This story will be continually updated as new information is learned. The most recent update was published on 9/21/18
The mid-engined version of everyone's favorite American sports car, the Chevrolet Corvette, is coming. Or at least, a lot of auto industry folks think it's coming, thanks to all the rumors, leaked info, and test mules that have been spied recently. After decades of speculation and renderings, this is what we know so far about the most fervently anticipated American sports car in history.
It Might Have a Targa Roof
Looking at the latest batch of photos of the C8 Corvette testing on the Nürburgring, our colleagues at Car and Driver —two distinct cut lines on the roof. They speculate that the mid-engine 'Vette has a removable roof panel. That's not the world's biggest surprise, as all Corvettes since the late 1960s has featured pop-out roof panels—save for the C5 Z06 and fixed-head coupe, and the C6 Z06 and ZR1.
We're not sure if this means Chevy won't do a conventional convertible version of the Corvette, but that's hard to believe. Then again, this car breaks with a lot of traditions.
It Might Even Get a Manual Transmission
This one is not certain, but it's an interesting theory: General Motors has filed a patent for a clutch-by-wire system that replaces the traditional hydraulic master- and slave-cylinder mechanism with an electronic actuator in the transmission triggered by a sensor on the clutch pedal. This system would make for a much simpler clutch actuation system, which would certainly be helpful in a mid-engine car with the transmission at the rear. Is this a stretch? Maybe, but given that every mid-engine prototype we've seen so far has had an automatic transmission, it's a theory we like.
It's Going Racing, Possibly with V6 Power
While prototypes are out on public roads doing testing now, the racing version of the C8 spotted at Road America getting ready for the 2019 season. As with all Corvette race cars dating back to the C5-R, the C8.R will be built by Pratt and Miller and entered into the IMSA WeatherTech Series. A run at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2020 is possible, too.
Audio recorded at the track reveals that the C8.R isn't packing a V8, but rather, an engine that sounds an awful lot like the turbocharged V6 from the Ford GT. What does that mean for the road car? Who knows. IMSA has let automakers enter race cars with different engine's than their road-car counterparts. The BMW Z4 GTE is a notable example, as it ran with a V8, while the Z4 street car was only offered with an inline-six.
We Might not See It Until 2019
Don Sherman, an automotive journalist who's been on the mid-engine 'Vette beat longer than anyone, that the C8 won't make its debut until next year's Detroit Auto Show in January. We'd initially hoped we'd see it at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show, but it doesn't really make sense for Chevy to launch it so soon after the ZR1's debut.
If the mid-engine Corvette did debut in Detroit next year, it'd likely reach dealers later later in 2019 as a 2020 model.
It's Been a Long, Long Time Coming
There have been rumors about Chevrolet developing a mid-engine Corvette for half a century. Indeed, Chevy has built a number of mid-engine concepts through the years, only to abandon them somewhere in development.
The first official prototype (pictured above) was revealed all the way back in 1970, and it was nearly production ready. In 1986, GM showed off the Corvette Indy, complete with a mid-mounted twin-turbo V8 and all-wheel-drive. Then, in 2002, Cadillac revealed the stunning Cien concept at the Detroit Auto show. In between the Cien's axles, behind the passengers, was a 7.5L V12 with 750 horsepower. It wasn't branded as a Chevy, but industry watchers took it as a sign that GM wanted to do something big.
In 2004, it was decided that the Corvette had reached the limit of grip with the traditional front engine, rear-wheel-drive layout. As legendary GM product guy and R&T contributor Bob Lutz explains, the design team got as far as constructing two full-scale clay models, a Corvette and the equivalent Cadillac XLR, both with the engine in the middle. Sadly, the recession of 2008 (and GM's eventual government bailout) caused the automaker to put a hold on, and eventually cancel, this mid-engined Corvette project.
Now, development on the C7's replacement has begun, and rumor has it, a mid-engine variant is in the works. Mark Reuss, head of Global Product development at GM, says that the C8 will be "revolutionary." To some Corvette watchers, that can only mean one thing: a mid-engine Chevy supercar.
GM Is Testing Prototypes
Earlier this year, one of our spy photographers caught what very much looks like mid-engine Corvette test mules undergoing winter testing. These mid-engine prototypes were testing alongside the upcoming Corvette ZR1. While these cars were heavily camouflaged, some trademark Corvette design elements are present.
