Cars

‘Scary fast’ Corvette is still a dependable street car

When it comes to collector vehicles, James Andrews’ tastes run the gamut.

On a typical day, he might slip behind the wheel of a beautifully restored SS-badged 1970 Chevelle four-door station wagon. Or if he needs even more passenger/cargo room, he might choose his big diesel-powered 1955 Flxible bus, which he’s transformed into a modernized, fully equipped RV.

But if he needs to get somewhere in a hurry, there’s really only one choice: his 1994 Lingenfelter-engined C4 ZR-1 Corvette.

“The car is just a rocket ship. It is scary fast. It accelerates as fast or faster than the new supercharged Corvettes of today,” Andrews said. “It is astonishing to me that a car that is naturally aspirated (non-supercharged) and has archaic 20-year-old engine management systems is still relevant to today’s top fastest cars.”

In fact, this particular engine, a 4-cam, 32-valve Lingenfelter Performance-built power plant was dyno-tested at 688 horsepower at the flywheel. It first proved its prowess in 1998, clocking an astonishing top speed of 218 mph in another Corvette ZR-1 in Road and Track Magazine’s “Fastest Street Legal Cars in America” competition.

The legendary Mario Andretti agreed to drive several high-end super cars for the honors. The Corvette actually recorded a higher speed than the $1.5 million McLaren F1, but the Vette fouled a plug in the process, meaning it could not pass the emissions test, Andrews explained. So technically, it wasn’t “street legal.”

John Lingenfelter was a legendary high-performance expert in the world of Corvettes. He found ways to wring massive amounts of horsepower out of the standard ZR-1 engine, increasing the displacement from 350 cubic inches to 415 cubic inches by both boring and stroking it. It is equipped with Watson stainless steel headers and a 3-inch B&B stainless exhaust system featuring an X-pipe crossover system.

“John Lingenfelter was an absolute mechanical genius,” said Andrews. “I don’t know how you build a 700 horsepower car that goes 200 mph and still makes 23 to 25 miles to the gallon.

Following its performance in a yellow-bodied Corvette, this engine was pulled out of the car and “refreshed,” he explained. The total cost for the engine shows up at $28,656 on the paperwork that Andrews has.

The engine was purchased by Syrantha Weerasuria, an Austin, Texas, motorsports dealer, who installed it in its current home, under the tilt-up hood assembly of the white ’94 ZR-1. Andrews bought the Corvette from Weerasuria about four years ago with approximately 25,000 miles showing on the odometer.

“I have put about 12,000 miles on it since then. I don’t drive it every day, but I do drive it and use it as a car. It’s surprisingly dependable. I have driven it to both Bowling Green, Ky., and to the Bloomington Corvette show in Illinois,” Andrews said.

The car has seen duty on drag strips, as well as competition in standing mile events. The previous owner recorded a best quarter-mile time of 10.49 seconds at 135 mph. Andrews’ best run to date, at Kansas International Dragway, was 11.12 seconds at 128 mph. The car features a full roll cage, as required by drag racing sanctioning bodies.

The beautiful Lingenfelter power plant is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission and, when urged, can pin both the driver and passenger firmly back in the leather factory ZR-1 seats. It is literally a breathtaking experience, as the accompanying video shows.

Tires are fat, sticky Toyo Proxes 18-inchers riding on Fikse wheels, with big 13-1/2 Brembo disc brakes up front and basically stock ZR-1 discs in the rear, which may be upgraded soon. In its current trim, the car can accelerate from a standing start to 150 mph and brake to a dead stop in a mere 23.3 seconds.

“I plan to run it at the Texas Mile in April,” Andrews said. His goal there is to top 180 mph.

Sadly, John Lingenfelter was injured in a drag racing crash at Pomona, Calif., in September 2002. He died 14 months later of his injuries.

Ironically, the previous owner, Weerasuria, had asked Lingenfelter to autograph the intake plenum on the white Corvette about a month before the accident.

“That could quite possibly be the last piece of equipment that he signed,” said Andrews. The signature is still legible and will remain in place in honor of Lingenfelter, said Andrews, who said this is one car he would never consider selling.

The day these photos were taken, he agreed to sell his 46-year-old Chevelle station wagon to a friend.

“I’m ready to try something a little more modern,” Andrews chuckled.

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