Manufacturers Should Take Advantage of the Death of the Front Engine Corvette

12141

How does the C8 fit into the sports car market and what could actually supplant the C7?

Photo Credit: Equus-Automotive.com


Since it debuted in 1953, the Chevrolet Corvette has been carving out a place for itself in the highly competitive sports car market. This process was slow at first and had to endure some hiccups along the way but America’s Sports Car has become a staple of the industry and, in North America, it could easily be argued that the ‘Vette is THE most important player in the game of modern sports car manufacturing.

Tadge Juechter and the rest of the team that captured the world’s imagination with their stunning new mid-engine eighth-generation Corvette are confident that the car fills the same piece of the market that its front-engine predecessors have for seven generations. Not only that, but they are hopeful that their new baby will be able to attract all-new customers into Chevrolet showrooms and grow GM’s already-impressive share of the sports car market.

Judging by the public’s reaction to the newest Plastic Fantastic, we would have to agree with this outlook but nothing can be said for certain and with such drastic change afoot, there is always a chance that the C8 will appeal to a completely different demographic than Corvettes of old. This scenario would leave a large power vacuum in the market that could be exploited by a cunning car manufacturer. Below are some possibilities to keep an eye out for if you already miss the days of front-engine, manual transmission Corvettes.

General Motors

If the C8 proves to be something entirely different to customers than the C7 was and enough possible patrons are holding out; GM would be wise to attempt to hold on to clients that are pining for a new take on the classic Corvette formula. Here are the cars that could assist them in re-capturing the old ‘Vette’s flock:

1. A New Front-Engine Corvette
There has been a ton of speculation in recent years about General Motors making Corvette its own brand. We really like the idea; more ‘Vette variants can’t possibly be a bad thing! This would be the easiest way for anyone to capitalize on the customers that feel alienated by the C8’s new layout. A fresh front-engine design on an updated C7 chassis with carry-over engines from the mid-engine version wouldn’t be overly expensive for GM to produce and the one-two punch that the two would create side-by-side on the showroom floor couldn’t be matched by anyone outside of Ferrari. We can see the magazine covers now; “It’s Back!!!”

2. A Completely Revamped 7th Gen. Camaro
The 6th Generation Camaro has been nearly universally praised as an outstanding driver’s car but while GM went all-in on the C8’s design, the conservative approach they took when transitioning from the 5th Gen. Camaro in 2016 has led to declining sales and rumors of the impending demise of Chevy’s pony car. To save the Camaro, its parent company needs to apply the same fervor to a 7th generation model that they did with the new Stingray. Such a vehicle would need to shrink in size, lose its nearly-useless back seats, become V8 only, and bring a game-changing design to the table. We would absolutely buy one! If the Camaro is to meet its end, though, we hope it goes out with a C8 Z06 sourced 5.5L DOHC FPC screamer of a Z/28!

3. A Resurrected XLR
The ‘Vette isn’t the only car that has passed through the lines at the Bowling Green Assembly plant. From 2004-09, Cadillac’s hard-top convertible XLR was built alongside Corvettes. To bring back the XLR, GM would just have to follow the steps laid out for a new FE ‘Vette in option 1 and mix in some of the style from Cadillac’s numerous stunning concept cars over the years. It could be a winner as long as it either stays more in line with sports car values instead of trying to copy the Mercedes SL Class again or becomes the GT of the General’s stable, allowing the C8 to become even more of a hard-edged sports car.

4. A Modern GNX
Stick with us on this one! It obviously wouldn’t really be a direct replacement for the C7 but we would love to see this happen in conjunction with either “option 1, option 2, or both.” If a new front-engine Corvette and/or a revamped, 2-seat Camaro were to be added into the mix (or if the Camaro is axed all-together), there would be room in the portfolio for a new GNX. Even if none of the above speculations come to pass, Buick showrooms are in dire need of some excitement. Most enthusiasts would rather see a blacked-out Grand National Xperimental hit the streets than a turbocharged V6 Camaro or Cadillac ATS (CT4) V. A turbocharged six-cylinder is never going to be accepted as cool in any other GM product (excepting a reborn Syclone/Typhoon) but as it is part of the GN heritage, we believe it has the potential to be a hit at the right price-point while also saving our proposed new Camaro from the shame of having lower-tier, non-V8 models. Just like in the days of old; this could create a hierarchy of models for young people to aspire to as they move up the ranks of their jobs. Instead of the old trajectory of Chevy to Pontiac to Buick to Cadillac, enthusiasts of today could start in a GNX and move up to a Camaro on their way to the Mid-Engine Corvette when they reach their peak earning years.

