Chevy Small-Block, from Soliloquy to Slander and Back
Zora Arkus Duntov – the first Chief Engineer and “Godfather” of the Corvette – might have felt like his child was taking the ball the wrong way down the football pitch a few years after his 1975 retirement. The big-block – which originally “displaced” fuel injection in 1965 – hadn’t been available in the Corvette since 1974. And still in 1980 – due to Management’s resistance – high-performance “port” fuel injection had not been resurrected.
It was of little consolation that in 1982, Chevy released a new “Cross-Fire Injected” L83 engine having a single pair of electronically controlled fuel injectors pointing into a wet intake manifold. These sorts of Frankenstein single point injection systems – eventually designated Throttle Body Injection (TBI) by GM – helped reduce emissions and fuel consumption at idle, but struggled to generate even 200 horsepower.
Finally in the 1985 model-year, the chronic power famine that had taken hold of Corvette in the 70s began to dissipate. A Bosch/Delco “Tuned Port” fuel injected small-block – the electronically controlled L98 – complimented the Corvette’s svelte new body 17 months into production of the new fourth generation Corvette. However, by now it had been almost three decades since Chevrolet first introduced port fuel injection.
And like a seasoned Nashville musician plucked out of rehab, Chevrolet soon promoted Corvette as a “special guest” during large venues with European headliners like the Porsche 928 and the Countach. This was perhaps premature, as base Corvettes still lacked the power of the Stingrays of the 60s, let alone the manners of old world thoroughbreds.
Eventually with the help of Hethel’s Lotus – wielding the engineering prowess of a Merlin engine while drawing tabloids like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – GM’s regal and “homegrown” 375 horsepower “ZR-1” launched at the 1989 Geneva Motor Show. Parched by two decades of regulation, automotive journalists on both sides of the Atlantic were soon intoxicated by the stock 7000 RPM redline and 11-inch rear wheels. The ZR-1 quickly became Detroit’s pièces de résistance.
There was just one problem. . . No one could afford it. . .
Please see our whole story at anotherapex.com/the-small-block-from-soliloquy-to-slander-and-back-corvette-power-from-c1-c8-part-7a/