Is the 2019 Corvette ZR1’s LT5 V8 Engine Really Going to Be a One and Done?


Is the 2019 Corvette ZR1's LT5 V8 Engine Really Going to Be a One and Done?

The Seventh Generation Corvette is officially a thing of the past and with its six-year production ending, the final front-engine model takes with it General Motor’s most powerful engine, the Supercharged, 755 Horsepower, LT5.

With the C7 Z06 and third generation CTS V also exiting production, the Camaro ZL1 is the only remaining home for the 650 horse LT4.

The departure of the Supercharged ‘Vettes and their 4-door Cadillac sibling leaves the top of the line Camaro as the General’s most powerful offering. The ZL1 is now also GM’s sole offering in the 600+ HP category, left to compete with much more potent hardware from its rivals in Detroit. Dodge has its line of Hellcat V8’s that make 707 to 797 HP and Ford just released the new Shelby GT500 and with it, unleashed their 760 HP “Predator” motor.

This brings us to the premise of this post, is GM really going to leave the most powerful weapon in their arsenal on the sideline after just one model year of production where it was installed in less than 3,000 vehicles?

ZR1 Engine History

First, we are going to look at the history of the mighty ZR1 and how well it shares power with its stablemates.

The original ZR1 debuted in 1970 where it was exclusively paired with the excellent, 350 cubic inch LT-1. The only other ways to get this 370 horsepower powerplant was in other corvettes or by ordering the Camaro Z/28 of the time.

We next saw the ZR-1 RPO code (Now with a hyphen!) on the C4 Corvette in 1990. This car was the exclusive way to get your hands on the original, Lotus designed, 32 valve LT5. The King of the Hill would only share its engine with you if you were a particularly well-connected celebrity.

Riding high after the success of the first Toy Story, Tim Allen was able to get his hands on a ’96 Impala SS fitted with an LT5 through his friendship with Jon Moss, the former director of GM’s specialty vehicles division.

The third ZR1, 2009-13’s LS9-powered model, was happy to let others use its 638 HP mill, as long as it was for a special occasion that wouldn’t step on its toes in this country. Holden Special Vehicles (HSV), Australia’s greatest source for performance-oriented General Motors products, had just such an occasion when their corporate overlords announced that Australian car manufacturing would cease operations and that their storied flagship muscle sedan, the Commodore would be in its final generation. They decided to send out the Commodore in tire-roasting style with a limited run of 300 GTSR W1 models with LS9 power under the hood.

Up to this point, the engine bay of a 2019 ZR1 is the only location where the new, supercharged LT5 can be found.

Do we think the most powerful Corvette’s engine has a future beyond those measly 2,953 units? Let’s take a look at the possibilities!

Will a Mid-engine Corvette receive LT5 power?

Putting all of the R&D work and money into such a low volume engine doesn’t make a lot of financial sense but it is looking more and more likely that the naturally aspirated LT2 will be the only pushrod engine to be placed amidships in a C8. All signs point to future versions of the new ‘Vette getting power from a range of DOHC V8s and swapping out superchargers for turbos. We feel confident in saying that encore for the LT5 in America’s Sports Car isn’t going to happen.

Possible landing places for the 755 HP monster

Just because the ‘Vette is done with the LT5 doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some useful years left in its life cycle. Here are a few vehicles that we could see benefitting from a power bump:

1. The Camaro ZL1
This one seems like a no-brainer. As mentioned above, even though it is now GM’s brawniest car, the ZL1 is in severe need of reinforcements. While it is far lighter than the other Super-Pony/Muscle cars currently on offer, leading to a competitive power to weight ratio (ZL1=5.9 pounds per HP, Challenger Hellcat=6.26 lbs./HP, Challenger Hellcat Redeye=5.66 lbs./HP, GT500=5.46 lbs./HP, GT500 with Carbon Fiber Track Pack= 5.33 lbs./HP), that is of little comfort to the pride of owners and even less helpful to the salesmen who have to try to pull out semi-obscure stats when a cross-shopper brings up the impressive power numbers of the Shelbys and Hellcats. If Chevrolet were to shoehorn the LT5 and its 755 horses into the ZL1, it would instantly become a segment benchmark. Not only would it make competitive horsepower, but it also brings 90 more lb./ft of twist to the table when compared to Ford’s 5.2L Predator and that power to weight ratio would easily take the lead with each horse only having to pull around 5.1 pounds.

An LT5 ZL1 would also have the added benefit of creating two combinations that most have only dreamt about up to this point, 755 HP mated to the Camaro’s acclaimed 10-speed automatic (that couldn’t fit in the C7) or a manual with fewer cogs than the C7’s 7-speed. All the parts are all already there, GM just has to make a quick call to put them together.

