News on Take Your Corvette to Work Day

The question was asked of Bob Lutz, former GM vice chairman and now the answer man of Road & Track’s “Go Lutz Yourself”:

Dear Bob,
Does Chevy need a mid-engine Corvette and Cadillac a mid-engine sports car? You can’t have Ford selling a $450,000 GT while GM has only a Z06, right?

Well, neither Chevrolet nor Cadillac “needs” a mid-engine car. A mid-engine Corvette would likely coexist with the regular model but be priced at least $30,000 to $40,000 higher, my guess, about $130,000 to $150,000. A logical assumption would be 700 to 750 hp, massive torque, and decent fuel economy. GM won’t do it unless it’s a world-beater, so we should expect it to suck the doors off all the Europeans (Veyron excluded) and the Ford GT, which, while a nice car, would soon seem poor value. A possible Cadillac execution would have to exceed the Corvette and would be priced higher. I’m all for it, and I definitely “need” at least the Corvette.

Well, Lutz may get his wish, because, Motor Trend reports:

It’s time to clear those eyes and lean into the screen because these grainy spy photos reveal what is likely the mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette that’s coming sooner rather than later. These photos, along with recent rumors, further solidify that General Motors is serious about producing the most balanced Corvette we’ve seen yet.

This mule was caught at GM’s Milford Proving Grounds. It’s disguised in C7 Corvette body panels and heavy camouflage, but there are a few clues suggesting this isn’t a normal Stingray. The mule’s rear hatch appears to be missing its glass cover, likely to provide enough cool air to the engine sitting behind the seats. The prototype is lapping the track alongside a C7 Corvette and a few Caddies like the CT6, which the photographer says should provide some perspective on the test mule’s stance and size.

A number of recent events have given hope to ‘Vette fans clamoring for a mid-engine version. Early last year, GM was caught testing a strange prototype that was essentially a mashup of a C7 Corvette and a Holden Commodore SSV, which the rumor mill suggested was housing its engine behind the front seats. In 2014, GM trademarked the name “Zora,” which could hint at a future Corvette moniker. The name is a reference to Zora Arkus-Duntov, the father of the Corvette who made numerous attempts to produce a mid-engine version.

Many GM engineers and executives have also tried to make a mid-engine Corvette a reality and it appears it could happen by the end of the decade. The 650-hp Corvette Z06is already pushing the limits of the current front-engine, rear-drive platform, which means a mid-engine layout is perhaps the only option GM has to take the ‘Vette to the next level.

The supposed mid-engine Vette is following a Cadillac and the current Vette.

If your mind reels at the prospect of a $150,000 Chevrolet, well, assuming the spy photographers are correct, there it is. Readers know I have a number of questions, beginning with why there’s a need for this car when GM sells every Corvette it builds now, and at a profit. The nitpickers about the current Corvette, over its brand and the subpar interiors, seem to me unlikely to choose a Chevy over a Ferrari or a Porsche because it’s a Chevy.

Unless it isn’t a Chevy. Michael Austin is properly skeptical:

Call me crazy, but I’m not convinced the mid-engine Corvette is the next Corvette. The rumor is strong, yes. And, contrary to some of the comments on our site, Car and Driver – leader of the mid-engine Corvette speculation brigade – has a pretty good record predicting future models. But it’s another comment that got me thinking: or maybe it’s a Cadillac.

There is clearly something mid-engine going on at GM, and I think it makes sense for the car to be a Cadillac. First off, check out how sweet the 2002 Cadillac Cien concept car still looks in the photo …

Second, there are too many holes in the mid-engine Corvette theory.

The C7 is relatively young in Corvette years, starting production almost three years ago as a 2014 model. Showing a 2019 model at the 2018 North American International Auto Show would kill sales of a strong-selling car before its time. Not to mention it would only mean a short run for the Grand Sport, which was the best-selling version of the previous generation.

