Researching C3 ZR1s has become a passion for Dan, and he has uncovered details on other authenticated ZR1s that confirm the authenticity of his own car and also provide new perspectives into how these cars were assembled. Parts date-coded well beyond the typical six-month build window are common on the heavy-duty racing parts associated with these cars, because ZR1s are essentially an L88 prepped chassis with a slightly modified LT1 engine. For that reason, it's no wonder that some L88 parts with 1969 and earlier dates are found on these cars. If there was one thing that Zora Arkus-Duntov was good at, it was utilizing whatever he had on hand to make a car perform better and faster-so he raided L88 parts bins from the 1968 and 1969 L88 production run to build what he is quoted as calling his "...last great white hope for Corvette racing ecstasy."*
Dan is hoping that the publication of the story of this car will help bring forward anyone who can add to its history. Based on the presence of NA9 California-only emissions gear and the 183 dealer number, he wonders if the first owner was a military serviceman who took delivery in California and then brought the car "home" to Indiana, Illinois or Ohio. The third owner from whom Darrell bought the car is a doctor who also didn't realize the rarity of the car, and recalled that the fellow from whom he bought the car was possibly a lawyer who dabbled in buying and selling performance cars. That fellow told the then med-student he was the second owner.
Based on the choice of the 4.56:1 Positraction and the homemade tow-bar brackets, the car seems likely to have seen some racing action. The low final drive ratio suggests that auto-crossing, drag racing or hill climbs were probably the events of choice.
Dan has found that driving this car is a unique experience compared to other mid-year and C3 Corvettes. The car feels incredibly well balanced compared to its big-block brothers. The suspension is very firm yet supple, and allows the car to remain flat through corners with little lean, yaw or roll. The suspension offers a hint of understeer that can be easily managed with the throttle. These characteristics allow the car to be driven to the edge of adhesion and beyond, then easily brought back into line. The car's inherently peaky LT1 engine and lightweight flywheel provide instant gratification that's compounded by the 4.56:1 posi-traction.
The ZR1's rip-saw solid-lifter exhaust note, whining M22 transmission and low gearing cause the car to sound like an old hay truck on methamphetamines. As Dan says, it's pure bliss...
Have you ever seen this car racing? Have you any idea who the first owner was? If this story jogs your memory, talk to Dan at 1970ZR1@corvettes.com. You can also follow the restoration as Dan will document it in detail on his website, www.corvettes.com.
*(quote directly from Jerry Burton's biography of Zora Arkus-Duntov).