In the early 1990s, more was always better. And if 10 cylinders were good enough for Dodge’s American supercars, Chevy would have to up the ante a bit to really push back. The Corvette team created a one-off design study called the ZR-12 to see what would happen if you put 10 liters of all-American grade in a C4 generation Vette. Obviously, good things happened.
Ryan Falconer Industries was and is –in the business of building GM-based marine engines including the famous Falconer V12 which is based on the Chevy small-block engine architecture. It’s basically an SBC and a half. Much like the Viper, Chevy had to stretch the front of the car to fit that many cylinders, and the C4 chassis took eight inches of extra length to get the V12 under its shell.
Chevy never built one of those 12-cylinder beasts for consumers, largely because it would have been incredibly expensive. In 1990 a Corvette cost about thirty-two grand and the amazing DOHC MerCruiser-powered ZR-I was almost sixty Gs. If the ZR-12 had gone into production, it would have cost at least an additional ten grand. Considering the Viper started at around $ 50,000, it wouldn’t have made a great Viper fighter.
Inflation has risen nearly 100 percent since 1990, which means this V12 Vette is roughly the equivalent of $ 138,000 in today’s money. Now that I think about it, a brand new NSX starts at $ 157,000. So maybe there is room for a large displacement V12 Corvette in today’s line-up. Especially now that it is a mid-engine, a V12 would certainly be welcome.
This car was originally tested for magazine tests in the early 1990s, but the car overheated on the track and was more than a little unruly to drive. The weight balance wasn’t changed much as the aluminum V12 weighed about as much as an iron V8, but the stretched chassis was a little wobbly. The car at the time had viper aping side tubes that were later pushed in. It had problems.
Since that test, the car has been pretty much mothballed and handed over to the National Corvette Museum a few years ago. In 2017 I visited the museum and saw the car up close. It hadn’t been on display in years and was simply pushed into a back room on a rack. For a recent change of displays, NCM lit the Falconer V12 and drove the car around a little both inside and outside the museum. Fortunately, YouTuber DtRockstar1 was there to video it. You just didn’t live until you heard a Corvette V12.
Man, that’s a really delightful sound. I wish they’d got the thing up revs, but it sure had the right exhaust pulses, even at fast parking speeds.