The ZR1 prototype story updates
The ZR1 story updated...
I took the summer out from work commitments and post-teen children to finally complete the project and get this unique car fully back into the Corvette world. The car was shown at the May 2003 ZR1 Gathering and of course the not to be missed June 2003 50th Corvette Birthday Celebrations - both at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The car proved a little troublesome for the last 5% of the project. A wiring short or crossover stopped the engine firing up in the car again and it proved time consuming to complete - but after such a long gap I actually enjoyed spending twelve hours a day on my back in intense heat being bitten by mosquitoes with a spanner (wrench) in one hand and a telephone in the other while Corvette gurus, such as Gordon Killebrew, and Marc Haibeck provide long distance advice on what I was doing wrong!!! The modifications made to the wiring on the mule cars by Lotus proving elusive to fathom and much time was being spent chasing, identifying and in some cases eliminating all the relevant wires needed to fire up the engine.
After extensive circuit diagnosis the relevant correct connections were confirmed and the engine fired into life thus prompting full checks on liquids and exhaust before the trip to Corvettes at Carlisle in August.
At 2.30 pm on August 23rd 2003 the only surviving 1986 ZR1 prototype with a Phase 1 LT-5 engine was started by Chip Miller, late owner of Corvettes at Carlisle, to the delight of the 100 or so assembled enthusiasts. This was the first time the engine had run fully since being installed in the car seven years ago.
The next day I drove the car around the ZR1 show arena to receive a celebrity choice award nominated by Dave Bright (ZR1 net) For me this was the drive of a lifetime; 15 years after the car was scrapped by Lotus I was driving it under its own power!
My beautiful prototype is now firing on all eight cylinders but still needs some minor finishing to be museum ready.
I have assembled a portfolio on the history and early days of the ZR1 program and have many technical details that may otherwise have been lost in that junkyard back in England.
In the next few years I intend to display the car at shows in the USA and I will use my collated knowledge and hundreds of resurrection photos to compile and publish a book about the discovery and restoration of the original 1986 Corvette ZR1 prototype that will preserve the details and stories for all Corvette enthusiasts.
I modified and fitted a 1990 ZR1 exhaust system to the original phase 1 headers and now the car runs much smother and you can actually hear yourself think when you stand next to it!!
Vette magazine covered the car in their September 2004 issue which was the best USA National coverage received for the car to date.
We drove and shot the car around the National Corvette museum grounds during the May 2004 ZR1 Gathering. I even manage to shift (the prototype 6 speed) into second gear!!!
The prototype outside the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky Keith Beschi of Eurovettes with Chip Miller
Sincere acknowledgments to those without whom I could not have progressed so far with this project: (in alphabetic order):
Trusted & respected friend
A huge thank you for hours and hours of hands on help, motivational support and many drunken nights during the entire course of this project – keep the beers in the fridge!!
Dave Bright (Mom)
Thanks for all the ongoing & encouraging support plus those essential e-mail connections
Author of ‘Zora’
Thanks (or blame!!) for the idea for the book.
Thanks for searching and locating the hard to find Donor car plus years of encouragement.
Haibeck Automotive Technology
Thank you our last minute savior for the long distance advice, PROM customization and supply
Thanks for sharing the display space for the first public start-up at Corvettes @ Carlise 2003
Jeal & Sons
Thanks for all your the help, advice and the rebuild of such a delicate engine!
Gordon & Chris Killebrew
For Your Car inc
Gordon's Corvette School
Thanks for your tech advice, practical help with electrical matters, getting your hands dirty on the car and the encouraging words & lunches!
Lotus UK: current and ex staff
Thanks for all those stories and snippets of otherwise unknown and undocumented information about the ’86 prototypes
Dave McClellan Corvette Chief engineer 1975-94
‘Corvette from the Inside‘
A big thank you for your help, guidance and door opening!
Thanks for being the first person to start the car in public
+ many NCM staff
National Corvette Museum
Huge thanks for your support in displaying the car at events at the NCM in 2003;
ZR1 Gathering plus Corvette 50th Birthday bash
Thanks for publishing reports and stories about the original ’86 ZR1
Thanks for publications and coverage about the original ’86 ZR1 and its progress
Great coverage of the story and the latest developments to the now running and driving vehicle
Vette Brakes and Products
Thanks for supplying useful braking components