1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 - Crowning Achievement

Corey Henderson Vanquishes Would-Be Usurpers With His 590-Horse ZR-1

Eric Orban May 1, 2009 0 Comment(s)
Vemp_0905_05_z 1991_chevrolet_corvette_ZR1 Rear_view 1/9

It's worth noting that the ZR-1's impressive straight-line celerity does not come at the expense of handling. Wanting an all-around performer, Henderson improved the original suspension with DRM coilovers at all four corners. To harness the power increase, the factory stoppers were also enhanced with a Brembo big-brake kit in front and cross-drilled rear rotors. On the street, the car sports the original 17-inch A-mold wheels shod in BFGoodrich Comp T/A tires in the front and sticky Yokohama AO32Rs in the rear. For dragstrip outings, Henderson uses Mickey Thompson ET Street race tires on a separate set of wheels.

Even with the significant power increase, Henderson's Z still employs a stock clutch. The ZF six-speed transmission has received a Hurst short-throw shifter, and the Dana 44 rearend benefits from a set of shorter 3.90 gears.

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While the C6 ZR1 flaunts its extreme performance with a chiseled body and exposed blower, the C4 iteration abjured such royal regalia. This was especially true after the '90 model year, when the ZR-1's unique rear-fascia styling spread to all Corvette models. Among the few hints to the special nature of the fourth-gen Z were its tumid rear wheels, a handful of badges, and high-mount third brake light. Henderson has left the exterior in its factory form, largely to avoid involuntary contributions to his local government. "I have a hard enough time keeping the ticket writers out there from pulling me over as it is," he says. "If I had too much 'bling' on the car, I'd just be that much more of a target."

Vemp_0905_07_z 1991_chevrolet_corvette_ZR1 Shifter 3/9

While Henderson performed the majority of the build himself, he credits the "local Texas Bunch"--Mark Randolf, Bob Hall, and Dewey Slocum--with helping to bring his ZR-1 to its current regal status. "Extra hands are hard to find sometimes," he says, "and without these guys around me, it would've been a much less enjoyable project." In a testament to the infectious nature of the Corvette hobby, Henderson's mother has her own Admiral Blue '95 ZR-1. "We're a ZR-1 family," he says. Henderson also owns an '87 Vette with a supercharged and nitrous-injected 383 stroker, which he describes as "a grocery getter-really."

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C5 and C6 Corvettes are the mainstay of his shop, but Henderson's enthusiasm is focused squarely on the old-school ZR-1. He does, however, admit that parts availability poses a significant challenge in keeping C4 Zs on the road. "GM really dropped the ball in supporting these cars after they made the decision to pull the plug on the LT5 in 1993," he says. "I've spent the last 10 years accumulating many of the service items required to keep the LT5 healthy and happy, but when my supply is depleted, it's anyone's guess what will be available from the aftermarket suppliers." While Corvettes are his passion, Henderson also works on various domestics and imports. He's not afraid of a challenge, having built an LS1-powered BMW 3-series and installed a fully built, turbocharged LS2 in a Fox-body Mustang.

Corey Henderson's '91 ZR-1 is the realization of a dream, and the car has been accorded an appropriate level of enthusiasm. The build process has been carried out with an air of noblesse oblige to maintain the relevance of a truly special Corvette. Rather than being rendered obsolete by a lack of high-tech gadgetry, it stands proudly as the once and future King of the Hill.

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