If you’ve been following Corvettes for sometime, you are probably aware of the oft-repeated rumor will basically goes like this: The next generation Corvette will feature a mid-engine design. As in the engine goes behind the seats, but in front of the rear axle.
Motor Trend came out yesterday with a “hot scoop” saying they have multiple sources that tell them that Chevrolet is indeed working on the next version of the Corvette ZR1 and that it will be mid-engined. Not only that, but the C8 Corvette will also feature a mid-engine design as well.
We’ve seen this time and again, so what makes this time any different than previous mid-engine design rumors?
It was Zora Arkus-Duntov, Corvette’s first Chief Engineer, who pushed hard for a mid-engine design for Corvette since the early 1960’s. Many prototypes were developed over the years including the CERV concepts, the 1969 XP-882 (the Aerovette) and even later concepts like the 1985 Corvette Indy, but none ever came to fruition.
Zora and XP-882 Aerovette at the 1970 New York Auto Show
When the C7 rumors first started around 2007, the mid-engine design rumor was there front and center.
An early C7 blog post on CorvetteBlogger from Jan 2007 featured an article from AutoExtremist.com’s Peter DeLorenzo who talked about the internal debate that happening inside the Corvette team. Those discussions, according to DeLorenzo were about diversifying the Corvette lineup by offering a regular edition (ie front-engine/RWD) Corvette that would come in both base and performance models (which turned out to be the Stingray/Z06) and then a smaller limited edition run of an advanced mid-engine Corvette that would run six figures and would “deliver blistering performance that will surpass exotic sports cars from around the world costing hundreds of thousands more.”
The word on the street at that time was that GM was taking a good long hard look at offering a mid-engine Corvette and that some engineering and design studies were done to support the new model. Taking a lead role in championing a mid-engine Corvette was GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz.
And then the carpocalypse of 2008-2009 descended on the automotive industry. Following the GM bankruptcy and a government bailout, the Corvette as a model was saved from extermination, but it came at the cost of a more focused budget that accomplished the first goals of the C7 program, but left the more exotic idea of a mid-engine supercar on the shelf.
General Motor’s recent trademark application for “Zora” for use as “motor land vehicles, namely automobiles” once again put the mid-engine Corvette rumor back into play. With a name as influential and revered in Corvette circles as Zora, GM can’t put out just any Corvette that would wear the Chief Engineer’s name. Nope, this one has got to be something a little more than just special paint and decals.
The Motor Trend scoop goes on to make the case why the C8 Corvette in a mid-engine configuration makes sense based on the future offerings of other vehicles coming from General Motors – mostly because the next generation Camaro which bows in 2016 is expected be close to the power and weight of the base C7 Stingray, while Cadillac needs a sports car to compete with the likes of Audi’s R8 and R10 coupes.
It’s a compelling case and one that bears watching.
We’ve always been part of the camp that says Corvettes should be allowed to diversify their lineup. A sixty-one year heritage as America’s Favorite Sports Car allows GM to do this. However, unlike the Motor Trend rumor which says that all C8s may go mid-engine, we believe that careful consideration from GM is needed so as not to alienate the current legions of Corvette owners and enthusiasts who have the ability to plunk down the $50K for a base front-engine RWD model but the starting price of $150K for a mid-engine C8 Corvette may be out of their reach.
The price point for a mid-engine Corvette has always been seen as one of the roadblocks to going all in on a mid-engine design. Until that can be overcome, we’d like to see the two-platform plan for the C8 which gives the masses their “budget” sports car as a front-engine RWD configuration that evolves from the current Stingray as well as a high performance Z06 which basically serves as the ass-kicker model in the series. The mid-engined Zora/ZR1 would become the new halo model and while it is still most definitely branded a Corvette, it’s freed from the shackles of Corvette’s 61 years of design and allows Tadge, Kirk and Harlan a new playground on which to run.
What’s your thoughts on a ZORA/ZR1 Corvette that comes as a mid-engine car vs the traditional front-engine Corvettes we have now? Please sound off in our comments and on our facebook page as we’d really like to know what other Corvette enthusiasts think about the future of the brand.
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