It looks like all the rumors are about to prove true: a prototype for what appears to be a mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette has been spotted once again.
The latest shots show the mid-engine model testing alongside a C7 Corvette prototype believed to be a new ZR1 range-topper.
The mid-engine model is thought to be a next-generation C8 Corvette due for a reveal at the 2018 Detroit auto show.
A 2018 debut for the C8, which would likely see it arrive as a 2019 model, will give the C7 a relatively short lifespan. (It arrived as a 2014 model.) The reason for the quick changeover is because General Motors actually started working on a mid-engine design for the C7. Unfortunately those plans ended up being scrapped in the tumult of the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy, with the C7 we ended up with being a placeholder.
2019 Chevrolet Corvette (C8) spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-MedienEnlarge Photo
Looking at the new shots, we see can see that the C8 will be similar in size to the C7 but with a lower, wider stance. It won't get vertical-lifting doors of many exotics though it looks like there will be a short front overhang. Flanking the engine bay looks to be a pair of chunky buttresses and we’re told designers will add a sheet of glass in the center to show off the car’s engine. One of the biggest challenges is thought to be heat management.
Our spies say the prototypes have been running almost exclusively at night to avoid long-distance lenses with 50 megapixels to throw around. It's also been protected from almost all employees at GM, closed to all but a small circle of designers and engineers—as was the case with Ford's GT supercar.
The new Corvette won’t be a pricey limited edition supercar like the GT, though. We hear the basis for the car’s mid-engine platform will be the C7’s aluminum spaceframe structure rather than a completely all-new design. We also hear there will be a new LT5 engine and plug-in hybrid option on offer in range-topping variants.
By now you’re probably wondering why GM would rock the boat with such a dramatic change to the Corvette formula. Apparently the front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout is reaching its limits. Also, the Alpha-based Camaro is already snapping at the heels of its big brother. Thus, to help separate future Corvettes from the Camaro, a more exotic design was required.
1960 Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle (CERV) 1 - Image via RM AuctionsEnlarge Photo
There’s also a bit of mid-engine Corvette history. Corvette father Zora Arkus-Duntov was a huge fan of the layout, especially for motorsports. He helped GM build a number of mid-engine concepts for testing purposes, the original being the first CERV (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle) concept rolled out in 1960. Don’t be surprised if a Corvette ZR1 successor is named after him, since we know GM has a trademark for “Zora”.
Going mid-engine won’t be the only major change for the C8: another will be price. While the base C7 starts close to $60K, the new price of entry is said to be rising to approximately $80K. The higher price can be justified by the more exotic layout, plus it provides a nice buffer with the Camaro. The change will also help the C8 become a semi-exotic halo model for Chevrolet worldwide, similar to what the GT-R is for Nissan and the NSX is to Acura and Honda.
Production will take place at the Corvette’s home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. GM has spent over $700 million in upgrades to the plant in the past year in preparation for the new car, and possibly a Cadillac flagship sharing its platform.
Unfortunately, the news means the C7 will likely be the last Corvette with a front-mounted engine. To send it off with a bang, GM will introduce the aforementioned ZR1.