Chevrolet revealed this month what appears to be the Corvette to end all other front-engine production Corvettes. The 2019 C7 Corvette ZR1 is Chevy’s latest apex predator, with 755 horsepower from its 6.2L LT5 V8 engine, featuring dual-fuel-injection and a supercharger so big that the development team had to cut a hole in the hood to fit it, and up to 1,000 pounds of downforce with the ZTK performance package. And in Los Angeles, they officially revealed the 2019 Corvette ZR1 Convertible.
One can assume that a performance car so aggressive and powerful was in the original product lifecycle plans for the C7 Corvette all the while. But when we popped the question, Corvette Chief Engineer Tadge Juechter responded with an unflinching “no.”
“We don’t always do a ZR1 every generation of Corvette… we weren’t looking that far ahead,” said Juechter. “We did the C7 in a panic coming out of bankruptcy, with the C6 being long in the tooth.” Those that have been keeping score long enough may recall the reports that at one point there wasn’t even going to be a seventh-generation Corvette.
“We were’t focused on the whole lifecycle. Just get the standard car and the Z06 out there, because we needed something to replace the C6. That was kind of our mindset through the development of the architecture,” Juechter continued. “But most of us worked on the C6, so it was always in the back of our minds that the architecture needs to be capable of going farther if someday we were able to do (a ZR1).”
That being the case, we inquired as to what was the catalyst that initiated the C7 ZR1 program.
“When we introduced the Z06, we left it all on the field. We couldn’t think of anything we could do to make this car better than it is. That was true at the time, but a couple years later, we started working on some ideas. What could we do to actually up our game even more?” said the Corvette chief.
“We started working with our suppliers, we started doing some experiments, we actually built some cars with big aero wings… and we were starting to see what we could get out of a wing package, and see if that was a big advantage over the Z06… the technology marches on, and eventually we were able to put together a package. New front clip, new engine, rear wing, everything… and a program that made business sense for the company. That’s another reason why Corvettes have such long life cycles. We have a lot of things to do, and technology evolves during the lifecycle.”
With a starting price of $119,995 for the 2019 Corvette ZR1 coupe, and $4,000 more for the convertible, GM could make off pretty well with this car if sales targets are met, on a C7 architecture has been on the market since 2013, and is anticipated to carry on several more years after 2017.