Bob Lutz Recounts Early Work on the Mid Engine Zora ZR1 Corvette Program


Bob Lutz Recounts Early Work on the Mid Engine Zora ZR1 Corvette Program

To paraphrase an old ad slogan, when Bob Lutz talks (or writes), people listen.

In a blog for Road & Track released yesterday, the veteran auto executive gives some insider background on the mid-engine Corvette that looks like it might finally become a reality after all these decades of teasing.

Lutz says the company has been thinking about a mid-engine Corvette for more than a decade, and he believes the stars may be lined up now for such a car.

He even saw rough plans for a mid-engine Corvette in 2003.

This is not just wishful thinking on the part of magazines and enthusiasts. There’s science behind all this talk about a mid-engine Corvette.

If it happens, we can thank the likes of chief engineer Tadge Juechter, who way back in 2003 as Chevy was beginning work on a replacement for the C6 did a PowerPoint showing, “very credibly,” according to Lutz, that the C6 ZR1 was at the limit of usable rear-wheel-drive performance.

“The problem was really the front-mid-engine layout—we couldn’t get the engine low enough and far back enough for proper weight transfer to the rear wheels under acceleration,” Lutz writes.

Bob Lutz Recounts Early Work on the Mid Engine Zora ZR1 Corvette Program
Photo Credit: Valentin Flauraud/Reuters

While Lutz was afraid that a mid-engine car would move the Corvette into a much higher price category, Juechter said back then that though the transmission would be more expensive, the final MSRP wouldn’t be more than $5,000 higher.

Of course, we all know that about that time, General Motors began going through severe economic problems, and the mid-engine idea again had to take a back seat.

Now, with the ultra-popular C7 Stingray making the Corvette one of the most respected names in the sports car business, the timing could finally be right to take the mid-engine plunge. With the multitude of awards given to the Stingray, Juechter and his team should have proven to GM execs that they know their business. Based on Lutz’s recollections of Juechter’s mid-engine cravings more than a decade ago, we know Tadge is a fan of the new engine layout.

“All things considered, I’d put the chances of a mid-engine Corvette at better than 50 percent,” Lutz writes. “Mary Barra is all for exciting things. I don’t think [ex-CEO] Dan Akerson would fully comprehend the value of a mid-engine Corvette, but she understands. She’s really the first CEO that doesn’t come out of the treasury office. With Mary in charge and Mark Reuss at product development, my guess is that, if work has indeed started on the Zora, it started six months ago.”

Based on the recent spy photos showing what’s believed to be a C8 mid-engine mule, we’d be inclined to believe Lutz is right.

Personally, Lutz says he hopes GM finally does make the mid-engine car long dreamed about by Zora Arkus-Duntov and millions of enthusiasts, “and I hope they use the name Zora,” he writes.

“That name sounds great and would pay homage to one of the most brilliant engineers GM ever had, the father of the Corvette,” Lutz writes. “I’m absolutely convinced they’ll get it right. The Corvette team’s objective is always getting a top model that has a better horsepower-per-pound ratio than anything on the planet. They benchmark everybody, including McLaren and so forth. The C8 will be lighter than the C7, and if they do the Zora, it’ll be ultralightweight.”

Bob Lutz Recounts Early Work on the Mid Engine Zora ZR1 Corvette Program

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