VM: What components of the ZR1 gave you the easiest validations? The hardest?
TJ: The aluminum frame originally engineered for Z06 duty stepped up to the higher loads and thermal stresses admirably, causing us few headaches. The LS9 engine has also proved to be exceptionally robust, making us comfortable in offering the same 100,000-mile powertrain warranty that other GM products have. Areas that challenged us until the very end included brake cooling, the intercooler circuit, and the exposed carbon-fiber parts.
VM: Did you consider a sequential manual transmission for the ZR1?
TJ: No, the packaging of our rear transaxle makes the use of other transmissions very difficult. A sequential trans would not have been appropriate in an on-road car.
VM: In terms of development, what percentages of your engineering resources were dedicated to engine, driveability, and safety issues, respectively?
TJ: That's impossible to quantify. I mean, for example, are huge brakes a performance, driveability, or safety feature? All of them, of course.
VM: Please tell us about your first drive in a test ZR1, and your first drive in a production model. What were your impressions? Did the vehicle change much between development and production?
TJ: The vehicle changed tremendously. Engine power, ride smoothness, exhaust sound, steering calibration, and braking performance all improved as we moved through the development process. The first prototypes could be described as underwhelming. The finished product lived up to our philosophical battle cry of "shock and awe."
VM: In order of importance, what were the five most significant engineering challenges in designing the ZR1?
TJ: There were so many, and it's too hard to quantify. Thermal management (engine, induction, and fluid cooling); driveline durability (aside from the engine); brake cooling (even though we have oversized ceramics, we still have to route cooling air to them without penalizing lift or drag); and the clearcoated carbon panel's surface and appearance quality all come to mind.
VM: What challenges did you face in integrating ZR1 production into the Corvette assembly line in Bowling Green?
TJ: The ZR1 builds much the same as the other Vettes. Some of the new cooling circuits were a challenge to assemble.
VM: If you were a ZR1 owner, what modifications would you make to improve the car's performance? What mods would you suggest against?
TJ: I would not modify the production car. It is a very balanced design as produced, and almost any change could void the warranty.
VM: Can the ZR1 be serviced at any GM dealership, or are there trained, regional centers that handle service issues?
TJ: There are numerous certified Chevy dealers that can service the car, but not all of them [can].
VM: Would you ever consider building a mid-engine Corvette or ZR1, or an all-wheel-drive one?
TJ: Never say never, but there are huge compromises with either.
Check out next month's issue for exclusive dyno, dragstrip, and road-course tests of the incredible new ZR1. Until then, you can find all the latest ZR1 info on our website, www.vetteweb.com.