RPO-code ZR1 has a solid significance in the history of Corvette, having proclaimed the pinnacle of Corvette small-block performance in 1970-1972 and 1990-1995. (The current ZR1 designation actually refers to a model, not an option package, but the basic naming convention still applies.) That's the back story of why Bennett Coachworks of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, named its new C6-based supercar the ZX-1.
"The ZR1s and ZR-1s past and present represent a high-water mark for Corvette," custom-car builder Bob Bennett tells VETTE in an exclusive interview. "The ZX-1 raises the bar even higher, and in turn, creates a new reference standard for the ultimate in Corvette looks and performance."
Bennett's history with Corvette goes back four decades, when he paid his way through college restoring '53-'71 models, including his favorites: the maximum-performance L88s. "I felt the breed lost its direction after '71, but the '97-'04 models renewed my passion."
He is less enamored with the looks of the C5's successor, however. "Despite the C6's superb, world-class engineering, I feel it is a step backwards aesthetically in the exterior-styling department," he says.
Bennett was content to leave what he called "exterior-styling faults" in the modern Corvette alone, as he and his company were inundated with high-end custom and production-vehicle prototyping for private clients. Then, in June 2006, Karl Hormann of Hi-Tech Custom Concepts in Mt. Vernon, New York, contacted him about creating a series of wild aftermarket options for the C6, including a radical-looking Viper-style hood and a one-piece, non-adjustable, functional airfoil.
Before long, the two men were discussing an exponentially more challenging project—the conception and development of an exotic-styled C6 supercar upon which all other limited-edition Corvette customs—past, present, and future—would be judged.
It took them four years—from 2007 through 2010—to move the project from concept to creation, beginning with passionate discussions about what they felt was wrong with the C6's exterior styling, and what they felt was right with the styling cues from Corvette's first through third generations. Only then did they shift their focus to the design, development, prototyping, and eventual release of the production ZX-1. Along the way, they rediscovered what makes a Corvette a classic.
So how does a team of visionary craftsmen elevate a stock late-model Corvette into a sensational supercar? To learn the answer, we went behind the scenes with Bennett Coachworks to take a closer look at the work that went into ZX-1 No. 1.
Note: The ZX-1 and its specifications were introduced to readers in "Currents" (Aug. '11). For more information on how you can have your '05-'12 Corvette transfigured into a ZX-1, visit www.hotrodbuilders.com or call Bob Bennett at (414) 298-2068.