The National Corvette Museum received a very generous donation earlier this year after one late General Motors enthusiast’s family donated his 1991 Chevrolet Corvette Snake Skinner II prototype to the facility.
The story of the Corvette ZR-1 Snake Skinner begins at the 1991 Indianapolis 500 when the Dodge Viper (which was used as a pace car for the race) was first shown to the public. The Viper’s debut inspired GM executives and engineers to apply their performance know-how to the C4 Corvette as they sought to steal some of Dodge’s thunder and capitalize on the strong demand for such high-performance offerings. Corvette team lead John Heinricy even said he wanted the C4 Corvette to “skin the snake.”
Starting with a non-saleable white Corvette ZR-1, which was previously sidelined for promotional purposes, Corvette engineers set to work. For starters, Snake Skinner I received a 565-horsepower version of the Vette’s LT5 V8, while the sound system, A/C, tire pressure monitoring system and spare tire were all tossed out to save weight. Heinricy and his team installed lighter cloth seats as well, along with a lightweight flywheel, a magnesium clutch housing and a magnesium roof frame. All told, the Snake Skinner I was about 250 pounds lighter than the stock ZR-1 – and much faster.
After building Snake Skinner I, GM put together an identical show car called Snake Skinner II, which didn’t receive all the same engine upgrades, but had some of the cosmetic modifications. Snake Skinner II was previously part of the GM Heritage Center collection, which the automaker put up for sale at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale 2009 auction. It was purchased by noted GM collector and NCM board member Greg Mauzy, who added it to his collection of more than 80 Corvettes. Mauzy passed away in 2015, but his philanthropic nature lives on through his family, who donated the Corvette to the NCM.
The initial Snake Skinner prototype was purchased by none other than Rick Hendrick, who added it to his absolutely massive collection of notable GM products and is still in possession of it today.
The Corvette ZR-1 Snake Skinner II, along with another Corvette prototype equipped with an active suspension, will be presented during the 2020 NCM 26th Anniversary Celebration in September.