trademark application at the US Patent and Trademark Office for the term “ZR1” which would be used for “motor land vehicles, namely, automobiles”.
Of course, the news blew up on the internet with the general consensus being that the term would be used for a future mid-engine Corvette that most believe is currently under development.
GM has used RPO codes as both ZR-1 and ZR1 three times in Corvette’s 63 year history. To see where the future is heading, let’s do a quick recap of the past.
The first ZR-1s were introduced in 1970 and ran through 1972 and only 53 were known to be produced. The ZR-1s introduction in 1970 coincided with the retirement of the previous “factory racecar” package known as the L88 in 1969, but in small-block form utilizing the new LT-1 V8 which had solid lifters and a power output of 370 hp.
At the same time Chevrolet introduced the ZR-1 package, it was also developing the LS-7, a big-block version of the LT-1 with aluminum heads which would have made 460 hp. A special ZR-2 package was developed for that LS7 but in never materialized and was canceled. However, a ZR-2 package did appear in 1971 with the LS-6 big block V8 and 12 were built during that one-year option run.
The second iteration of the ZR-1 then appeared again from 1990 through 1995, utilizing a specially produced dual overhead cam V8 known at the LT5. Designed by Lotus and built by Mercury Marine, the new LT-5 started off with a rating of 375 hp and by the third year of production, it was boosted to 405 hp. It was during the 6-year model run that the phrase “King of the Hill” was first attached to the ZR-1 name.
Most know about the ZR1 from the last time it appeared in a Corvette, which was 2009-2013. Originally code named the Blue Devil, the C6 ZR1 was an incredible performance buy capable of a 205 mph top speed from the LS9 supercharged 638 horsepower V8.
So to sum it up, except for 1971 with the one-year only ZR-2, every time Chevrolet has used the ZR1 RPO, it’s been used to designate the top performance model in Corvette’s line-up. Only the L88 occupies that spot in the minds of Corvette enthusiasts and we might remind people that General Motors also has recently trademarked the L88 name as well.
Now, back in 2016, most automotive sites like ourselves are trying to determine what’s next for Corvette and it all depends on which direction Chevrolet will take their halo car. Will Chevrolet continue to offer a front engine/rear wheel drive for the masses along with a mid-engine supercar which may get the ZR1 moniker? If the mid-engine is a one-model stand alone, then the ZR1 name makes sense.
But what if they go all in on a mid-engine design only for C8? We can’t stop thinking about what Car and Driver’s Don Sherman recently posted about the Mid-Engine Corvette that most are referring to as the Zora, another recent GM Trademark.
Sherman sources inside GM tell him that the future of Corvettes will C8 will be a mid-engine design only and will feature two distinct models, a regular base model starting at $80,000 will be introduced at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show followed a year later by a high performance version that will be priced over $100K.
He also stated that Chevy is likely to send out the C7 generation with a bang, and that’s where we are mostly likely to see the return of the ZR1, possibly as early as January 2017’s North American International Auto Show.
As Chevrolet recently brought back the Grand Sport name, it would make a lot of sense that a final high performance model called the ZR1 would help close out the C7 run. That also makes the name available again in C8 as the highest performance Corvette.
Regardless of what the future holds, Corvette enthusiasts will be the real winners in the end. Grab your popcorn and drinks because its going to be fun to see how this plays out.
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