Brian Douglas

The mid-engine 2020 Stingray delivers Zora Arkus-Duntov’s vision!

Corvette’s Moon Shot

As a former owner and Corvette enthusiast, I’ve been fascinated with the seemingly endless tease about the next Corvette model. This year, after generations of speculation, the venerable Corvette would leave its 66-year history of placing the engine in front of the occupants, to relocate it right behind them. It’s a location strategy that promises higher sports car performance, shifting weight closer to the rear-driven wheels and moving the driver closer to now-lighter steering inputs.

Mid-Engine History

If chassis layout had been left entirely up to Zora Arkus-Duntov, the legendary General Motors engineer and racer who’s considered the spiritual father of the Corvette, a mid-engine layout would have appeared decades ago. But two issues plague nearly all mid-engine sports cars, packaging (where do you put the luggage?) and higher cost. GM certainly knew how to produce an exciting mid-engine vehicle. Its series of Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicles, CERV I through IV, teased Corvette fans from 1959 to 1993. 

Over the years, what became America’s sports car kept winning races and sales records, so there was little incentive for a dramatic change that involved a clean sheet of paper for a truly all-new design. But during those same decades, rumors would bubble up about a mid-engine offering, helped by CERV concepts that morphed from racer to road ready.

Mid-Engine History

If chassis layout had been left entirely up to Zora Arkus-Duntov, the legendary General Motors engineer and racer who’s considered the spiritual father of the Corvette, a mid-engine layout would have appeared decades ago. But two issues plague nearly all mid-engine sports cars, packaging (where do you put the luggage?) and higher cost. GM certainly knew how to produce an exciting mid-engine vehicle. Its series of Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicles, CERV I through IV, teased Corvette fans from 1959 to 1993. 

Over the years, what became America’s sports car kept winning races and sales records, so there was little incentive for a dramatic change that involved a clean sheet of paper for a truly all-new design. But during those same decades, rumors would bubble up about a mid-engine offering, helped by CERV concepts that morphed from racer to road ready.

Just a Few Questions

When I received my invitation to the launch of the all-new, eighth generation 2020 Corvette, I knew it would be dramatically redesigned and a mid-engine layout. Unlike Ford’s surprise a few years ago with its GT model, the C8 Corvette was teased enough to make Elon blush. What we didn’t know, until the product unveiling in the giant blimp hanger at former Marine Air Base El Toro, was how much more it would cost and where would you stow luggage? I was seated with a colleague, a former GM engineer and Corvette owner, who was skeptical that those issues had been resolved.

Most analysts had the same reservations about cost and packaging and a few suggested that the current, front-engine C7 version could remain in production to ease the transition. After all, Chevy did just that with Impala when executives somehow thought buyers weren’t quite ready for a much better offering. This time the company over-delivered, unveiling a stunning design, packaging so brilliant that there’s stowage space for luggage and golf clubs and all for the same price as the outgoing model. That’s shock and awe with lasting value.

I still have a few questions until I get behind the wheel of this amazing new Corvette. Will it feel lighter and crisper than the current model? Will the new electronics, like the curb-compensating suspension with GPS location memory, work as advertised? And how much will the nicely-equipped model, the car that zips to 60 MPH in 3-seconds cost? We’ll know the answers soon. And we’ll also see what impact this exciting new version of America’s sports car has on world rivals. Nice going GM.