It looks as though it’s official and the new 2008 Supercharged Corvette C6 will be known as the ZR1.

It’s hard to describe how I feel about this. In some ways it’s flattering I suppose, that the new super-vette will have a name closely related to the car I own – the car that I waited 17 years to own. Many people even within the ZR-1 community seem to feel this is a good thing, that it will generate interest in the ‘old’ ZR-1 (and many people who bought them as an investment hope it will lift prices too).

Firstly, the new car is the ZR1, not the ZR-1. This name originates back in 1971 when a highly limited production of eight cars were built as special race cars and not really intended for street use. The new car has no connection with the ZR-1 from the ’90s, either structurally, in design, or in intent. The ZR-1 was most definitely a production car, despite GMs attitude towards it.

The new car is structurally closer to the original ZR1. It is a large capacity, pushrod-based engine, designed as an exercise more in brawn than in finesse. The lineage of the engine goes all the way back to the first small block Chevrolet.

The LT5 engine in the ZR-1 was a completely different animal, owing its design more to European race cars. It has quad overhead cams and is an exercise in refinement like nothing that had ever graced a Corvette and likely will never do so again.

That said, the LT5 did inspire the GM engineers to new heights. The LT-1 engine in the post-91 base model and the newer LS series engines in the C5 and C6 all the way up to the new ZR1 engine (LS9?), all drew heavily on the technology that Lotus designed into the LT5. It’s safe to say that without the LT5, the others would probably not have existed

Despite this ‘heritage’ and despite GM selling the ZR-1 at $70,000, the company has done nothing over the last few years other than to try and pretend it never existed; which makes it even more galling that they now bring back a designation that is bound to recall the earlier (almost) namesake.

Since killing off the original ZR-1 project, GM has gradually withdrawn almost all parts that were specific to that model. Even basic consumables are no longer available. In fact GM lists more parts for vehicles twice the age of the elite Corvette of the 90s. The ZR-1 community has largely discounted any GM support for the vehicles they were sold at such extravagant prices, and many have foresworn from ever buying another car from them.

Do I resent the new ZR1? No, I can’t say I do. It really has little in common with the car that I fell in love with all those years ago. Would I buy one? No. In fact if I won one in a competition (which will NEVER happen with my renowned ‘luck’) I’d sell it and probably buy another real ZR-1. The post-C4 designs to me have become progressively lacking soul and increasingly exhibited increasing corporate bean-counter blandness.

The ZR-1 is a legend – for good reason. It completely turned around the way that people viewed the Corvette, not just people in North America, but in the whole world. It broke records that had stood for decades and still haven’t been beaten by a regular production vehicle. Even now, the passion, vitality and stubbornness of the people involved in its creation stand as a testament to just what can be achieved when people come together with a single focus on building the best they can.

The King is dead, long live the King!

(and let’s hope that GM supports the buyers of this one!)