What does a mid-engine Corvette mean to Corvette Lovers?
The Chevrolet Corvette, affectionately known as the ‘Vette’ or Chevy Corvette, was a front engine, rear drive, two-door, two-passenger sports car by Chevrolet over more than sixty years of production and seven design generations. Following spy sightings globally of camouflaged testing, General Motors (GM) finally announced an eighth generation Corvette (2020 model) in a mid-engine configuration will be revealed in 2019.
Could you imagine a manufacturer killing off a car after over 66 years of production, countless racing victories, and a hardcore fan base buying every single special edition car that has been thrown at them? I’m not talking about the Porsche 911, I’m talking about the Corvette. I’m fully aware that the new mid-engine “C8” will most likely be called a Corvette but I’m not so sure that I’m convinced that it will be a Corvette in the true sense of the word. Imagine if the “992” Porsche 911 had an engine in the front rather than the rear? I would like to think that they’d call it a 968, 944, or whatever their crazy numbering system would make of it nowadays.
There have been rumors long before that the Corvette platform would go to a mid-engine configuration. I think what really put the nail in the coffin was its little brother, the Camaro. The engineers at GM and Corvette Racing may have realized that they have extracted just about every single bit of performance out of the front-engine/rear-wheel drive platform.
The fact that a Camaro ZL1 1LE returns lap times comparable to the Corvette Z06 is preposterous, yet wonderful. You pay less for a car with back seats that weighs more and the guy with the more expensive car from the same brand with the same engine can’t get away from you on the road. That’s a little embarrassing for the Corvette crowd.
The engineers at Chevrolet had gone back to the drawing board before the production of the C6 to change the Corvette layout to mid-engine, but the recession hit and we all know how that went for GM. After thinking they had reached the limits of a front-engine layout in 2004, Corvette engineers still went on to make some of the best performing cars that we know today; in the C6 generation with the Z06 in 2006 and the ZR1 in 2009, which was one of the fastest production cars around the Nürburgring at the time.
Since then, the C7 Z06 and ZR1 haven’t shown any major improvements over the C6 ZR1 as far as lap times go. In fact, it has shown up weaknesses of the new cars in regards to cooling and sustainability on the track. This has resulted in Chevrolet not releasing new lap times from Nürburgring tests.
As a Corvette fan, I don’t dislike the idea of a mid-engine ‘Vette. My issue lies with the fact that they may completely stop production of a front-engine Corvette, thus leaving the Camaro as your only front-engine, rear-wheel drive option.
I do see the possible benefits of marketing a “supercar” to a younger demographic but is it worth losing the older fan base that actually has the money to spend on the car? How many sub-25 year olds have $75,000 to blow on a new car? I’d assume the number is far less than the 30+ year-olds that have the cash, and let’s be real; those are the guys that are buying non-base model Corvettes. Besides, anyone that isn’t biased will probably accept the fact that a ZR1 is a supercar.
We have already seen what a mid-engine Corvette racecar can do. The Corvette Daytona prototypes that raced in IMSA dominated their class. In 45 races from 2012-2016, the Corvette Daytona prototypes won 30 of them. Also, many Corvette fans forget about the Corvette GTP that raced in the late 1980s. Some of the private teams actually used V6 engines in the GTP although the V8 was used as well. The Ford GT may be using a twin-turbo V6, but I don’t think Corvette Racing will go down that road any time soon. The reason for my confidence in the V8 staying in the mid-engine Corvette comes from multiple videos of a test car that I have seen floating around recently that clearly demonstrate the engine sound; it sounds like good ‘ole murica! If they were going to put a V6 in the racecar, they would put it in the road car as well.
What would I do?
So, what would I do if I were in Tadge Juechter’s position?
[*Editor’s Note: Corvette Chief Engineer]
I’d start by giving the car a different name and separating it from the Corvette brand and keeping the Corvette alive. Once the marketing hype is out of the way, I would make sure that there were multiple versions of the car. A more affordable base model that maybe had 500 HP and a manual gearbox, then a “Z06” version with 650+ HP and a dual clutch. From there, I would make sure there were new color options, but also retain some of the classic Corvette colors.
Last – but not least – I would do everything possible to guarantee the best driving experience. The day a “Corvette” isn’t fun to drive is the day everyone should go buy a Nissan GT-R. A big part of that is making sure the 8-speed automatic doesn’t come anywhere near the new car, no matter how fast the engineers claim it is.
Of course, I’m not the big boss over at Chevrolet, so we will have to wait until 18th July 2019 to see what the details are.
Michael Gallardo found interest in cars at around 6 years old. Going to the drag strip to watch NHRA races and riding in his Dad’s VW Beetle were the earliest memories that he can credit his passion to. A year after high school, Michael bought his first car, a 1986 Porsche 944. Ever since then, he has been switching it up and trying to experience all of the cars that he possibly can. Interests include watching Formula 1, going to the shooting range, collecting watches, trying new places to eat, and an occasional round of golf.