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C4 Corvette ZR-1 Rescued After Sitting 20 Years in English Backyard

With a Lotus-designed V8 and the same suspension as the Porsche 959, the C4 ZR-1 was no ordinary Corvette.

byNico DeMattia|
The Late Brake Show
The Late Brake Show.


The Late Brake Show is chock full of rare and interesting barn finds. However, this latest episode features what could be the most interesting car that host Jonny Smith has ever shown us: a C4-generation Corvette ZR-1.

In 1990, Chevrolet created the fastest and most dominant sports car it had ever made up until that point. The ZR-1 wasn't just a Corvette with some added power; it was a genuine world-beater, capable of taking down the likes of Ferrari and Porsche for half the price. And, it did so by means of an unusual partnership for GM.

Corvette ZR-1. Chevrolet

Rather than stuffing a massive pushrod V8 lump under the hood and supercharging it for more power, Chevy actually outsourced its engine for the first and only time in Corvette history. Under the hood of the ZR-1 lay not a typical single-overhead-cam V8 but a dual-overhead-cam, 32-valve, aluminum-block mill designed by Lotus.

See, GM owned Lotus back then, and hired the Brits to design the engine, internally known as the LT5. However, since Lotus lacked the manufacturing capabilities to actually build it, the design was sent over to Mercury Marine, the boat engine maker, who built the LT5 for GM. That unusual combination of Lotus design, Mercury Marine manufacturing, and GM's wallet made an incredible engine that didn't feel or sound anything like Corvette engines before it. Early model cars made 375 horsepower, but later model ZR-1s made 405 horsepower.

It wasn't just a killer engine stuffed into a ho-hum Corvette, though. It had the same Bilstein FX3 suspension as the Porsche 959, just with modifications from the Lotus F1 team. It also had beefier brakes and ZR-1-specific Goodyear Eagle tires.

The Late Brake Show

So how did such a unique and special American sports car end up in a driveway behind an Englishman's house? Farmer Will loves Corvettes, he's always loved Corvettes, and his ZR-1 was his fourth C4 Corvette. However, marriage, a busy life, and older age meant less and less time to drive the ZR-1, so it just sat there, in its backyard, for 20 years. Until two car enthusiasts decided to buy it from him.

In the video, Smith talks to Will and tries to help the two new owners get it running. It's so cool to see the American exotic get some life breathed back into it, so far from its original home.

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