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The V12 Powered Corvette Snake Skinner That Never Was

By: Joshua Kashinsky \ June 5, 2014

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From Corvette Online: Before there was the C6 Corvette ZR1 or the C7 Z06, Chevy was uncertain how they could get 600 horsepower from a V8 engine, so in the 1990’s they decided to play around with the idea of a V12 powered Corvette. Chevy wanted to get the most out of the Corvette in the 1990’s due to the introduction of the Dodge Viper, a V10 powered beast. Chevy wanted a Corvette with bragging rights by building a 'Vette with more horsepower and more cylinders than the Viper.

 

 

In the late eighties and early 1990’s Chevy was working on its hallowed ZR-1 Corvette which produced 375 horsepower out of its V8. At the same time, Dodge was working on the 1992 Viper. Dodge gave the Viper a massive 8.0L V10 engine the produced a monstrous 400 horsepower.The first Viper was a pure and raw sports car, coming from the factory without antilock brakes, air conditioning, side windows or even a hard top. The only color the original Viper was available in was red. The styling of the original Viper was menacing and is still striking to this day.

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Although Chevy was content having a V8 engine in its Corvette, they played around with other engines in the past. The original 1953 Corvette was powered by an inline six cylinder engine. Chevy even tried a rotary engine in the 1970’s, but it would never see the light of day. Ryan Falconer Industries, the builders of high powered racing engines, built their V12 off of the architecture of a small block Chevy engine. These powerhouse motors were produced with displacements between 400 and 600 cubic inches, and were originally designed for aviation and marine uses. 

 

 

No question history has proven the V8 in the Corvette has been a winning recipe. If Chevy did not put a V8 under the hood of the Corvette, it probably wouldn’t have made it past its first two years of production. We can still wonder though, what would have happened if Chevy had put a V12 in the Corvette? Would it even be possible for GM to produce and sell it? To no surprise the C4 Corvette was never designed to fit a V12 engine under the hood. The V12 was longer than the V8 designed to fit in the Corvette, so when it came time to drop the Falconer V12 in, extensive modifications were needed. Chevy choose the ZL-1 as the mule to be converted into a V12 monster.

 

SportsFab solved this problem by stretching the front end and engine bay by 8 inches. The Falconer V12 was then able to fit in the engine bay and the ZR-12 was born. It was several inches longer than the production Corvette but only weighed 100 pounds more than the stock car.

SportsFab solved this problem by stretching the front end and engine bay by 8 inches. The Falconer V12 was then able to fit in the engine bay and the ZR-12 was born. It was several inches longer than the production Corvette but only weighed 100 pounds more than the stock car.

 

 

The ZR-12 was nicknamed “Conan the Corvette” in Motor Trend. The ZR-12 wasn’t perfect, it was expensive to produce, even more so than the range topping ZR-1 Corvette. The starting price of the Corvette was $31,979 in 1990. If you wanted to make your Corvette a ZR-1, you would have to pay an extra $27,016. This extra cost made it so that the ZR-1 sold slowly. If Chevy produced a Corvette with a V12, it would have added another five figure sum to the price of the ZR-1 Corvette. With that huge of a price, a V12 powered Corvette would have sold in very few numbers.

 

 

Chevy’s ZR-12 prototype wasn’t very good road worthy contender. During test runs at Arizona’s Firebird Raceway. After excessive overheating issues Chevy changed the wheels and reworked the exhaust. No one knows whether or not they got the ZR-12 in running shape after that day. Whatever the case, the prototype now sits at the National Corvette Museum and gives us a look at what could have been.

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