This month's cover story on the that made its debut at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January brought back a flood of memories of the 1989 introduction of the ZR-1 (note the use of hyphen then) . I was one of the lucky few who gathered for the Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland in March of that year, and then proceeded to drive the ZR-1s from there down to Carcassone, France, near the Goodyear tire test center at Mireval.
The ZR-1 had been much talked about for some time and we were anticipating a super-performance car from chief engineer Dave McClellan's Corvette team — and that's exactly what we got. In our road test of the car, which appeared in the June 1989 issue, we clocked a 0–60-mph time of 4.9 seconds, matching the quickest production car in our Road Test Summary at that time, the . (The Ruf 3.4 Turbo was the overall quickest at 4.5 sec. to 60.)
One of my fondest driving memories is of that trip through the French countryside, especially the portion that went through the Gorges du Tarn, one of the world's great winding roads. But it was a piece of cake for the ZR-1, which handled the twists and curves with aplomb. At that time, it was the finest Corvette I had ever driven, with the LT-5 engine developed with Lotus Engineering and built by Mercury Marine pumping out 375 bhp at 6200 rpm and 370 lb.-ft. of torque at 4500.
On a bit of a sour note, as our convoy exited the Gorges du Tarn, the ZR-1 that I was tailing drove smoothly off the road and into a ditch right before my eyes. In the passenger seat of that car was renowned engineering guru Tony Rudd. Fortunately, neither he nor the driver (overcome by a need for a nap, apparently) was injured, but it was a wicked way for Tony to celebrate his 65th birthday. We did have a great party for him that evening, and I recall my friend David E. Davis Jr., then of Automobile magazine, making an excellent speech in Tony's honor.
Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance
Jacksonville, Florida, is home to our Contributing Photographer Bill Warner who is the founder and chairman of the Amelia Island Concours, which now marks its 13th anniversary as the premier concours d'elegance in eastern America. Famed racing driver Parnelli Jones will be the honoree this March 7–9 at the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Parnelli's racing career covered almost every venue you could imagine, from sprint cars to Indy cars (including victory at the Indianapolis 500), Trans-Am, off-road racing, and on and on. Along with Parnelli, there will be a great group of Trans-Am drivers on hand for a panel discussion on March 8, including Dan Gurney, Sam Posey, George Follmer and John Morton.
On the field on Sunday you'll have the opportunity to see the legendary 1908 Thomas Flyer that won the New York to Paris race a hundred years ago, a great group of Austin-Healey Sprites to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of Donald Healey's favorite creations. The Amelia Island Concours is a fabulous show, with all sorts of surrounding events, and it's all done to support the Community Hospice of Northeast Florida. It's also a great excuse to get out of the harsh winter weather up north, meet some legendary racing personalities and see a great bunch of remarkable cars.