It had been twenty years since a Corvette shipped from the factory with 300 horsepower. A lot changed in twenty years. The Corvette went from a manual transmission as standard, to an automatic. Modern port injection was used instead of a carburetor. Air Conditioning, Airbags, and Anti-lock brakes also became standard equipment. The speedometer on the Corvette looked like something out of a science fiction movie, and the Corvette used space-age plastics in its construction.
The evolution of the Corvette culminated in the ZR-1. For several years, rumors circulated about the”King of the Hill” Corvette, and when it was unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show in 1989, and according to Road and Track, the ZR-1 was a “world-class” car. It’s LT5 engine produced 375 hp, and delivered 300 lb.-ft of torque at only 1500 RPM (Road and Track).
After acquiring Lotus in 1986, GM started working with its engineers to produce a Corvette which could keep pace with the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. The joint team developed the dual overhead cam LT5 engine with the same bore spacing (4.4”) as the L98 small-block, and contracted with Mercury Marine in Stillwater, OK, to build the LT5 entirely out of Aluminum. The completed engines were shipped to Bowling Green, where GM installed the LT5 in 3,049 Corvettes. RPO ZR-1 was available as on the coupe as a $27,016 option. It included all the bells and whistles, and had eleven inch rear wheels.