A prototype for what's almost certain to be a mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette has been spotted, and the latest tester is wearing the least camouflage gear we've seen yet.
The mid-engine model is thought to be a next-generation C8 Corvette due in time for the 2020 model year. The car was originally thought to be coming for 2019 but production of the 2019 Corvette range is already taking place.
Even so, that's still a relatively short lifespan for the current C7 Corvette which arrived for the 2014 model. The reason for the quick changeover is because General Motors had started working on a mid-engine design for the C7 but ended up scrapping the plans in the tumult of the 2009 bankruptcy, with the C7 we ended up with being somewhat of a placeholder.
Looking at the new shots and video of prototypes, 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 engine. One of the biggest challenges is thought to be heat management. We can also see a rear-facing camera that will feed images to a digital rearview mirror and what also looks to be dual-caliper brakes at the rear.
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, with access only given to 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 new design. We also hear there will be a new LT7 twin-turbo V-8 and possibly a hybrid option at some point. The base engine is expected to be the C7's LT1 V-8, though.
1960 Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle (CERV) 1 - Image via RM AuctionsEnlarge Photo
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.
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 thought 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.
2020 Chevrolet Corvette (C8) spy shots - Image via S. Baldauf/SB-MedienEnlarge Photo
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 preparation for the new car and closed public tours until January 2019. We can't have any members of the public getting an early look after all.
Unfortunately, the news of the mid-engine Corvette means the C7 will likely be the nameplate's last with a front-mounted engine. GM may have introduced the 2019 ZR1 to send it off with a bang.
Stay tuned for updates as development continues.