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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 92 - 1992 Corvette
"The Return of the LT1"
Back in the late '70s, the dog days of performance, who would have thought that the famous LT-1 would make a return? But this wasn't just an expensive, resurrected old performance badge as an option. The new LT1 packed 300 net hp and was standard on every 1992 Corvette!
Except for the rectangular exhaust tips and a few new interior and exterior colors, the 1992 Corvette looks the same as the 1991 Corvette. But under the pretty fiberglass there was plenty of new gear that made the '92 model the best standard Corvette to date. Some said that it was what the '84 model should have been.
Since the first V-8 Corvette in 1955, Corvettes have always been about what's under the hood. The 1970-1/2 LT-1 Corvette had been one of Zora Arkus-Duntov's favorite Corvettes. The high-reving, solid-lifter LT-1 350 engine gave the driver an excellent mix of power, torque, and handling balance. The original LT-1 was rated at 370 "gross" hp. The new LT1, with its 300 net hp, was probably stronger than the original LT-1. As good as the '91 model was, the '92 was better.
The new LT1 Corvette could do 0-60 mph in just five seconds, the quarter-mile in 13.6 seconds at 104 mph and had a top speed of 161 mph! Building a production performance car is difficult, but in addition to some new electronics, there were a few basic hot rod tricks at play here. Everything from intake to exhaust was overhauled. A new Rochester multi-port injection system was built with the latest computer-controlled ignition system.
The ports in the cylinder heads were opened up to better use the new 10.5:1 compression ratio and cast iron exhaust manifolds connected with a new, dual catalytic converter exhaust system. A new cooling system flowed coolant to the heads first and the use of synthetic oil eliminated the need for an oil cooler. The net result was an increase of 50 hp!
The new standard ASR (Acceleration Slip Regulation) feature controlled both traction control and ABS breaking systems. For enthusiasts, this feature had an "off" switch on the dash. The new Goodyear GS-C tires were directional for each side of the car with an asymmetric tread pattern that replaced the "Gatorback" design.
The only complaints came from ZR-1 owners because the new stock Corvette was only a few ticks slower than the ZR-1. For all of the extra hardware, the '92 model was up only $1,180 from the '91 car, making it a genuine performance bargain. - K. Scott Teeters
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Illustrated Corvette Series No. 93 - 1992 Falconer V-12 Experimental Corvette
"The Conan Corvette"
When the Dodge Viper debuted at the North American International Auto Show in January 1989, NO ONE knew what hit them. The Viper was new and fresh, yet it had a definite connection to the Shelby Cobra. Advanced orders were flooding in you know that designers were going back to the office saying, "DAMN!"
The Corvette team was working on three fronts: improving the production Corvette, getting the LT-5 (ZR-1) ready for production, and honing the CERV III prototype as a possible C5 Corvette. But the economy wasn't good and the reality of a CERV III-based car seemed dim at best Meanwhile, Chrysler was going into production with the V10-powered Viper. This posed a serious threat to the Corvette's "America's Only True Sports Car" status.
Under the guise of a "chassis development" program, the Corvette team came up with the idea of trumping the V10 Viper with a V12 Corvette prototype. Enter Ryan Falconer.
Falconer got his start in the early '60 working for Andy Granatelli's Novi engine -powered Indy racers. Later he joined in the Shelby American team and worked on the GT40 and racing Cobras. Two years later, Ryan started his own company, building his own racing engines. His associates reads like a "who's who" of auto racing legends, including; Parnelli Jones, Al Unser, Mario Andretti, Jackie Stewart, and many others.
So when the Corvette team decided to one-up the Viper with two extra cylinders, they decided on one of Ryan Falconer's stunning, all aluminum V12 racing engines. Since the Corvette would have to be stretched, this was the perfect time for a "chassis study."
Since the Falconer V12 packed a 680-horsepower kick, the obvious place to begin was with a production ZR-1. The biggest challenge was the fact that the all-aluminum V12 engine was 8.8-inches longer than the production Corvette engine. So the front end of the ZR-1 would have to be stretched 8-inches. SportsFab of Wixom, Michigan was contracted to do the stretching. The extra length is barely noticeable, but the '60s-styled side pipes sure are. Those were straight-through pipes directly off the tuned headers with no mufflers! With the hood up, the engine looked enormous. Amazingly, the extra length and the larger engine only added 100-pounds to the overall weight of the car. The engine used electronic fuel injection with a short-runner intake manifold and the aluminum block had pressed in cast iron sleeves, similar to the famous ZL-1
Actual performance figures were never published, as this was just a "chassis study." But you can figure out the power-to-weight ratio. What was certain was that at $45,000 per engine, plus the chassis and body modifications, there was no chance this car would ever get into production. Nick-named "Conan" because of the huge V12 engine, the ZR-12 was without a doubt, the one of the baddest engineering study Corvettes ever made. - K. Scott Teeters