History of the 1971 Corvette LS6 454 Cu. Inch Engine

by Matt Robertson
August 2014
No Use Without Permission

Zora Arkus-Duntov looking over the 1971 Corvette LS6 EngineThe 1971 Chevrolet Corvette C3 Coupe LS6 is one of the rarest cars in the world. It was only offered for a year, and during that time only 188 were made. Of those, some have been destroyed or damaged beyond repair. The rarity of the LS6 combined with its unique features has made it a coveted prize among classic car collectors. The car was originally priced at $6,717.00 ($5,496.00 base price with a $1,221.00 LS6 package). Today one of these vehicles in top condition can cost $200,000 or more.

Design of the LS6

The LS6 was designed by Zora Duntov and his team. Duntov's work on the Chevrolet Corvette line had already earned him the name "Father of the Corvette," but he wanted to create a vehicle with more horsepower for races. The Corvette LS6 had a number of unique features, including the 425 brake horsepower big-block V8 engine with 454 cubic inches. The engine was made out of cast iron and featured aluminum heads. It made the LS6 the most powerful engine to be produced in 1971. In fact it was more powerful than any engine ever except for the L88, which was no longer in production.


In addition to this powerful engine, the LS6 also included a number of high quality parts and features. Some of the highlights include the 850cfm Holley 4-barrel carburetor, an M22 "Rock Crusher" Muncie transmission, and the A.I.R. smog pump. The car could achieve 60 mph in 5.3 seconds. Not surprisingly the engine was considered one of the worst performers as far as fuel economy goes; only managing between 9 and 14 miles per gallon. This particular statistic didn't get much consideration in pre-Embargo 1971, when fuel was only about $0.38 / gallon (about $1.90 in today's dollars).

Chevrolet also offered a ZR2 RPO package. The LS6 engine was joined with a four-speed manual transmission, transistorized ignition, a lightweight aluminum radiator, heavy-duty power brakes, and specialized shocks, springs, and stabilizer bars. While the standard LS6 was rare, the ZR2 RPO-equipped was almost non-existent: only 12 of these vehicles were produced. This version of the car was aimed at those who were serious about road racing, but unfortunately, the $1,747 price tag and lack of interest lead to very low sales. The poor sales of both the LS6 and its ZR2 package saw both phased out in 1972.

The Modern LS6

In 2000, Chevrolet resurrected the LS6 name. Now a 385 horsepower engine, this modern LS6 was improved in several ways to make it superior to those found in the antique cars even though it wasn't as powerful. It was further refined in 2002 (405 hp rather than 385) and used in the Z06 Corvettes produced up until 2004.

A Rare Find

Those who love collecting classic cars, especially Chevrolets or Corvettes, may find the 1971 LS6 to be the Holy Grail, the car that would be the centerpiece of their collection. While you may occasionally see one of these old cars up for auction, don't expect to find them for cheap. Even those that are damaged or in need of repair can command fairly large prices simply because of the model's rarity.

Matt RobertsonArticle by:  Matt Robertson
Matt is managing partner at Leland-West Insurance Brokers, Inc. When not in the office, you’ll find him wrenching in his garage or drooling over cars at one the many collector car events that he attends. You can reach him at matt@LelandWest.com.

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