The Swiftest Corvettes 

2001 Z06, 1990 ZR-1, 1996 Grand Sport
Road Test

Stephen G. Dye

We gather a pair of Z06s, a pair of ZR-1s and a '96 Grand Sport. Which Corvette will earn the quarter-mile crown?


The vast majority of The Common Driver staff loves Corvettes. Chevy's only true sports car has been an American favorite since the early fifties. And even with so many great creations having been produced along the way, the current C5 Corvette is easily Chevrolet's best overall effort to date. However, an equally important question is, is the new Corvette also the fastest?

To answer that nagging question, CommonDriver took the initiative to plan a gathering of the 'Vettes most folks consider to be the fastest ever. Just days before this event, we witnessed a potential would-be challenger from the vintage muscle car era. The gorgeously restored '67 coupe ran through the quarter mile with a vengeance. It was equipped with a 435-horsepower tri-power 427 cubic inch big-block. With the help of plenty of octane boost, the car managed a 13.66 @ 105.9 mph on street legal rubber. That's certainly swift, but not the kind of speed we wanted for this comparison test. 



Without question, the classic Corvettes kick butt, but for this article we sought out the absolute fastest mass-produced, factory stock Corvettes ever. At the top of our list was the 1996 Grand Sport, the 1990-1995 ZR-1 and the new 2001 Z06. (At the time of publication, the 405-hp 2002 Z06 was not yet available for testing.)

We gathered our small group of Corvette fanatics in a secret location just outside of Kansas City. Since this road is technically available for public access, safety precautions were absolutely necessary. But even with various precautions in place, the general excitement of driving these cars at 110+ mph on a "public road" provided for additional amusement.



The Kansas City heat and humidity were unbearable. At 96 degrees, the heat index made it feel like 105. And the Corvettes didn't like it any more than we did. Although none of the 'Vettes overheated, the temperature gauges read higher than usual. In an attempt to combat rising engine temperatures, the cars were given cool-down periods between runs.

Despite the intense heat, all the cars that attended were indeed fast. The slowest run in the slowest car posted a 108.0 mph trap speed. Among the mighty 'Vettes present were a highly-modified 1996 Grand Sport, a highly-modified 1990 ZR-1, a factory stock 1990 ZR-1 and two factory stock 2001 Z06s. A modified 1999 Ram-Air Trans Am gave us a perspective on how fast the new F-bodies are with the Corvette's LS1 powerplant.





So what is fast? Well, our modified ZR-1 was the car we all suspected to set the standard. However, the car's air-hungry LT5 kept inhaling its own air snorkel, which made specific ETs difficult to obtain. (The stock ZR-1 suffered the same dilemma.) After one of our Corvette aficionados inserted a hand bent coat hanger into the restrictive device for extra support, we were able to achieve a traction-limited 12.70 @ 120 mph. Throughout the rest of our 96 degree day, no other car was able to beat this exceptional speed through the quarter.

But this ZR-1 quarter mile hero was far from the way Chevy intended. With several modifications to the intake and exhaust, the bone stock Z06 cars had no chance of keeping up with the furious LT5 powerplant at 7000 rpm. Or did they?





CommonDriver's best Z06 attempt for the day returned a 12.89 @ 117.8 mph. Not at all bad for a factory stock vehicle. The 2001 Corvette Z06 is much faster than you might think. It's very close to the robust Dodge Viper GTS coupe. An unskilled driver behind the wheel of a GTS would likely be left chasing the taillights of an experienced driver in a Z06.

We never had the opportunity to witness the LT-4 powered '96 Grand Sport make a complete pass. Clutch problems prevented it from launching properly, and eventually caused the car to be sent home altogether. We look forward to seeing this bruiser again after a fresh clutch is installed.





The stock 1990 ZR-1 ran several mid-thirteen second ETs, all of which reached trap speeds of 108-mph or more. This car seemed particularly disadvantaged by the humidity, evidenced by trap speeds that were fairly inconsistent. The car was difficult to launch, and a best pass of 13.40 @ 112.8 was all the King could do in such scorching heat.

To see how well the Corvette's LS1 engine could do in an F-body car, we used a '99 Anniversary Trans Am equipped with the 6-speed manual. With a few bolt-on parts to the intake and exhaust, combined with sticky Nitto drag radials, this Firebird raised a few eyebrows. Two back-to-back passes returned a 12.99 and a 13.08. Both runs reached an identical 114.2 mph. Apparently, it doesn't require very many modifications to build a 1998-2002 Camaro/Firebird that will hand a ZR-1 its ass. 





As much fun as we were having, we were all glad to go to our air-conditioned homes at the end of the day. At the request of some of the participants present at this event, CommonDriver will schedule a rematch for a cooler day. A wider variety of Corvettes will attend our next shootout. Reportedly, more of them will be wearing drag radials at that time. Things could get sticky. 



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