A Vette that will have Lamborghini and Ferrari worried?
Well the idea of a mid-engine Corvette is not new and has been sought after by many enthusiasts for a long time. And GM actually had began with some prototype vehicles in the the late 50’s.
These were under the name of Chevrolet Experimental Racing Vehicle or CERV. These went through the 90’s with the CERV I through the CERV IV.
Should be interesting, and so is the story below…
This story is posted with the the website’s permission…
RANTS by Peter M. De Lorenzo
AN AUTOEXTREMIST EXCLUSIVE: The Mid-Engined Corvette is not only back on the front burner – it looks to be a certainty.©2007 Autoextremist.com
Detroit. It was already supposed to be a done deal that the seventh generation of the Corvette would arrive in its current, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive configuration – albeit slightly smaller, lighter and with two engine choices. There was serious talk of an extremely limited production mid-engined “super” Corvette (fewer than 500 units), which would be built as an adjunct program to the traditional car, but that had not been decided. That’s the way we reported it many weeks ago, and that was the assumption by many in the business as to how it was going to go down – until now. But after my conversations late last week with executives at the top of the company (who shall remain nameless for obvious reasons), I can tell you that the “idea” of a mid-engined “C7” Corvette has not only progressed far beyond the initial planning stages, the engineering on the car is well underway.
What brought on this monumental philosophical shift? Read on…
1. Cost.Up until this point, the argument that the Corvette’s fundamental high-performance-for-the-money equation – one that has been a hallmark of the car since Zora Arkus-Duntov took over the program in the mid-50s – would be compromised with a mid-engined car has held sway over every future Corvette product discussion/decision. That’s no longer the case, apparently. The two key stumbling blocks for a mid-engined Corvette that have always put a damper on previous discussions were the sophisticated, complex and highly expensive transaxle required, and the extremely difficult cooling challenges. The transaxle in particular has a heavy cost-per-piece price that cannot be subjected to shortcuts due to the engineering requirements necessary to accommodate the high horsepower output of a proper Corvette.
GM has found a way to solve these issues while still maintaining the Corvette’s fundamental value proposition and while still delivering the kind of high performance expected of a car that wears the famed Corvette name. I have it on impeccable authority that as a result of the intensive engineering push on the C7 in the last five weeks, the new car will have a target base price that’s very close to a loaded Corvette convertible of today, a number that will keep the future mid-engined Corvette well within reach of its core buyers at current volume levels. This would also obviously allow the Corvette to remain true to its raison d’etre – and continue to outperform cars costing thousands upon thousands more.
Judging by the digital images I have seen, the new mid-engined Corvette is sensational looking, which, given GM Design’s roll of late, certainly shouldn’t be a surprise. Futuristic, purposeful and bristling with exquisite “signature” Corvette design elements – with no “blades” and no bullshit gimmicks – the new Corvette is everything the Corvette faithful could hope for. But an interesting sidebar? Judging by the reactions of people I have spoken to who have seen it, the Cadillac XLR variant of the mid-engined car is drop-dead gorgeous too.
2. The Technological Imperative. There has always been a passionate group of True Believers within General Motors, Chevrolet and GM Racing that wanted to push the Corvette envelope further and aggressively present and promote the sports car as a technological showcase for the entire corporation. This group has always believed that GM has squandered the success of the Corvette – not only failing to use the power of the Corvette brand in corporate image advertising but failing to let the car’s significant achievements in racing in recent years speak forcefully on behalf of the corporation in terms of technical ability. This is a belief I share, by the way, because in an era when GM – and the rest of Detroit – is literally and figuratively on the ropes and has become the favorite punching bag of the anti-car, anti-Detroit “intelligentsia” (and I use that term derisively) in the media and in Washington, here is a car that not only humbles cars costing thousands more on the street, it regularly competes and wins against the best that the competition has to offer on racetracks around the world. And its success goes largely unnoticed and unappreciated both within and outside the corporation.
The mid-engined configuration will not only propel the Corvette to the next level in terms of performance – giving cars such as the new Audi A8 and any future Porsche 911 fits, by the way (not to mention making Ferrari and Lamborghini very uncomfortable) – it will finally be able to assume the role as a global technological showcase for the corporation, something that it couldn’t quite accomplish as long as it was hamstrung with its traditional front-engined configuration, even though the current Z06 already humbles some of the world’s most expensive exotic sports cars.
Rick Wagoner got up in front of the media at the L.A. Auto Show last November and touted that GM was going to become a technological leader. But being a technological leader is about much more than producing plug-in electric cars – it’s about demonstrating passion for the product and in your products – and the willingness to put your technological stake in the ground on all fronts. A mid-engined Corvette will help deliver Wagoner’s positioning in spades.
3. The Competitive Imperative.Right now, GM’s Corvette Racing program exists for one simple reason: to win the premier GT1 class in the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the world’s greatest sports car race – every year. Everything else Corvette Racing does revolves around that single quest, which is why they find themselves running without competition in the American Le Mans Series this year. The ALMS’ connection to the world’s most prestigious sports car race requires that Corvette Racing wins over here in the GT1 class first, even though no worthy competitor (other than the occasional Prodrive Aston Martin effort) runs consistently against the Corvette in the series, which makes for some less-than-ideal “We beat ourselves – again” headlines.
But a mid-engined production Corvette changes everything.
Remember the first scenario that I mentioned? That the next-generation Corvette would be in its current front-engined configuration with the possibility of a ultra-limited-production mid-engined “super” variant? The decision to go with a mid-engined configuration for the Corvette alters the landscape significantly. First of all, it eliminates the expense of developing (and paying for) two separate cars, which was something that the GM brass was not jumping up and down with joy about, understandably.
Secondly, it allows GM and Corvette Racing to do something that is long, long overdue, and that is to become the second American automobile manufacturer to go for the overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – something that hasn’t been achieved since the glory days of Ford’s four-year winning onslaught in the 60s – some 40 years ago.
As you read this, GM’s senior brain trust is contemplating every facet of this mid-engined scenario down to the last detail for the seventh-generation Corvette. The facts of the matter are hard to deny: The technical issues are on the way to being solved, the classic Corvette high-performance value proposition would remain intact, and GM’s drive to establish itself as a global technological leader would be enhanced and embellished, especially with a mid-engined Corvette Racing prototype going for the overall victory at Le Mans.
I strongly believe that Corvette’s True Believers out there – some of whom have been wishing and hoping for a mid-engined Corvette since the early 70s – are finally going to have their prayers answered – and very, very soon.
The word from inside sources intimately familiar with the next-generation Corvette is that a final “go” decision for the mid-engined C7 will be made by the first week in September, and given everything I’ve learned and everything I’ve pieced together on the timing, I’ll bet the farm right now that the next-generation mid-engined Corvette will make its debut – on the street and at Le Mans – in 2010.
Thanks for listening, see you next Wednesday.