Since 1955, the Chevrolet Corvette has been powered by the Chevrolet V8 engine. Technological advancements have increased output from 195 hp in 1955 to 638 hp in 2012, but the fundamental architecture of the Chevrolet Small Block have remained the same; a 90-degree V8, with overhead valves actuated by pushrods, and a 4.4-inch on-center bore spacing.
Bill Mitchell, GM’s famed design director and hand-picked successor to the legendary Harley Earl, was a firm believer in the influence that racing brought to improving production cars. Unfortunately, the American Manufacturer’s Association banned factory-backed motorsports efforts in 1957. Undeterred, Mitchell received permission to race privately and bought an experimental Corvette racing chassis from Chevrolet – with the stipulation he alter the bodywork so there was no mistaking it for the earlier factory-fielded Corvette racers. Mitchell and his protégé, Larry Shinoda, got to work and developed the Sting Ray’s design.
The Corvette ZR-1 was more than merely a more powerful Corvette – it was a complete performance package that included wider rear bodywork to accommodate humongous rear tires and a unique, convex rear fascia with rectangular taillamps that made the car recognizable at a glance.