The 1971 Corvette would develop into a more balanced -- though tamer -- performer as the Seventies wore on and the engineers came to grips with the flurry of federal regulations before them. Due to a decrease in compression ratio for 1971, the 1971 Corvettes's base small-block engine ran on mild 8:5:1 compression and was down to 270 bhp at 4,800 rpm. To this end, the potent LT1 small block withered to 9.0:1 and dropped from 370 bhp to 330 bhp. These respective compression numbers also applied to a brace of 454s. The LS5 came in with 365 bhp at 4800 rpm, and a new aluminum-head big-block called LS6 boasted 425 bhp at 5,600 rpm. Clearly, 1971 Corvette engines weren't weak. If they seemed so at the time, it was only in relation to the prodigious power outputs enthusiasts had grown used to in the previously unregulated era of muscle cars.

The 1971 Corvette was retuned to run on low-lead fuel.
The 1971 Corvette was retuned to run on low-lead fuel.

The ZR1 option available exclusively with the LT1 is significant for engineering, though not many saw production. It was a special racing package that included the solid-lifter small-block engine, heavy-duty four-speed transmission, power brakes, aluminum radiator, and a revised suspension with special springs, shocks, stabilizer bar, and spindle-strut shafts. Since it was competition equipment, the ZR1 could not be ordered with power windows, power steering, air conditioning, a rear-window defogger, wheel covers, or a radio. But the ZR1 package was quite expensive, and few Corvettes were so equipped.

A similar ZR2 package was listed for the big LS6 engine and was just as rare. Per GM policy, 1971 Corvette engines were detuned to run on low-lead fuel -- save the LS6 454, which belatedly bowed with 425 bhp on premium gas. Installations totaled just 188, including a mere 12 cars with a $1,747 ZR2 package, basically the ZR1 with the big-block V-8. This would be the only year for both the LS6 engine and the associated ZR2 equipment.

The 1971 Corvette offered a custom trim package for $158.
The 1971 Corvette offered a custom trim package for $158.

Otherwise, Corvette again marked time for '71. Styling and equipment changes were virtually nonexistent, and no real tampering was called for. Prices bumped up a bit to $5,259 and $5,496 for the convertible and coupe, respectively. With supplies healthy again after the UAW strike, sales made a satisfying recovery, moving up to 21,801 units for the model year. The coupe had taken a slight lead over the convertible in 1969, perhaps reflecting the T-top model's greater all-weather versatility.

Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:

1968 Corvette
1969 Corvette1970 Corvette
1971 Corvette
1972 Corvette
1973 Corvette
1974 Corvette
1975 Corvette
1976 Corvette
1977 Corvette
1978 Corvette
1979 Corvette
1980 Corvette
1981 Corvette
1982 Corvette

Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:

  • Corvettes: Learn about the history behind each model year and see Corvette photographs.
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  • Consumer Guide Corvette Reviews: Considering a Corvette purchase? See what Consumer Guide has to say.