By on March 17, 2010

Along with flying cars and hydrogen fuel cells, the mid-engined Corvette occupies the most spurious level of automotive rumor-mongery. GM has a deep, rich history of flirtation with the idea of a mid-engine ‘vette (too deep and rich for us not to commission a forthcoming brief history from Paul Niedermeyer), but even in the last three years the engine configuration of the C8 Corvette has attracted intense speculation. In October of 2007, Motor Trend kicked off the modern era of mid-engine ‘vette rumors with a lengthy piece which “revealed” that

GM vice chairman Bob Lutz reportedly has been pushing for a mid-engine C7… We hear Lutz is backing down from his support of a mid-engine C7, though other powerful GM execs reportedly still favor it. Those at GM who prefer an evolutionary, front-engine C7 are facing a tough battle.

Almost exactly a year later, MT took it all back. With GM facing bankruptcy and bailouts, plans for a new Corvette were put on hold and the RenCen pendulum was swinging back towards an evolution of the front-engined C7. And yet now, with bankruptcy still less than a year in GM’s past, the mid-engine Corvette rumors are bubbling back up again.

With rumors circulating that 10 GM studios from around the world were submitting designs for a new Corvette, AutoWeek spoke to some unnamed GM execs about ‘vette’s future, and unwittingly (or not) resurrected the oldest running line of speculation in auto-dom. AW’s scoop: the forthcoming C7 “will be the last of the traditional, old-style Corvettes,” according to a “senior GM insider.” In 2016, the C8 will launch with

a radical re-engineering, centered on a more fuel-efficient, [Ed: wait for it] mid-engined V6 powertrain, a lightweight alloy body and a more compact footprint.

With the C7 rumored to be just another evolution of the long-soldiering ‘vette internals, it’s a question that we (and GM) won’t have to answer today. And frankly, it may be a question that will never have to be seriously addressed: after all, we’ve been hearing mid-engined Corvette rumors for over 30 years now. Who really thinks it’s finally going to happen now?
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22 Comments on “Wild-Ass Rumor Of The Day: Mid-Engine Corvette Whispers Won’t Die Edition...”


  • avatar
    srogers

    My guess is that this is just ‘noise’ to stir up continued interest in the ‘Vette.

    The Corvette nation would be burning crosses on lawns if GM ever switched to mid-engine.

  • avatar
    Morea

    It wasn’t until 1997 that the Corvette got a transaxle for better weight distribution. So 1997 – 1953 = 44 years. Then 1997 + 44 = 2041. (Don’t want to change things too fast now do we?)

    In the year 2041 the Corvette will go mid engine. You read it here first!

  • avatar
    chuckR

    The Porsche faithful haven’t always been pleased with attempts to move the engine to the middle. 914s/Boxsters/Caymans have never had full acceptance by the Porschophiles.
    If there were a C7 that looked like that 904 inspired picture, I’d be interested. If you downsized it, with or without an updated traditional Corvette design, you could do nicely with a 300hp mid mounted six. Porsche had to decontent the Cayman so it wouldn’t embarrass the 911 cash cow. Maybe its better if Corvette doesn’t fight that battle….

  • avatar
    mtr2car1

    If it doesn’t stop it’s 38% drop in sales from last year’s 50 year low volume it won’t matter where they put the engine.

    • 0 avatar
      mtymsi

      I’m thinking the last two years sales numbers are more a reflection of the economy and perhaps the length of time the current model has been out. I know here in Michigan Corvettes are strictly warm weather cars and the overwhelming majority of used ones have 30k or less miles so those owners really don’t have any incentive to buy a new current model. I’m pretty sure the sales will be back up when the next generation is available.

  • avatar
    Lokki

    My guess is that this is just another in the long line of GM fantasy cars… only two have actually made it to production during my lifetime – the Aztek, and (maybe) the Volt – which they got forced into by the green government types.

    • 0 avatar
      BuzzDog

      You forgot the Pontiac Solstice. Definitely a “GM fantasy car” that came to life.

