The Chevrolet Corvette (C4) was a sports car produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors for the 1984 through 1996 model years. The editors of Consumer Guide stated: "The first fully redesigned Corvette in 15 years was more sophisticated and more practical than the beloved Shark.”
There were not too many changes on the 1990 Corvette. A standard driver's-side airbag, was installed to meet the first phase of the federal government's "passive restraint" crash-protection regulations. Also an antilock braking system was upgraded with improved yaw control that allowed for more-secure handling.
The base engine received a slight bump up to 245 hp through an added air-intake speed density control system, a revised camshaft and increased compression ratio. The rating jumped to 250 hp in coupes with the 3.07:1 or 3.33:1 axle ratios.
A revised instrument display now combined a digital speedometer with an analog tachometer and other gauges. An engine-oil monitor now calculated the useful oil life remaining in miles and alerted drivers when an oil-change was needed via a dashboard indicator. A compact disc player was newly available with the optional Delco-Bose audio system, and it now included a security lockout feature to discourage theft; if removed, a special code had to be entered or the head unit would remain inoperative.
Twenty-three Corvettes with heavy-duty suspensions were built during 1990 for the new World Challenge racing series and could be obtained via regular dealer channels. Buyers could choose a Chevy engine or provide one of their own, though any further modifications were left to the racers.
The big news for the 1990 Corvette would be the introduction of the high-performance ZR-1 version. It was a $27,016 option package. Originally intended as a midyear 1989 model and previewed with a massive media campaign, the ZR-1 was eventually postponed until 1990 due to "insufficient availability of engines."
Based around an all-new 32-valve 375-bhp V-8 called the LT5 (developed in conjunction with Lotus and built by Mercury Marine), the ZR-1 was a true production super car that could run with even the most exotic imports.
GM found that the engine required special assembly, and that neither the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky nor any of their normal production facilities could handle the workload, so Mercury Marine corporation of Stillwater, Oklahoma was contracted to assemble the engines and ship them to the Corvette factory in Bowling Green where the ZR-1s were being assembled.
The vehicle went on sale in 1990 and was available only as a coupe. It was distinguishable from other Corvette coupes by its wider tail section, 11" wide rear wheels and its new convex rear fascia with four square shaped taillights and a CHMSL (center high mounted stop lamp) attached to the top of the hatch glass instead of between the taillights.
Overall sales dropped a bit for the year, down to 23,646. Still, of that number, 3,049 ZR-1-equipped models were sold to buyers who had long saved a place on a waiting list. Many gladly paid well in excess of list price to be among the first to own what was the new epitome of American muscle, and a true Corvette classic.
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350 cu in
245hp @ 4000rpm
330lb-ft @ 3200rpm
350 cu in
375hp @ 3800rpm
370lb-ft @ 4800rpm
350 cu in 245hp
13.8 @ 106mph
350 cu in 245hp
13.3 @ 108mph