More stuff doesn’t add up. Mid-engine cars are, in general, more expensive. Moving the Vette upmarket leaves a void that the Camaro does not fill. There’s not much overlap between Camaro and Corvette customers. Corvette owners are older and enjoy features like a big trunk that holds golf clubs. Mid-engine means less trunk space and alienating a happy, loyal buyer. Also, more than 60 years of history. The Corvette is an icon along the likes of the Porsche 911 and Ford Mustang. I’m not sure the car-buying public wants a Corvette that abandons all previous conventions. And big changes bring uncertainty – I don’t think GM would make such a risky bet.

Chevrolet could build a mid-engine ZR1, you might say, and keep the other Corvettes front-engine. Yes they could, and it would cost a ton of money. And they still need to fund development of that front-engine car. I highly doubt the corporate accountants would go for that.

But a Cadillac? Totally. Cadillac is in the middle of a brand repositioning. GM is throwing money at this effort. A mid-engine halo car is the just the splash the brand needs to shake off the ghosts of Fleetwoods past. And it’s already in Cadillac President Johan De Nysschen’s playbook. He was in charge of Audi’s North America arm when the R8 came out. A Caddy sports car priced above $100,000 isn’t that unreasonable when you can already price a CTS-V in that range.

Switch the NAIAS debut rumor to Cadillac, maybe even make it for 2017. Remove the conflict of abandoning Corvette history or running two costly model developments for one car. Heck, a mid-engine Cadillac could even act as a Trojan horse if the rumored demise of the current small-block engine is true. Launch a high-powered overhead-cam V8 in the Caddy and after a few years Corvette fans will be begging for an engine swap instead of grabbing their pitchforks and demanding more pushrods.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Corvette engineers, or former Corvette engineers, are working on a mid-engine car. There’s a lot of talent working on GM’s performance vehicles, and people move between teams on a regular basis. And the Corvette’s Bowling Green, Kentucky plant is a great place to make a low-volume sports car with advanced materials. But it’s not clear that GM plus mid-engine equals Corvette. While we’re still making random guesses, my money is on Cadillac.

Whether this is the next Corvette or the next Cadillac XLR-V: I  understand bulletproof reliability is not common with supercars, but I would be extremely hesitant to purchase a mid-engine vehicle from a company famous for sending new technology into the marketplace before it’s ready. (Remember the Vega and its melting engine? The Oldsmobile diesel? The Chevy Citation and the other X-body cars? Computer Command Control? The Cadillac V-8-6-4? The Pontiac Fiero?) And it seems strange to combine a mid-engine design and probably all-wheel drive (also commonplace in supercars) with the usual pushrod V-8. And yet the usual pushrod V-8 has powered every Corvette since 1955 except the C4 King of the Hill, powered by the Mercury Marine-built 32-valve double overhead cam V-8, which was eventually superseded by the pushrods, which obviously work quite well, old tech or not. (Which might confirm Austin’s suspicions about an engine GM currently doesn’t offer in this Caddivette. One hopes that Cadillac wouldn’t emulate Ford’s mistake of throwing the Ecoboost V6 into the Ford GT by using the ATS-V’s 3.6-liter twin-turbocharged V6.)

At least for those of us who have enough money to consider a Corvette (which once again doesn’t include me), the rear-drive Vette will remain available if Lutz is correct.

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One thought on “News on Take Your Corvette to Work Day

  1. It is a funny thing about Vettes. I love cars, especially fast, sexy ones. I had a billboard of a Vette in one of my college bedrooms on E. Johnson. Never got a chance to ask the girls what they thought. It seems though, that every time I really think of buying one they are about 10-20% more than I think I should pay for a car. 100-150k, give me a break. More like 50% Given that the Feds keep telling that there is no inflation, do you think that manipulation of car values (with low cost financing) is manifest? To keep GM happy? Oh I cannot imagine that could be possible. A new 2016 Vette should be about 54k based on “inflation” stats. Good luck with that.

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