If GM doesn’t move fast and the market does prove that it still has a hunger for sporty, front-engine, American performance, we could see life-long Corvette owners migrating elsewhere; starting with:

Mopar

“The Dodge Boys” would love to get their hands on the ‘Vette’s huge slice of the performance car pie. They might have the perfect way to do it too if they brought back…

1. Nacho Fries. Sorry about that, we meant, the Viper
The Viper has been killed off and brought back more times than Taco Bell’s famous disappearing fries seasoned in Mexican spices but this might be its chance to really muscle in on enemy territory. A redesigned V10 brute would be the perfect antithesis of the new Corvette and could claim alienated Z06/ZR1 owners for the Pentastar.

2. Another “Snake-Themed” two-seat sports car
We are of the opinion that if it doesn’t have a V10, it isn’t a Viper. There have been rumors of a resurrected snake with Hellcat (or similar) power. If Dodge does put any kind of V8 in an upcoming sports/supercar, we hope it calls it something else. Perhaps, they could dust off the “Copperhead” moniker from their 1997 concept car. There are a lot of cool, unused snake names out there and if they draw a blank, a quick viewing of Kill Bill could provide plenty of inspiration.

Ford

“America’s Favorite Brand” could also get in on the action a couple of different ways.

1. A Thunderbird
This might be a good chance for Ford to make amends for 2002-2005’s soft, retro-themed 11th Generation ‘Bird. They already have a nice collection of V8 engines (Coyote, Voodoo and Predator), not to mention a 647 HP EcoBoost V6 that could go into a range of sports cars that sit above the Mustang in the Blue Oval’s hierarchy. If a new Thunderbird were to come to market, 2021+ Ford showrooms could more closely resemble those of 2019 Chevrolet than future Chevy showrooms do.

2. An Overhauled Mustang
With the long-awaited arrival of the S550 GT500, there is a high chance that Ford Performance, like the Corvette team, has maxed out the capabilities of their car’s current layout. Similar to the Camaro post above, shrinking the vehicle overall and getting rid of the back seats (which they already do in the GT350R and GT500 with the CFTP) could bump the ‘Stang up to a level Ford has only dreamed of up to this point.

Others

Foreign competition could also get in on the action but it is unlikely that they could/would want to at a competitive price point. A couple to keep an eye on anyway are:

1. A new Porsche 928
There are a lot of compelling renders of this car out there, google it! A sportier Panamera coupe is all but guaranteed to be an outstanding vehicle.

2. A more-entry level AMG GT
Mercedes-AMG’s front-engine sports car, which is rumored to get a new Turbo-6 entry variant. We (and the rest of the world) would much rather see a new naturally aspirated V8 base car under the top-end twin-turbo V8 models.

3. Many others
A revamped Jaguar F-Type could move in to claim some former ‘Vette customers, as could an entry Aston Martin V8 Vantage (which could accompany the previously mentioned AMG GT, which already supplies Aston with their V8s).

4. Coachbuilders
The void left by the front-engine Corvette could actually be filled by a number of custom coachbuilders who utilize the C7 Corvette as a starting point for their own designs. The featured image at the top of the page shows the C7-based “Throwback” model from Equus Automotive that is built on a C7 Chassis.

We could go on and on, some company might even step up and surprise the whole industry but listed here are the most likely candidates; brands that have enough cachet to possibly lure fans of a nameplate as storied as the Corvette. Time will tell what the market decides about the C8 and we are inclined to agree with Tadge and Co. about the security of the ‘Vette’s market share but the wide-reaching ramifications of their choice to go mid-engine is an interesting thing to ponder.


Related:
Colors We’d Like to See on the C8 Corvette: Spitfire/Krypton Green
Corvettes for Sale: Would You Buy This 56,000 Mile 2019 Corvette ZR1?
The Business Case for a Manual C8 Corvette

 



8 COMMENTS

  1. Okay, I have a couple of opinions here. First, the front-engine Corvette is now in our rear view, like it or not. The engineering, sales and marketing teams have all said that the FE Vette has come as far as it can go.

