The Corvette Stingray topped 40,000 sales for the 2016 model year, just cause for celebration. To give the C7 generation a rousing sendoff, Chevrolet will pop corks as it resurrects the venerable ZR1 nameplate later this year.
This eminent badge first adorned 53 Corvettes sold from 1970 to 1972 with racing-oriented powertrain and chassis equipment. Legend claims the letters stand for Zora Racer, in honor of Corvette patron saint Zora Arkus-Duntov. Next came 6939 ZR-1 Corvettes from 1990 to 1995 equipped with a Lotus-designed, 375–405-hp DOHC 5.7-liter V-8. The 2009 to 2013 ZR1 (note the hyphen-free spelling) would lose three camshafts and 16 valves but compensated with an additional half-liter of displacement and a supercharger. This third ZR1 delivered 638 horsepower in 4684 copies of the C6 Vette and was the first factory Corvette claimed to be capable of topping 200 mph.
With a tip of its hat to the Dodge Hellcats for smashing the 700-hp ceiling, the 2018 Corvette ZR1 should make 750 or so horsepower from the current 6.2 liters. The additional power comes courtesy of larger intercoolers and more air from the Eaton supercharger, with an assist from retuned direct fuel injection and variable valve timing. Based on our surveillance, the new ZR1 will be offered in both coupe and convertible body styles. We’re expecting a choice between a seven-speed Tremec manual transmission and GM’s eight-speed automatic.
Even in this day of runaway power and torque, 750 horsepower is nothing to sneeze at. McLaren, Mercedes-AMG, and Porsche currently offer no cars of that caliber. Pagani’s Huayra (at 720 horses) and Lamborghini’s latest Aventador SuperVeloce (740 horsepower) come close, but Ferrari’s F12tdf takes the stogie with 769 horsepower.
To keep the ZR1 in touch with Mother Earth as it crowds its terminal velocity, the Corvette group sought inspiration from Learjet catalogs. The wing jutting proudly from the rear is larger than an ironing board and is manually adjustable. Blended wing lets at each end of the airfoil improve its efficiency. An aggressive splitter and hood vents trim the front lift.
Chevrolet has not announced exactly when ZR1s will arrive or what they’ll cost. This hasn’t hindered hard-core Corvette fans from placing their bets with fat dealer deposits. To get some idea of the price, use the following mystery math: It’s safe to assume that the new ZR1 will cost more than the 2013 version, which started at $113,575. Ferrari F12s range between $323,745 for the Berlinetta and about $490,000 for the tdf, an average of $406,873. Divide that figure by 3, the correction factor that typically applies when Chevy combines prancing-horse performance with everyday value. That yields $135,624, the likely upper limit for the C7 era’s last hurrah.