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 near a General Motors Company [NYSE:GM] facility in the United States.
The latest shots follow similar shots from 2015 that depicted a mysterious test mule whose body was composed from several vehicles, including a Holden Commodore Ute for the front and rear sections and a C7 Corvette for the mid-section.
The shots also come just a month after it was reported that the next-generation Corvette, the C8, would be bowing in mid-engine form at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show.
A 2018 debut for the C8 will give the C7 a relatively short lifespan (it only hit the market in 2013). The reason for the quick changeover is because GM actually started working on a mid-engine design for the C7. Unfortunately those plans ended up being scrapped in the tumult prior to the automaker’s 2009 bankruptcy.
2019 Chevrolet Corvette (C8) spy shots – Image via S. Baldauf/SB-Medien
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. 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 heat management.
Our spies say this prototype has been running almost exclusively at night to avoid long-distance lenses with 50 megapixels to throw around—until now. 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 Motor Company’s [NYSE:F] 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. There will also be conventional pushrod V-8s for lower-spec models. It’s an exotic but not that kind of exotic.
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 Auctions
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.
Unfortunately, the news means the C7 will likely be the last Corvette with a front-mounted engine. To send it off with a bang, it’s reported GM will introduce a model above the current Z06 at next year’s Detroit Auto Show.