Fabulous Corvettes

Fabulous Corvettes

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Dreams Do Come True
By Tony Markovich, Corvette Forum  - September 12, 2016

Numerous concepts have played with the mid-to-rear-engine design dating back to the ’70s. There were even two (now famous) clay models, one of a Corvette and one of a Cadillac XLR constructed in the early ’00s, according to Bob Lutz himself, but budget and financial issues quickly shut down any chance of those making it to production. GM execs literally have been talking about this for longer than I’ve been alive, and multiple parties have believed it’s the natural next progression for continued development of the American superstar. That’s only compounded as the blog era has reached its gossipy stride.
The rumors have hotly intensified the past two years with the sightings of a few strange-looking mules. Car and Driver saw this insane wide-body Holden-ute concoction last year, and most recently, a heavily-layered car was captured from an extremely far, heat-riddled distance. GM’s head of global product development, Mark Reuss, also reportedly confirmed the project and called it “revolutionary.”
We saw signs that a prototype for the mid-engine C8 was actively out testing on a course heavily blocked by thick trees, but we kept after it, looking for the slightest sliver of space to see the car that—the Detroit News says—is referred to as “Emperor” by GM insiders. There must be at least a small gap through those trees through which to catch a new view of the long-rumored, eagerly-awaited mid-engine Corvette.
Technically, this is all still speculation, because shapes of mules change all the time, but this is the first real suggestion of a Corvette shape melded with a mid setup, so what the hell, right? Expectations for the car sit around 700-plus horsepower and $150,000. The value Corvette wouldn’t immediately be cut, but there have also been rumors that the Emperor would eventually be the sole model offered.

Codename EMPEROR 
The Detroit Free Press, Auto Critic, Tony Phelan – August 5, 2016

There’s mounting suspicion Chevrolet is developing a mid-engine Corvette super car. The as-yet-unconfirmed car has become a hot topic of conversation among engineers, car lovers, auto writers and automakers’ strategists in the wake of the Ford GT’s triumph at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race and news that GM is investing $290 million in major upgrades to the factory that makes Corvettes.

There have been rumors of a super 'Vette for decades. The timing appears to be ripe for the car now, but not everyone thinks it’s a good idea.

Building a faster Corvette might seem like a no-brainer, but how fast? Perhaps more important: how expensive?

The question has divided car lovers and automotive experts.

GM has toyed with the idea of building a super ‘Vette to compete with exotic cars like Ferrari and Lamborghini for decades. Notable examples include the 1959 Scaglietti Corvette, a one-off aluminum-bodied ‘Vette whose development involved Carroll Shelby years before the legendary Texan  created the AC Cobra with a Ford V8.

GM has walked to the brink several times, but always backed away before building a radical Ferrari-style super car under the Corvette banner.

There are many reasons for GM’s reluctance. The Corvette has been a performance icon and money maker for Chevrolet for more than 60 years. Part of its appeal is the affordability of sticking to a proven formula: V8 power, front engine, rear-wheel drive.

“Corvette has a unique position in the industry. It’s already a super car,” says Automotive News engineering and technology reporter Richard Truett. “It already delivers more performance and better handling than most drivers will ever need or use. And it does  that at a price no other automaker can touch.”

Why mess with success?

A couple of reasons come to mind. The current C7 Corvette Stingray pushes the limits of performance you can get from a front engine/rear drive car, IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley says. Mid-engine cars have their engine behind the passenger compartment and in front of the rear axle. That layout distributes the weight in a way that’s ideal for handling and acceleration.

“To build a faster, better-handling Corvette, you have to look at a mid-engine layout,” Brinley said. “The Ford GT may have given Chevrolet permission to build a car GM has always stopped short of.” The Ford GT, which won its class at the famous Le Mans endurance race this year and goes on sale shortly, has a mid-engine chassis and a price  expected around $400,000. The GT ladles on technology you can’t afford at the price of a current Corvette, like strong, light carbon fiber body panels and a twin-turbo V6.

Prices for the current Corvette Stingray start at $55,400, an incredible bargain for one of the world’s greatest sports cars.

Prices for the mid-engine Corvette will start at $80,000 and escalate rapidly, according to Car and Driver magazine, which has been out front with news about the car. The magazine reports it will debut in January 2018 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit with a version of the current V8 and a new dual-clutch transmission. The car’s code name within GM is “Emperor,” according to journalist Don Sherman, who has written extensively about it in Car and Driver. The magazine says it will replace the current ‘Vette.