      However, given the underdeveloped convertible top, inefficient packaging and overall execution, the Solstice was like a bipolar Sports Illustrated swimsuit model with an active herpes infection: Wonderful as a fantasy, but a nightmare in reality.

  • avatar
    porschespeed

    chuckR,

    Depends on what group of Porschephiles you’re talking to. If you’re talking about those who still buy 911s as image cars, hell, they wanted to keep the 911 air/oil cooled.

    Do they want to keep the engine where it never should have been in the first place? Sure they do.

    But, there’s a whole lotta Porschephiles that believe in the real mission: fast, reliable, technically superior, sports cars.

    Restrain the Cayman? From the 914-6, to the 928, to the 951, ad infinitum – EVERY model’s top range has been underdone so as not to show how weak the 911 platform inherently is.

    The 911 is hardly a cash cow. Sure, Porsche will screw you silly for options that are standard on a new Hyundai, but it doesn’t move many units, and keeping it mildly relevant is a heavy drain on Porsche engineering resources.

    Meanwhile back at the ‘Vette…

    Last time I checked, the ‘Vette is already mid-engined. Front-Mid, but mid-engine all the same.

    In lay parlance, ‘mid-engine’ refers to rear-mid configs, however, the fact is mid-engine is defined as locating the engine between the wheels.

    This means behind the front wheels OR in front of the rears.

    It took till the C6 to get functional brakes on the ‘Vette. With GMs ongoing slide, the chance of a major engine relocation in the next ‘Vette is about as likely GM paying back the government ‘loans’.

    • 0 avatar
      chuckR

      Its possible to get a Cayman a lot closer to a GT3 in the aftermarket. TPC will program up to 420rwhp with their 5psi single turbo and remapped ECU. You’ll want a suspension upgrade and a limited slip diff and you’ll want the Gen 2 engine with a lot more oil pickups if you’re not just stylin’. Still less money than a Carrera 2 with a moderate level of options. TPC has about 150 installations – not many, but there aren’t many Caymans either. 184 Boxsters+Caymans were sold in the US in February, not so many.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    No way does GM last long enough to bring out a C8.

  • avatar
    mcs

    What about the Euro pedestrian collision standards? Isn’t easier to lower the profile of the front-end with a mid-engine? If anything could bring about a midengine Corvette, it could be those standards.

    • 0 avatar
      Martin Schwoerer

      You don’t need to lower the profile, you need to soften the nose and create a gap between the hood and the engine underneath.

      Pedestrian protection involves spending much time and money on eliminating “harm zones”, but it doesn’t require a new engine layout — never has to date, and probably never will.

  • avatar
    L'avventura

    The performance gap between the Camaro SS and base Corvette is narrowing, while I’ve always imagined the Corvette to be a rather fluid brand, its always consistently been the pinnacle of automotive Americana.

    While I find an all-out MR Corvette very intriguing, in the same vein, what bothers me more then the lack of an FR layout is the V6. I dont think we’ve had 6-cylinder in a Corvette since the early C1s.

    I can’t imagine GM using their ‘high-value’ OHV V6 engines, so it may it could possibly be their more modern DOHC V6 engines, in the vein of their LLT. The LS engines are just as compact, it’d be a shame if they abandon its development.

    But again, a lot can change before 2016, and we should probably be thinking of the C7 first.

    • 0 avatar
      gimmeamanual

      They were close 10 years ago as well; Corvette 345hp, SS 320hp, very close 0-60 and 1/4-mile times. There was an article in CD or RT back then where they asked one of the GM’s Corvette guys if the SS was too close to the ‘Vette, and his answer was basically “Corvette buyers don’t go looking for deals and buy Camaros.”

  • avatar

    a radical re-engineering, centered on a more fuel-efficient, [Ed: wait for it] mid-engined V6 powertrain, a lightweight alloy body and a more compact footprint.

    So Chevy’s gonna build a NSX?