    That being said, injecting that refined race-proven DNA into a re-imagined modern-look Camaro (that looks more 21st century than the 1960’s-era we see now) would be a great idea, and gives GM that one-two punch, especially for the drag racing, TransAm and muscle car scenes.

    **”Just like in the days of old; this could create a hierarchy of models for young people to aspire to as they move up the ranks of their jobs. Instead of the old trajectory of Chevy to Pontiac to Buick to Cadillac, enthusiasts of today could start in a GNX and move up to a Camaro on their way to the Mid-Engine Corvette when they reach their peak earning years.”**

    WRONG (and let me tell you why)! The young crowd (under 30) CAN get their hands on a Corvette right now if they wanted to. How do I know this? I have been on active duty for 20 years now, and every day, I see younger soldiers (under 30) riding around in loaded Silverado Z71s, F-350s, ZL1 Camaros, Hellcats…even BMW M3s and M4s! Just as an example, one of my soldiers (a Sergeant, pay grade E5), has a fully-loaded 2019 Silverado HD, with a myriad of aftermarket upgrades.

    He showed me the invoice for it: $104,225!

    That’s right, folks. Over one hundred large. On a truck. Owned and driven by a 27 year old. And I know he is not the only one. Heck, doesn’t a loaded Camaro ZL1 push $90k? I have no idea how they pay for it, but the kids are buying them left and right. Don’t believe me? Visit Oceanside, CA, Jacksonville, NC, Clarksville, TN, or El Paso, TX et al and prove me wrong!

    But why aren’t they buying the Corvette, which, in this case, is the cheaper option? Easy, let me explain:

    1. Most dealers don’t take our age group (under 45) seriously when it comes to buying a Corvette. At all. I know this from recent personal experience in my quest for a C8, sans the folks at Kerbeck!
    2. Baby boomers and their fathers are still the only ones buying the Corvette. Chevrolet apparently is cool with it, since there is hardly any direct marketing to our demographic.
    3. As long as the kids will drop big bucks on trucks, Camaros and Cadillacs, nothing will change from a marketing standpoint, unfortunately.

    It should change; IT NEEDS TO CHANGE, because those first and second gen Corvette buyers are literally dying off.

    So, the best solution whould be the C8, alongside a reimagined Camaro. Priced competitively…base models capped below $60k.

    I think it can be done!!

    Win-Win

  2. LOL… You are advising other manufacturers to make cars based upon the format that GM abandoned because there was no way to develop the front engine / rear drive platform any further. They had already developed the platform as much as possible. There is a reason that Lamborghini and Ferrari and McLaren, ect have went to the mid-engine platform.

    I also cannot envision GM developing a 7th generation Camaro.. The car simply is not selling and developing a Camaro to compete with the $59k starting price of the vet would be exceedingly difficult.

  3. As far as I am concern when you did away with the manual Transmission and come out with a PUSH Button shift version, you just cut off 70% of your sales to true sport car lovers. These changes just make no sense at all… what were you thinking.. the C8 more resembles the 1960 Plymouth push button models that lasted about a year. Everyone hated them including Grandma. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel with 18 century garbage that didn’t work way back when.

  4. The C8 will be the first and last mid-engine Corvette! The brandnew C8 with 496 HP had a lap time of 7:28 at the Nurburgring, while the Porsche GT3 with 500 HP did it in 7:12 and the Porsche GT3 RS with 512 HP in 6:57! Even the C7 Grand Sport with 466 HP was faster on the Ring with 7:27! The mid-engine C8 is only interesting to accelerate from 0-60 straight line and for the tire factories but on the track, with a weight distribution of 60:40 and an intense power speed oversteering in curves, we have all the disadvantages of that architecture.

  5. @ Bob: LOL to you: There must be a reason, why GT-manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Aston_martin etc. keep the front-engine! Or do wanna argue that they are all dumber than the others?

  6. @Helmuth… do you know why those cars with similar power do better on the track than the c8? Because of aero, tire compound and width, and brake performance. The c8 z51 is the base Corvette, has no track aero, has skinny tires, etc. If you put the tires of a grand sport on the c8 and put track aero comparable to the gt3 RSI, it would in fact post a much better lap time. Just an fyi, the Corvette c8 was almost as fast as a 2020 Gt500 with 760hp at the Vir full course while in low spoiler z51 trim. Twisting things around claiming cars with similar power but much higher levels of aero and mechanical grip should be comparable is just stupid

Comments are closed.