Of course, a prototype isn't definitive proof that a mid-engine Corvette will reach production, but it seems increasingly likely.
It's Going to Take the Fight to the 911 Turbo S
Our spy photographers recently caught three mid-engine Corvette prototypes testing in southwest Michigan alongside a Porsche 911 Turbo S. The Corvette and 911 have always been rivals, but benchmarking a Turbo S indicates that Chevy is trying to make a true everyday supercar.
If It Happens, It's Going to Cost More Than a Regular Corvette
One of the key factors behind sales of the Corvette is it's outstanding value. With a starting MSRP of only $55,400, the current C7 represents a great deal for those who want fun and performance without having to drain their kids' college funds. Obviously, the mid-engined variant would cost more—possibly a lot more, since it would require an all-new platform redesigned from the ground up.
One-hundred fifty-thousand dollars seems to be the most popular number floating around, which is nearly double the starting price of the current Corvette king, the Z06. Though, Don Sherman claims it should start around $70,000, putting it right into Porsche 718 Cayman S territory.
The Design Would Be Pretty Different
Since the engine is going to be sitting behind the cabin, the car will look quite different from the traditional Corvette layout. Just check out our spy photos from earlier this year for proof.
A mid-engine layout would give the Corvette very different proportions than we're used to, but it does appear that some trademark styling details are present. The roofline and windshield look distinctly Corvette, for example,
The Performance Will Be Even Better
The only reason the Corvette would switch to a mid-engined layout is for performance. Engineers at GM understand that there is a limit to how much power a front-engine supercar can put down, and how much cornering grip it can achieve. Although the current Corvette is a fantastic sports car, it's inherently held back by its front-mid-engine layout. With the engine in the middle, the car's weight distribution can be optimized, with turn-in and corner holding capabilities benefitting as a result.
The mid-engine Corvette has long seemed like a fantasy, a daydream promoted by automotive journalists, Corvette loyalists, and those who want to see an American automaker finally build a direct competitor to the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. Recent evidence suggests that this wish could finally come true. While we're hesitant to call it a sure thing, we think there's a strong likelihood it could happen. And we can't wait to get our hands on it.
It Could Be Very Powerful
A document that leaked late last year indicated that Chevrolet is working on a dual-overhead-cam V8 for the Corvette. It was widely expected that this engine would find a home in the upcoming ZR1, but that car got an updated version of the Z06's push-rod V8. Perhaps the DOHC engine will make its way into the C8.
At Hagerty, Don Sherman reports that the mid-engine Corvette could be powered by a thoroughly upgraded version of the 460-hp LT1 V8 found in today's Stingray and Grand Sport. Sherman claims 600 hp, which would make it the most powerful naturally aspirated V8 ever in a production car.
It Could Be Dual-Clutch Only
A Corvette without a manual? It seems like an impossibility, but . Instead, the mid-engine Corvette will use a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox sourced from Tremec. Of its seven speeds, the top three are overdrives, and Tremec says it can handle 9000 rpm input speed and 664 lb-ft of torque.
Car and Driver argues that Chevy will only offer this Corvette with one gearbox to reduce cost and complexity, but a world without a manual-transmission 'Vette is hard to imagine. Still, a dual-clutch would be a big improvement over the current Corvette's eight-speed auto.
A Hybrid Version Is a Possibility
In an August 2016 report, the Detroit News said the mid-engine Corvette is codenamed "Emperor," and that a hybrid version could be in the pipeline. Speaking to the Detroit News, Bob Lutz speculated that the mid-engine Corvette could have a small battery and electric motor to decrease fuel consumption and enable all-wheel-drive.
Here It Is Doing Hard Acceleration Runs
A spy provided us a video of what looks to be a mid-engine Corvette test mule doing launches and hard acceleration runs on a closed course. Judging by the upshift sounds, it seems the car could be using a torque converter automatic transmission, though we don't know for sure.
It Could Be Called Zora
A member of recently discovered that Chevrolet has begun to trademark the name "Zora" in several different countries, including the US, the UK, China, Japan, and Australia. If you're not familiar with the name, Zora Arkus-Duntov was the GM engineer responsible for much of the early Corvette's development, engineering, and racing success. He worked on the Corvette program from 1953 up until his retirement in 1975 at the age of 81 years old. Though he didn't create the car, he's known throughout the car world as the "father of the Corvette." It's worth noting he was also a successful racing driver, taking class victories in the 1954 and 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans.