The Corvette has been delivering expensive performance at discount prices for decades. Since debuting in 1953, it has been an icon. Curvaceous metal wrapped around competitive power, at an affordable price. For nearly 70 years the formula stayed the same: a V-8 up front, two seats in the back.
But the possibility of a mid-engine car—and the resulting rumors—have also been around a long time. Only 6 years after the first Corvette went on sale, Chevrolet built a mid-engine concept car called the XP-719. On the back of a wrinkled photo it says, “First mid-engine Corvette proposal”. The man responsible for the idea–and many of the concepts–was Zora Arkus-Duntov, an engineer who joined GM the very year the first Corvette rolled out.
Arkus-Duntov was part of the team that transformed the Corvette from a comfortable, soft, Thunderbird competitor into a serious sports car but all the while he thought the engine should be in the middle. In the 1930s, he had watched mid-engine cars beat up front-engined Mercedes. In 1957 he watched Jack Brabham drive a mid-engine Cooper T43 around Monaco. That same year Arkus-Duntov saw a factory Corvette retire from the 12 Hours of Sebring, a broken suspension part saving driver John Fitch’s feet from being slowly roasted by the engine’s headers. Such discomfort wouldn’t have happened were the engine behind Mr Fitch.
But you don’t mess with success. As the love of Chevy’s coupe grew, changing its foundation became a hard sell. The Corvette had the classic sports car shape: long hood, short deck. They looked good, sold well, and won races. If it ain’t broke, don’t move the engine.
But there is a point where you can’t outrun physics and Chevy reached that point with the C7. The C8 puts 60 years of rumors to rest and makes Arkus-Duntov’s dream a reality.
Corvettes have run alongside mid-engine competitors for a long time, many times in front of them. Looking back at how fast they were with the engine in the “wrong” place, just think about how fast they’ll be now. Click play to learn more.