1986 Corvette ZR-1 Prototype - Unstoppable!

Crushed, Destroyed, and Left For Dead. This Just Goes to Prove That the Heartbeat Is...

James Miles Nov 1, 2004 0 Comment(s)

So ended the short but highly successful, albeit expensive, LT5 story. There is now a great shortage of LT5 engines, and some parts are more rare than the proverbial hen's teeth. However, the fact remains that the ZR-1 was and still is an amazing vehicle. ZR-1 Corvettes are still actively competed on the circuits around the USA, and we must not forget the 24-hour speed endurance record set by a "stock" ZR-1. I still vividly recall my memorable ride in a Lotus development '89 ZR-1 in the hands of their chief test driver around the Goodwood race circuit in UK when I invited them to our UK Corvette club race day back in October 1989.

I have had a love of all things automotive from a very early age. We're spoiled over here in the UK with our good choice of sports cars and the interesting twisty roads on which "to go and play." Following many European vehicles in my care, some exotic some not, I had a need for USA steel or, in this case, fiberglass. I researched the possibilities of importing a Corvette to the UK and made the decision to buy a new model. And so the Corvette life was set. The almost-last-produced L82 '80 model was found at a Virginia dealership, a deal was struck, and the Vette was exported to the UK for its new owner. Some 24 years later, I still own the Stingray. It has been real good to me, and I will never sell it. I even have it detailed in my will for exclusive use for my children (I now have an official food taster in case they decide to retire me early!).

Since 1980 I have been an active member (and past President) of the Classic Corvette Club UK, the largest Corvette club outside America. I have served on the organizing committee for 7 years and am proud to be a part of a club that has just reached its 25th anniversary this year.

Now no family can survive with only one Corvette in the garage right, so I also own an '87 Twin-Turbo Callaway (my second '87 Callaway). These are very rare here in the UK, and whilst considered a hybrid, still amaze and impress with the power output possible.

With all the work on the restoration project, it seemed a natural progressive step to run an importation business for European Corvette owners and supply many parts to owners here in the UK and Europe. As an experienced IT guy, C4 electronics are very familiar to me, so I also am able to run a mini Corvette school and advise centre based on my friend Gordon Killebrews "Gordon's School."

Late in 1994, a good friend and I discovered some Corvettes in a junkyard in Norfolk, England. On closer inspection, I was taken aback to see that among them was a yellow, narrow-bodied Vette complete with a Phase 1 LT5 engine. It was an early prototype Corvette ZR-1 that had been developed in the UK by Lotus for GM in 1985-86. Although badly damaged, the chassis was intact, and most of the engine and transmission components were in place despite having been attacked by sledgehammers and a backhoe.

Extensive research within Lotus UK confirmed that this car was in fact a unique find--a survivor of 20 "mule" cars that had been shipped over from the US in 1985 to be used by the Lotus/GM development team to test the durability and performance of each phase of the LT5 engine. The cars were scrapped in 1988 when the development team moved to using the wide-bodied Corvettes, which were then being produced at Bowling Green.

So the resurrection started.


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