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Reprint: Conan Corvette

Illustrated Corvette Series No. 93 – 1992

Falconer V-12 Experimental Corvette “The Conan Corvette”

When the Dodge Viper debuted at the North American International Auto Show in January 1989, NO ONE knew what hit them. The Viper was new and fresh, yet it had a definite connection to the Shelby Cobra. Advanced orders were flooding in you know that designers were going back to the office saying, “DAMN!” The Corvette team was working on three fronts: improving the production Corvette, getting the LT-5 (ZR-1) ready for production, and honing the CERV III prototype as a possible C5 Corvette. But the economy wasn’t good and the reality of a CERV III-based car seemed dim at best Meanwhile, Chrysler was going into production with the V10-powered Viper. This posed a serious threat to the Corvette’s “America’s Only True Sports Car” status. Under the guise of a “chassis development” program, the Corvette team came up with the idea of trumping the V10 Viper with a V12 Corvette prototype. Enter Ryan Falconer. Falconer got his start in the early ’60 working for Andy Granatelli’s Novi engine -powered Indy racers. Later he joined in the Shelby American team and worked on the GT40 and racing Cobras. Two years later, Ryan started his own company, building his own racing engines. His associates reads like a “who’s who” of auto racing legends, including; Parnelli Jones, Al Unser, Mario Andretti, Jackie Stewart, and many others. So when the Corvette team decided to one-up the Viper with two extra cylinders, they decided on one of Ryan Falconer’s stunning, all aluminum V12 racing engines. Since the Corvette would have to be stretched, this was the perfect time for a “chassis study.” Since the Falconer V12 packed a 680-horsepower kick, the obvious place to begin was with a production ZR-1. The biggest challenge was the fact that the all-aluminum V12 engine was 8.8-inches longer than the production Corvette engine. So the front end of the ZR-1 would have to be stretched 8-inches. SportsFab of Wixom, Michigan was contracted to do the stretching. The extra length is barely noticeable, but the ’60s-styled side pipes sure are. Those were straight-through pipes directly off the tuned headers with no mufflers! With the hood up, the engine looked enormous. Amazingly, the extra length and the larger engine only added 100-pounds to the overall weight of the car. The engine used electronic fuel injection with a short-runner intake manifold and the aluminum block had pressed in cast iron sleeves, similar to the famous ZL-1 Actual performance figures were never published, as this was just a “chassis study.” But you can figure out the power-to-weight ratio. What was certain was that at $45,000 per engine, plus the chassis and body modifications, there was no chance this car would ever get into production. Nick-named “Conan” because of the huge V12 engine, the ZR-12 was without a doubt, the one of the baddest engineering study Corvettes ever made.

By K. Scott Teeters

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