Z06. ZR1. Z28. The list goes on, on and on!
The answer is simpler than you may think. We have one man to thank for that.
That man is Zora Arkus Duntov, the Belgium-born American engineer, whose three-page letter, "Thoughts Pertaining to Youth, Hot Rodders and Chevrolet," addressed to his superior, Maurice Olley, Chevrolet Motor Division's Director of Research and Development, forever changed the course of General Motors' performance path.
The hot rod movement and interest in things connected with hop-up and speed is still growing. As an indication: the publications devoted to hot rodding and hop-upping, of which some half-dozen have a very large circulation and are distributed nationally, did not exist some 6 years ago. From cover to cover, they are full of Fords. This is not surprising then that the majority of hot-rodders are eating, sleeping, and dreaming modified Fords. They know Ford parts from stem to stern better than the Ford people themselves.
A young man buying a magazine for the first time immediately becomes introduced to Ford. It is reasonable to assume that when hot-rodders or hot-rod influenced persons buy transportation, they buy Fords. As they progress in age and income, they graduate from jalopies to second hand Fords, then to new Fords.
Should we consider that it would be desirable to make these youths Chevrolet-minded? I think that we are in a position to carry out a successful attempt.
From that moment forward, nearly all Chevrolet performance vehicles carried the first letter of Zora's name: The letter Z.
So whether you see a Z/28 or ZL1 Camaro, a Z06 or ZR1 Corvette, or the antithesis of performance, the 160hp Beretta Z26, you can thank this one man and his typewritten letter way back on December 16, 1953.
By the way, this photo was created in Photoshop. Zora died back in April 1996!