The concept of a megabuck Corvette to compete with exotic cars is simultaneously appealing and perverse.

Former Free Press auto critic Lawrence Ulrich wrote a story titled “The Mid-Engine Corvette is a Terrible Idea” for the website the Drive.

Ulrich pulls no punches, writing: “It’s a death knell for the Corvette, at least in the (relatively) accessible, aspirational form that made it America’s Sports Car. Apologists will point to what people spend for Porsches or Ferraris with comparable performance, but that misses the point.

“The Corvette is still a Chevrolet. Corvette buyers are not Ferrari buyers. They demand unmatched bang for the buck, in part because they have fewer bucks.”

But what if the Corvette’s future is not an either/or question? If the current configuration is so great, and a mid-engine model could be that much better, why not build both?

Mid-Engine Corvette Will Wear The “Zora” Moniker for 2019
Motor Trend Blogs By Alex Nishimoto, Detroit Free Press – July 30, 2016

Based on trademark filings from 2014, we think the mid-engine Corvette will wear the “Zora” moniker, after the father of the ‘Vette Zora Arkus-Duntov. Placing the engine aft of the cockpit would completely change the Corvette’s handling characteristics, and would place the Corvette Zora in the company of the Ford GT and Ferrari 488 GTB. The­ car could also pack a performance hybrid system like the Acura NSX and Porsche 918. That’s one theory former GM head of product development Bob Lutz stands behind. Lutz believes the C8’s 2018 debut means the engineers have been busy working electrification into the equation. The high-profile auto industry personality speculates the mid-engine Corvette will offer “10- to 15-mile plug-in electric capability.”

“That would only require a 5-kWh battery, or $1,300 at today’s lithium-ion prices (plus motors and hardware),” Lutz told The News in an email. “It would be enough to give it a 50 mpg city label, and the electric motors at the front would enable limited AWD capability.”
750hp Corvette Engine in the Works
By Patrick Rall, Torque News – July 20, 2016

There are rumors that the long-awaited mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette will debut at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show and a new rumor suggests that it will feature a new supercharged engine with somewhere in the area of 750 horsepower – possibly making it the most powerful American production car of all time.

The current Chevrolet Corvette Z06 is powered by the supercharged LT4 V8, which delivers 650 horsepower and 650lb-ft of torque, making it the most powerful production road car that General Motors has ever offered. However, with the Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger both coming with the SRT Hellcat trimline, offering 707 horsepower and 650lb-ft of torque, the most powerful Corvette of all time falls a little short of the most powerful American production car by more than 50 horsepower.

However, based on an interesting discussion between a few folks who work in the auto industry, it looks like GM might be cooking up a new engine for the Corvette lineup – one which will comfortably overpower the Dodge Hellcat Hemi.

As we all know, automakers don’t like to talk about future products until they are good and ready, and in the case of a rumored engine for a rumored mid-engine Corvette, GM most certainly isn’t interested in offering any insight. This information comes strictly from a few industry sources with the most reliable being a friend of mine who recently had a talk with a friend of his – who happens to work for GM.

During that discussion, the GM employee was telling my friend about an engine that they are working on – a supercharged engine intended to power the new super-Vette. There was no mention of a mid-engine setup, but this insider claimed that he was familiar with a project to build a new top of the line performance engine for the Corvette and Camaro. According to this insider, the goal for this engine was 750 horsepower for the Corvette with slightly less power in the Camaro.

Keep in mind that over the past year, we have discussed a possible rebirth of the LT5 engine name. The LT5 was best known for powering the C4 Corvette ZR1, during which time it was a groundbreaking engine and one of the most powerful on the market. GM trademarked the LT5 name at the same time that the protected the LT4 name and since then, it has been speculated that the LT5 would power the next big-power Corvette. Based on this new information, I believe that the engine being discussed could be a new 750hp LT5.

Again, this information is 100% unofficial, coming from a discussion between two engineers having a beer, but my friend assured me that this guy was very familiar with the project – enough so that he has been telling people not to buy a Hellcat car because GM will have an answer very soon. Needless to say, a Corvette from this generation or the next with 750 horsepower would set a new bar for the American auto industry, but with the expectation that the mid-engine Corvette won’t debut until early 2018 – it could be more than a year before we get solid information on this engine.