During 1986, General Motors acquired Group Lotus, the UK based engineering consulting and performance car manufacturing firm. The Corvette division approached Lotus with the idea of developing the world's fastest production car, to be based on the C4 generation Corvette. With input from GM, Lotus designed a new engine to fit in place of the L98 V8 that was powering the standard C4. The result was what GM dubbed the LT5, an aluminum-block V-8 with the same bore centers as the L98, but with four overhead camshafts, 32 valves. Lotus also designed a unique air management system for the engine to provide a wider power band by shutting off 8 of the 16 intake runners and fuel injectors when the engine was at part-throttle, while still giving the ZR-1 375 hp (280 kW) when at wide open throttle.
GM found that the engine required special assembly, and that neither the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky nor any of their normal production facilities could handle the workload, so Mercury Marine corporation of Stillwater, Oklahoma was contracted to assemble the engines and ship them to the Corvette factory in Bowling Green where the ZR-1s were being assembled.
The ZR-1 displayed stunning ability both in terms of acceleration and handling capabilities, but carried with it an astonishingly high price. MSRP for the (375 hp) ZR-1 in 1990 was $58,995, almost twice the cost of a (250 hp) non-ZR-1, and had ballooned to $66,278 by 1995; some dealers successfully marked units as high as $100,000. Even at base MSRP, this meant that the ZR-1 was competing in the same price bracket as cars like the Porsche 964, making it a hard sell for GM dealers.
Source: Wikipedia (original)