The world isn’t short on rare Corvettes, but here’s a more obscure one you may have never heard of: a 1971 C3 Corvette ZR2. Today, ZR2 means off-road prowess associated with the Chevrolet Colorado. In 1971, it meant a track-ready Corvette.
Super Chevy highlighted the only Corvette ZR2 that is all original, and it’s fascinating. The L88 big-block V8 engine option is fairly well known for Corvettes, but for 1970, Chevrolet wanted to place the high-performance powertrain and its associated goodies into two different performance packages: the ZR1 and ZR2.
The ZR1 made the cut, and also introduced a 370 horsepower LT1 small-block V8 engine. However, the ZR2 didn’t quite make it. Chevrolet planned to augment the L88 and its associated powertrain to offer a 454 cubic-inch LS7 V8 engine with 460 hp. But, emission regulations and a strike at the Corvette’s former St. Louis assembly plant put the plans for such an engine and package on the back burner. The 454 LS7 was offered as a crate engine, however.
The C3 Corvette ZR2 was introduced in 1971, but it carried a different engine: a 9.0:1-compression version of the LS6 454. The ZR2 package could also be had minus the new engine, and to speak to its rarity, only 12 were built with the special LS6—10 coupes and two convertibles.
The ZR2 package marked the end of big-block powered Corvettes, but we’d say the Corvette had a triumphant return to form in recent years. Next year, the 2019 C7 Corvette ZR1 will boast 755 hp. It’s no big-block, but it’s sure to scream.