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1990 Chevy Corvette ZR-1 - Going Fast The Hard Way

This Is The World's Quickest Real ZR-1!

Rob Wallace III Apr 1, 2001
Vemp_0104_01_z 1990_chevy_corvette_zr1 Red 2/1

The '90 production year marked the introduction of one of the most remarkable Corvettes ever produced: the legendary ZR-1, unofficially and more commonly known as The King Of The Hill. Its 385-horsepower dual-overhead cam LT5 powertrain made the ZR-1 by far the most technologically advanced Corvette of its time, and earned the creme de la creme of C4 Corvettes an immediate place among the all-time great sports cars.

But as bad as the ZR-1 was from the factory, it wasn't bad enough to satisfy Lane Goldstein of Calabasas, California. Lane has felt the need for speed all his life. He worked in a rod shop after school when he was 14 years old, and has been building and racing fast cars for almost 40 years now. In November 1989, Lane paid a healthy dealer premium to take possession of a brand-new, red '90 ZR-1. From the very beginning, Lane intended to push the boundaries with this car. "I wanted to build the fastest car of its kind," Lane declares matter-of-factly. And that's exactly what he did!

After about a week of break-in driving, Lane's ZR-1 made its first pass on a dragstrip, cracking a 12.9 second e.t. "I knew I had a lot of development work ahead of me. There were no hot rod parts for this motor, and there never really would be any off-the-shelf performance parts." At first, the ZR-1 evolved slowly, going a single step at a time, with Lane driving it to the track each week. The Vette went on a diet first, shedding pounds thanks to carbon fiber doors and Lexan windows. Next, the LT5 received attention, including a bump in displacement to 368 ci and reground cams that took it up to 675 hp. But when Lane broke into the low 10-second range-and began breaking rearends and half shafts on a weekly basis-he decided it was time to take the Vette to the next level.

Lane needed the whole car to handle mid-8-second quarter-miles safely and on a regular basis, so he turned to Willie Reels of Spring Valley, California, to build a bulletproof chassis. Reels set up the ZR-1 with a custom one-piece Pro Stock-style backhalf and a full Funny Car rollcage, then crafted a custom 9-inch rearend housing, four-link suspension with Koni double-adjustable shocks, and chrome-moly wheelie bars. Tom's Differential built a bulletproof differential designed to handle 8,000-rpm launches, with 5.14:1 gears and 40-spline gun-drilled axles. The differential has performed flawlessly, jetting the Vette down over 300 quarter-mile passes with only a tune-up! The ZR-1 still possesses its stock front suspension, minus the antisway bar.

The powerplant is a very trick LT5 that took four years to engineer and build. Lane did most of the R&D himself, with technical assistance from his buddy, Rudy Reich (who is another avid Corvette racer). The engine is a one-of-a-kind 431-cubic-inch, race-only LT5 that has been severely re-engineered to make ludicrous amounts of power. The bottom end has a Bryant billet steel 4 1/8 stroked crank, custom 6 1/8 titanium rods, and JE pistons squeezing a 16:1 compression ratio. To get a better rod angle with the long stroke, Goldstein and Reich extended the deck height by nearly 1/2 inch. "It sounds easy, but it was the one thing that caused the re-engineering of the whole motor," Lane remembers. "I had aluminum plates made to exactly replicate the top of the block, then I had cylinder sleeves made with the extra length fitted through the plate and the original block. That changed everything. I had to get longer chains custom-made to fit the higher block. Lotus had trouble with the chains when they first started designing the engine; they blew up a few new engines and so did I."

Because the heads are now farther apart, the intake manifold had to be custom-made, along with fuel rails and twin 90mm throttle bodies. Lane built a ram air system to force cool air directly into the throttle bodies. The factory LT5 double overhead cam cylinder heads have been worked extensively, including larger titanium valves and porting to flow a massive 400 cfm! Lane converted the valvetrain from hydraulic to solid rockers (which was no simple task, he assures us!), and designed a more elaborate "evac" system to overcome vapor in the small crankcase. MSD supplied the ignition and wiring, and Dawson Racing Headers built 2 1/4 to 2 1/8-inch step headers to evacuate exhaust out of the engine fast enough to match the radical cam timing from the custom Jeel profiles. The headers are equipped with eight exhaust gas temperature probes that allow Lane to run a full data acquisition system to set up and tune the Vette. When Lane needs to keep the noise levels down, he uses special Borla collector mufflers. Lane had the back of the block machined to relocate the starter so that he could run a larger flywheel and an 11-inch McLeod race clutch, which were needed to control the power running through the 16 1/2-inch Goodyear Pro Stock tires. The only transmission Lane found able to withstand the power and weekly abuse was a Lenco five-speed.

So, what has Lane gotten out of all of the time, effort, and countless dollars he has invested in his racer? How about an LT5 that produces 900 horsepower at 8,000 rpm, and a ZR-1 that runs the quarter in 8.5 seconds at 160 mph! Not only is this the world's quickest ZR-1 Corvette, but Lane suggests it may be the quickest, naturally-aspirated, small-block, modified streetcar, as well. Plus, he has himself an E-ticket ride that is safe and reliable, one that he still races nearly every weekend! Lane loves to show it off, too, as he will taking it to Bowling Green, Kentucky, in May for the ZR-1 Nationals. It would have been easier to throw a carbureted mountain motor into his Corvette and go fast, but Lane chose to do it the hard way-and it was worth it. This "King of the Hill" takes the crown at the track, as well!

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