For as long as mankind has existed, the Corvette has stayed true to its roots; Front-mounted engine with a rowdy cross-plane crank producing that sweet American V8 sound we all know and love.This all changed when Chevrolet decided the Corvette will switch to a mid-engine platform with a flat-plane crank engine, meaning the sweet V8 sound we all know and love will start to sound, and perform, more like the V8 supercars from across the pond.
The switch from the traditional front-mounted engine layout was decided by Chevy’s engineers due to the previous generation’s C7 platform having reached its peak potential. In an online interview with Josh Holder, the C8 Program Engineer Manager, he described the C8 as being, “able to connect that kind of power and torque to the road, which is something very special [because] it will expand the performance envelope now with this architecture”. This quote confirms the reason for the switch to the mid-engine platform, and he continues on to claim, “We’ve been trying to do this for a while”.
While it’s true that no other production Corvette has been mid-engined, there has been a total of nine mid-engine prototypes since 1960. Here’s a quick list in order of when they were developed:
One of the first prototypes for a mid-engined Corvette revealed in 1960, just 7 years after the Corvette debuted.
XP-880 Astro II
A car designed and built in 1968 to become a race car in order to compete with the boom in automakers switching to mid-engined race cars. Due to a lack of interest and support by General Motors and a lack of quality parts, this prototype was doomed from the start but aimed to improve and develop a serious prototype for the following couple of years.
XP-882 Mid-Engine Corvette Prototype
Appearing at the New York auto show on April 2nd, 1970, it set out to fix all the mechanical issues that plagued the previous prototype, and actually set off a wave of support which almost brought it to full-scale production, but ultimately failed and was abandoned for what is now known as the C3 Corvette body style, the third generation.
This 1973 Corvette concept was accompanied by an equally untraditional rotary engine, completely straying away from the traditional powerful V8, and was built on a Porsche 914/916 chassis that was cut to be slightly shorter. Ultimately, General Motors decided they didn’t want this prototype in production due to the later Chevrolet Vega being the target for the first two-rotor vehicle for Chevrolet.
XP-895 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette Prototype
Based on the previous XP-882 body style, it was made to its exact specifications, except using only Aluminum for the body, and a 400 cubic inch V8 paired up with a Turbo Hydromatic transmission. Due to the high cost of the Aluminum body panels, and the low-quality parts being used, the car handled poorly and was not worth the cost for any further research and development.
Four-Rotor Corvette Prototype
Again using the previous chassis, this time paired with a four-rotor engine, and crazy Gullwing doors, the Four-Rotor Corvette Prototype was a very pretty looking car, but fell very flat on its face when it came to performance due to the Wankel engine’s design that gave it next to no torque, and a pitiful amount of horsepower.
The Aerovette was everything the Four-Rotor Corvette was, minus the four-rotor which was replaced by a 6.6 Chevy V8 and was supposed to become the fourth generation Corvette, the C4. The project itself was green-lit but because of cost and tradition, it instead was replaced by the less innovative C4 body style and powertrain.
The Corvette Indy was the Predecessor to the CERV III, and truly paved the way for the future prototype to get so close to actual production. Having debuted during the 1986 Detroit auto show, it greatly impressed the general public and General Motor’s higher-ups. Everyone truly anticipated the Corvette Indy to become the next generation of Corvette but were disappointed when the project went silent after the auto show.
The final mid-engine Corvette prototype, the 1990 CERV III, was the absolute closest to becoming a real production car. It served as the evolution from the previous Corvette Indy and included a healthy mix of state-of-the-art technology at all four corners, as well as traditional consumer tech. Everything about this car screamed supercar, like Lamborghini and Ferrari level supercar, which would have required a price tag to match. That would not have worked in GM’s favor when the Corvette’s staple price was relatively on the low-end, and the foreign car market was becoming a strong competitor against even the fastest domestic vehicles.