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 0 Comment(s)
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."


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