Thursday, January 17, 2008

2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Preview

Every year there's a car that captures the hearts and attention of
This is the one that the crowds have been waiting for. It's the Return of the King. (Photo: Chevrolet)attendees at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Over the past couple of years, it's varied from Detroit's muscle revival to international solutions attempting to solve environmental concerns. This year, the star of the show looks to be the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, America's addition to the list of world's fastest supercars.

What better way to start engineering a supercar than by basing it off a super car. The new ZR1 will share the same basic chassis and structure as the Z06, which in itself is a force to be reckoned with in the sports car world. Its hydroformed aluminum frame and magnesium engine cradle are carried over, but there are many major changes made to transform the Z06 into the ultimate supercar you see on these pages. Carbon fiber is the building material of choice when it comes to exotics, and the ZR1 has its fair share. While some of the car still contains the traditional fiberglass, there's a lot more of the extra-stiff weave. Besides offering stiffness without the premium of weight – the savings on the roof and roof supports alone save 15 pounds – it's also a feast for the eyes.

There's a lot of Carbon fiber galore... and it wasn't cheap for GM. (Photo: Chevrolet)woven composite on display, gracing its roof and surrounding the car in a thin, downforce-generating lip, plus some that is covered in paint such as the hood and the front fenders. To protect what's subjected to the elements, one of GM's suppliers whipped up a special coating to the tune of $2,000 per gallon to prevent the brilliant weave from yellowing or dulling.

Under the pricey skin the ZR1 makes its power the American way, with a small-block V8 engine. Unlike the original ZR-1 which featured a Lotus-developed V8 with quad cams and four valves per cylinder, the new ZR1 features pushrods to actuate its valves. But the thing about the ZR1 is that its engine isn't as big as the one featured in the Z06. The new LS9 engine measures in at only 6.2 liters versus the LS7's 7.0. The difference and the supercar-crushing power comes from the addition of a big (2.3-liter!) Roots-type supercharger from Eaton that is bolted on with a liquid-to-air charge cooler system to feed cool, fresh air into the engine.

Because superchargers are friction-based and drive off the engine, they consume power at full throttle. Eaton's new four-lobe supercharger rotor design is more efficient than its previous three-lobe design; it actually cuts back a significant amount of drag. Instead of sucking back 120 horsepower's worth of energy, the new system only consumes 80 hp. Aside from much stronger internals to deal with the extra power and the 10.5 psi boost of the supercharger, the ZR1's engine also receives dry-sump lubrication. Like the Z06's engine, the LS9 is built in Wixom, Michigan, by hand.

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