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5 things we learned about the C4 ZR1 from Corvette chief engineer McLellan

Dave McLellan served as Corvette’s chief engineer from 1975 until he retired from General Motors in 1992. His work spanned two generations of America’s Sports Car and brought the Corvette to the world stage by ushering in the return of the ZR1. McLellan had a lot to say about the Corvette’s evolution when he stopped by Hagerty headquarters and gave a talk in the Drum, surrounded by his own 525-hp C4 ZR1 and its C6 and C7 successors. Here are our favorite bits of trivia from his half-hour lecture.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/08/08/c4-zr1-corvette-chief-engineer-mclellan

Journalist ran out of talent…great line. Will savor those words for the rest of the day or possibly longer.

Lotus was a GM subsidiary at the time so it made sense to use them I suspect. That 24 hour record is begging to be broken too :thinking:

Was the LT-4 used in the 96 manual Collectors Edition Car?

the LT-4 was the ONLY engine available in any 1996 corvette with a manual transmission.

Some journalists lack the talent to handle ANYTHING over 400 hp! I’ve seen it happen time after time at various track events. Just because you write about cars doesn’t make you a race driver.

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Bi-Turbo - After listening to the video, the 2nd thing learned from McLellan " 2.Initial C4 ZR1 prototypes were turbocharged" seems to reference the Lotus engine team’s prior F1 V6 turbo project. Mr. McLellan seems to mention it as an endorsement of their capabilities, not because turbos had anything to do with the LT5’s V8 development.

Perhaps there was another part of the interview that wasn’t posted? Indeed, Chevy had investigated a twin turbo route to more C4 punch; immediately preceding the 1990 ZR1, from 1987 to 1989, Chevy dealers sold and warrantied the twin-turbo charged (stock L98 block V8) Callaway Corvette. It was the option code B2K and hundreds were sold. They had about 350 hp and over 500 lbs ft of torque. Callaway still sells via Chevy dealers: https://www.callawaycars.com/homepage/cars/callaway-corvette/

Europeans - Although Lotus certainly had the inside track since GM owned at least 60% of Lotus, it makes sense that GM would get a counter bid from Porsche Consulting. This may have even happened as part of the due diligence process as GM determined whether it was worth buying Lotus or not. Both Lotus and Porsche had pretty big consulting businesses. Think racing, as McLellan referred to with the turbo charged Lotus designs! Indeed, today McLaren’s revenues are 5-10% consulting.

Jez Stephens - ANOTHER APEX

I owned one of these for about 15 years, it was truly an amazing car. The more I learned about it and drove it, the more I was impressed. I bought from original owner and asked why he was selling he said he was to old to get in and out of it. I was in my 40’s couldn’t understand that. I sold for same reason when I was in late 50’s, wish I had kept it. The specs on the car are amazing, even for today.

I was there at fort stockton, Tx as part of the team that did all those tire, fueling and huelen transaxle rebuilding. As this GM stiff carefully avoided is the people not on GM’s payroll that made all those broken records possible. Mercedes held the records when we showed up on that 8 mile oval which was originally built by Firestone as a tire testing track. The turns were a mile long. This was the start of the Aurora/northstar program. We took 3 cars. Bill Gray crashed one in turn 4 sometime after midnight on day 6 but by then USAC had been monitoring the speed sessions and confirmed we had the records. Batten (Cyril) built the motors and we made the March chassis and aero dynamics at bob Norwoods place in Dallas. Peace out Trey.