Sorry to break the news to our Corvette Fever loyalists who didn't already know, but Corvettes weren't ever musclecars. Factory-built musclecars were a niche-market product aimed at the swelling baby-boomer, late-teen and early twenty-something demographic: a growing population of impulse buyers and consumers. frankly put, it was an advertiser and salesman's dream come true. Most commonly agreed upon by automotive journalists and historians, John Delorean's daydream turned reality-the GTO-paved the road for future musclecars: stripped-down, bare-bones sedans and coupes with minimal frills and lace, but with the most horsepower and punch each particular manufacturer dared to drop between the inner fenders. Most musclecars shared platforms and body panels with the more sedate family-geared people movers, distinguishing themselves from the masses with catchy badging and decals. By checking off a series of boxes on the order form, the Oldsmobile Cutlass suddenly became the menacing 4-4-2; the Buick Skylark transformed into the GS and the legendary GSX, a demure Plymouth Satellite erupted into a Hemi-powered Road Runner; the lowly Tempest roared to life as the GTO; and the austere Ford Galaxy would metamorphose into a R-Code 427.
Corvettes, on the other hand, weren't ever intended for teenagers or the artsy Greenwich Village crowd; the ad execs at General Motors slowly evolved the Corvette's image from America's answer to the European roadster to the standing example of U.S. sportscar machinery. the General retained the Corvette at the cusp of the performance edge with such equipment as independent rear suspension, four-wheel power disc brakes, fuel injection, the first American-produced vehicle with anti-lock brakes, and the first production vehicle with a dry-sump oiling system on the largest displacement factory small-block engine in history. Unlike its past musclecar brethren, the Corvette was expected to not only accelerate excellently, but to brake, corner, handle, and otherwise completely dominate its asphalt terrain with haughty superiority.
Benchmarks in performance litter the Corvette's long record; vehicles with cryptic names like Z06, L88, LT1, L89, and LS6 still ring loudly in the ears of enthusiasts, but one in particular rattles the halls of performance history still today-the ZR1.
We're not going to take the time to go over, yet again, the genesis of the legendary Mercury Marine-built, Lotus-designed, four-cam small-block. Rather, we're more interested in showing how Rod DeWild turned his already insane from-the-factory-floor ZR1 into one of the fastest, street and course-proven Vettes that Corvette Fever has ever dared to feature. Normally, power-adder-equipped, nitrous-fed, turbo-charged, super Vettes are the fodder of the more garage-thrasher friendly magazines.
Rod says getting to the point of ownership was the hardest part, "at that time, I never thought I would be able to own one. It seemed so far out of reach due to the high price tag [in 1990]. At the time, I was driving a $400 piece of junk Audi Fox." It took some time to warrant the monthly payment, but Rod gave in, drove to the dealership, asked to take this very same black ZR1 out for a spin, and quickly fell in love. He says, "The salesman didn't bother to go with me for the testdrive, so I took it to the interstate, turned the valet key on, and opened it up."