    Actually, a six cylinder Vette is not that blasphemous. The ’53 came with Chevy’s Blueflame inline six. The V8 didn’t show up until 1955. And don’t think for a second that they’d design a midengine C8 and not leave enough room in the engine bay for a couple more cylinders.

  • avatar
    Cougar Red

    Is it me? Or does anyone else expect Speed Racer to jump out of the top drawing on that old Corvette Illustrated?

    Dead ringer for the “powerful Mach 5″!

  • avatar
    Eric Bryant

    I don’t understand the so-called need for a smaller, “fuel-efficient” V6. This would not seem to be a necessity considering the Vette’s extremely modest sales relative to the rest of the GM empire. If you’re Porsche, then sports-car fuel economy is a live-or-die issue. If you’re GM, you can minimize the CAFE impact simply by hacking off the bottom end of the price range and focusing on the middle and upper end (the price tag and corresponding profit of something like a Z06 Carbon or ZR1 can subsidize a whole lotta Aveos and Cruzes). It’s not like a V6 is going to provide a significant fuel economy improvement anyways, especially not when geared for maximum performance. Apply displacement-on-demand and direct injection to the GenV V8 and call it a day. If for some reason this isn’t sufficient, consider offering a smaller-displacement V8 with less power than the current LS3, and then aggressively pursue weight-reduction measures.

    Second, the change to a mid-engine architecture may very well be necessary if the goal is to go beyond the ZR1 in terms of total performance. I suspect that the present layout is very much the limiting factor (at least without going to AWD and that is even less likely than ME/RD). There is only so much work that the two rear tires can do with only 50% of the total vehicle weight on them, and the Vette’s polar moment of inertia around the yaw axis is also somewhat significant due to the location of two large masses at the opposite end of the car.

    The Vette guys have a couple cards up their sleeves that will get the last little bit from the FE/RD arrangement, but after that, gains are very hard to come by without a major architecture tear-up.

  • avatar
    Autojunkie

    I see no reason it couldn’t be a front-mid engined vehicle and have a near 50/50 balance. A rear-mid engined setup (and a V6? Ughhh…) would just be another sports car, but it wouldn’t be a Vette…

    • 0 avatar
      Eric Bryant

      The Vette already has 50/50 balance. The problem is that this isn’t necessarily sufficient when trying to deliver 500-650 HP through only two wheels. To improve upon the ZR1 likely requires AWD or a greater shift in weight towards the drive wheels; cars like the 911 Turbo, GT-R, and R8 validate this thinking (although it should be obvious that they provide performance at a typically higher price point than the Vette).

  • avatar
    chaparral66

    The mid-engine corvette will not happen, well maybe if it goes electric or fuel cell. The packaging of the current front engine car is great. Most of the weight is in the wheel base and you get great luggage space, now compare that with something like a cayman. Not to mention other things like how easy it is lift the hood and have a look at the engine. This is not just for maintenance, because even the ZR1 spark plugs are supposed to last 100k miles, but even people that know nothing about cars or even what they are looking at will want to have a look at the engine of the corvette or an owner would want to show it off. Of course with how bad the current corvette engine looks, although better than many engines, they might as well hide it like in 911, but I do not think owners would like that. Just look at the 599 or even the LFA, Lexus could start from a clean sheet of paper and went with a front engine two seater. Of the abandoned Honda supercar was front engine, even with their NSX heritage.

    People forget that one of the main reasons Zora wanted a mid engine corvette was because of carburetors. Back then in order to get equal fuel to each cylinder, the intake manifold had to be very high. So the hood had to be higher. So the driver had to sit higher to see over it. This raised drag and raised the center of gravity. Look at the early mid-engine concepts, the intake manifolds are at driver eye level, even if the engine is as the same height as the front engine vette. So designers of the front engine corvette had to compromise by making a less than ideal intake. Now modern fuel injection allows for very tight and low intakes that can evenly distribute air and fuel to the cylinders, one of the main pushes is gone.


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