It was the second coming of the high-performance small-block V8 in the Corvette. The 1970-'72 LT-1 was the first one offered as an option in the Corvette that boasted more than one horsepower per cubic inch since the days of the RPO L79 350-horse 327.
New for 1970, the LT-1's factory gross horsepower rating stood at an impressive 370, thanks to off-the-shelf Chevy high-performance parts like big-valve heads, a solid-lifter camshaft, and a big (780 cfm) Holley four-barrel atop an aluminum intake manifold. Combine that with a "big block" hood that was marked with unique "LT-1" striping, and you had a screamer that found its way into 1,287 '70 Corvettes in that shortened model year. For '71, the advertised horsepower number dropped to 330 for the 1,949 RPO LT1-equipped Corvettes. The following year, as GM and the rest of the U.S. auto industry changed to "net" horsepower ratings, 1,742 Vettes got the LT-1 as a factory option, now rated at 255 net horsepower. Tightening Federal emission regulations spelled its demise (and "replacement" by the RPO L82 350) following the '72 model run. 1972 was also the only model year that the LT-1 could also be equipped with air conditioning from the factory.
'72 LT-1 is Charlie's Pride
Charlie Carr found his '72 LT-1 at Carlisle back in August 1992, but not where you might think you'd find a 54,000-mile car. "It wasn't in the car corral--it was in one of the sections where the parts vendors are located," he recalls from his Randolph, New Jersey home. "The guy had rebuilt the engine and he'd painted the car, which are probably the two toughest things to do. The entire suspension and underneath was original. So, I knew when I bought it, I'd have to tear the whole underneath out to re-do it." But the Shark was drivable, and Charlie bought it, took it home, and set to work on it. Even though the mileage was low, and the body and engine had been taken care of, there was still plenty that needed doing on this now-20-year-old Stingray. "I rebuilt the entire suspension," he says of the work that replaced the aged pieces with new ones, including a set of stainless steel brake lines from the master cylinder to rebuilt calipers at all four corners.
Inside, the LT-1's cabin had been worked on by its previous owner--to a point. Says Charlie, "The interior was a little rough. He'd put new door panels and carpeting in, and that looked good." However, looks were deceiving, as there was old seat foam under the new leather covers. Charlie says that replacing that old foam with new cushions was one of the most difficult things he did on his '72. Along with the new seat foam, Charlie also rebuilt the center-stack gauge cluster and console, and replaced all the gauge glass.
During his ongoing restoration work, Charlie joined NCRS, receiving a Second Flight in 1994, and he used the detailed judging sheets to correct more things on the Shark as the years passed. His work paid off in Chapter and Regional Top Flight awards in 2006, and the following year the LT-1 received a National Top Flight at the NCRS National Convention. "It's hard to describe the work and effort required to restore a 35-year-old car to Top Flight," Charlie says, "but the accomplishment is very rewarding, and you make many good friends along the way." He notes that his car Top Flighted without one piece of hardware that was most often removed and tossed, even before the window sticker came off: the Air Injection Reactor (smog) pump. "It was very difficult to get an NCRS Top Flight without the smog system," he says. "You lose a lot of points without that whole system. Frankly, just driving the car and working on it, you don't really want it on there."
Charlie says that he's contacted the '72's original owner, who says he still has the OEM smog pump--somewhere in a barn full of parts. "That's the reason I haven't gone out and bought it myself," he says. "Actually, I probably never will, now that I finally made it through the NCRS with a National Top Flight. That was my goal. It's hard to get to that point--I'm one of the guys who drives and enjoys my car."