The engine you see here occupies a special place in Corvette history, it’s the first production LT5 engine that was manufactured by Mercury Marine for the C4 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1.
The LT5 V8 engine was developed by Lotus in Britain for Chevrolet, both companies belonged to General Motors at the time, and the original plan was to use the new engine to turn the C4 Corvette into the fastest production car in the world.
The Lotus-Developed LT5 V8 Engine
Although the LT5 engine has the same bore centers as the regular L98 used in the Corvette, the two engines share no parts in common. The LT5 was a blank slate design with an aluminum alloy block and heads, quad cams (double overhead cams per bank), four valves per cylinder, a forged crankshaft, lightweight pistons and connecting rods, and a compression ratio of 11:1.
The first generation LT5 engine as fitted to the 1989 Corvette ZR-1 was capable of 375 hp at 5,800 rpm and 385 lb ft of torque at 5,200 rpm. This was a marked increase over the L98’s 250 hp offered in the same model year. To give some perspective from supercars from the era, the Ferrari Testarossa had 385 hp, the Lamborghini Countach had 375 hp, and the Porsche 911 Turbo had 300+hp.
Lotus made a slew of other changes to the C4 Corvette in collaboration with Chevrolet to create the ZR-1, with the brakes, drivetrain, and suspension all receiving significant additional work – particularly the suspension which was similar to the system used in the Porsche 959 – with modifications from the Lotus Formula 1 division.
The LT5 engine is notable for its power output, but it has also been recognized for its reliability when compared to similarly capable supercar engines. To showcase this a factory-stock Corvette ZR-1 set seven international and world records at a test track in Fort Stockton, Texas on March 1, 1990 – a feat verified by the FIA.
– 100 miles (160 km) at 175.600 mph (282.601 km/h)
– 500 miles (800 km) at 175.503 mph (282.445 km/h)
– 1,000 miles (1,600 km) at 174.428 mph (280.715 km/h)
– 5,000 km (3,100 mi) at 175.710 mph (282.778 km/h) (World Record)
– 5,000 miles (8,000 km) at 173.791 mph (279.690 km/h) (World Record)
– 12 Hours Endurance at 175.523 mph (282.477 km/h)
– 24 Hours Endurance at 175.885 mph (283.059 km/h) for 4,221.256 miles (6,793.453 km) (World Record)
The First Production Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 LT5 V8 Engine
The engine you see here is thought to be the first production engine for the ZR-1 that was manufactured by Mercury Marine. It was acquired by Brett Shank of Automotion Classics from Rick Kirk, the late owner of RK Machine in Ripley, Oklahoma who did prototype work for Mercury Marine related to the development of the LT5 engine in conjunction with Lotus Group.
This is engine unit number “0000” – Indicating it is the first production engine for 1990 ZR1 Corvette.
Hand-written notes on the outside of the crate and paperwork inside the crate show the same and although the crate was disassembled for photos, the engine has not been removed since put in place by Mercury Marine all those years ago.
If you’d like to visit Automotion Classics and enquire about buying this engine you can click here to visit the website and talk to Brett directly.
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