2. The upcoming CT5-V “Blackwing”
We know that a super sedan based on the new CT5 and its disappointing V variant is on the way. Speculation points to the name Blackwing being used as Cadillac’s new nomenclature for “Superior to the V-series.” We have also heard several sound clips of this car that suggest the use of a supercharged V8 in lieu of Cadillac’s Twin Turbo “Blackwing” engine. Like all things involving Caddy’s naming schemes of late, this is all very confusing but the point is that the top dog replacement for the LT4 powered 2016-19 CTS-V is most likely going to get a supercharged smallblock V8. This leaves three options: they go the boring route and recycle the previous gen’s powerplant, they have an all-new motor up their sleeves, or, the CT5 will get an LT5. As if the idea of a four-door ZR1 isn’t exciting enough, Motor Trend’s Jonny Lieberman is adamant that a manual transmission will be returning to the “enthusiast’s Cadillac.”

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BIG NEWS! Pretty much everything (fine, everything!) in my previous post from last week about the next big monster V car from Caddy is WRONG. The red thing on the bottom (CT5-V Secret) is getting the punch-ya-in-the-mouth supercharged 6.2-liter V8 in the current (top) CTS-V. That “old” pushrod monster still makes more horsepower and torque than all the new-gen German wannabes. And you gotta think Caddy will increase those numbers (640 hp/630 torques). Remember, in the Z06 and ZL1 the LT4 makes 650 hp/650 torque. The ZR1’s monster motor ups that considerably (755/715). I’m inclined to think 700 hp is just about right, right? Maybe 710 hp to clip the Charger Hellcat’s wings a touch? I’m just being optimistic. Expect 650-670 hp, but don’t be shocked if the power remains 640 hp. What I’m not guessing at is this: manual. Allow me to repeat that, MANUAL MANUAL M A N U A L !!!!!!!!!!!! An auto too, but who cares!?! Manual alpha platform cars are MAGIC. Camaro SS 1LE, anyone? THREE PEDAL CADDY 4LIFE!! Ahem. Also, since there’s no Blackwing Motor, there’s no Blackwing. I had this post live a few days ago but had to take it down because I (sorta) revealed too much about the name. I can’t say what this thing will be called, but you are free to guess. Oh, and the CT4-V Secret will get the ATS-V’s twin-turbo 3.6-liter V6. Meaning it will be good but not wonderful. Which is a damn shame because the LT1 is just sitting there! Sounds like two transmissions here, too. #cadillac #ctsv #ct5v #ct4v #Manual @cadillac πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

A post shared by Jonny Lieberman (@jonnylieberman) on

3. Any others?
While the CT5 and ZL1 are the most likely recipients of GM’s biggest free-agent engine. If the LT5 is going to live on, don’t rule out the possibility of the Tahoe/Escalade or even the Silverado taking it in. GM invented the performance SUV with the GMC Typhoon. Hot versions of lifted family-haulers are all the rage right now and companies that sell such monsters rake in big profits. Mercedes has a full range of AMG-powered SUVs as does BMW’s M division. There are supercharged versions of each model of Range Rover and domestically, there is the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk which sends its Hellcat power to all four wheels. There have been rumblings of an “Escalade V” for a while now and the LT5 would be the best way to make such a huge vehicle actually go fast.

The performance truck wars are also about to hit a tipping point. The Raptor has been alone on the market for years reaping the benefits of being “that cool truck” but Ram is fast at work on using its old-faithful Hellcat engine for a Raptor fighter called the TRX. Trademark applications recently uncovered GM’s planned retaliation in the form of a Silverado ZRX. Not much is known about it at this point but the LT5 could fit the bill if Chevy wants to make a real splash in the segment.

The LT5 may be relegated to the history books but there are some interesting possibilities for our greatest Corvette from the past decade’s engine to have a future and that is something worth fighting for! What do you say GM?

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  1. I will submit my ignorance, right away, but I’m wondering if the LT5 will available as a crate engine? And would it be possible to transplant one into a C4? I’ve got a 1991 that I really love. I don’t drive it every day, but it’s a driver. Still in great shape and I’m a maintenance freak, so it’s all good. But I just wonder…would it even be possible? Or impossible? I think it’s an interesting question, what with all the custom builders using LS3’s, etc., for custom builds for a wide variety of vehicles. So, can you tell me if one of the LT5’s would be able to fit into my C4?

  2. River,

    The LT5 is available as a crate engine:
    It is even on sale currently for just under $19k! Unfortunately, it is intended for competition use or pre-1976 street vehicles only. If you did want to convert your C4 into a racecar with this kind of power, you’d have to do some further research to see if it would fit. The LT5’s Supercharger makes it so tall that engineers had to cut a hole in the C7’s hood in order for it to fit.

    Thanks for reading,


  3. Would love to see that Engine in a Camaro or a Silverado Super Sport or both. I would even like to see it in the ultimate Escalade if they are not going to use the Blackwing in it. But knowing GM they are the champions at killing a good thing and both Engines are most likely going to disappear.

  4. I’m sticking with my 1990 ZR-1 that I have been restoring. If person can buy the new LT5 as a crate engine, with enough work a person could put in anything they want. People are building all kinda of cool rids these days. I would love to see that super charged beast in a C4, could always slap a L88 scoop on that bad boy. I think GM is heading to double overhead cam engines, they Rev higher for longer periods of time. Hell the 1990 ZR-1 still holds the 24 hour world speed endurance record for a domestic mass produced car at just under 175 mph. That Lotus engine is a work of art to be sure.

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