Simanaitis Says

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IF I HAD a nickel for each time R&T predicted a mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette…. gee, I could retire.

Come to think of it, I got retired in 2012. And here only seven years later is the Corvette C8 with its engine aft of the driver and passenger.

Here in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow are mid-engine Vette tidbits selected from sources of historical lore and today’s SAE International. I particularly acknowledge as an excellent source of images and information of earlier designs.

Zora Arkus-Duntov. Zora Arkus-Duntov is celebrated whenever Vettes (or Allards) are discussed. Back in 1953, Zora was impressed with styling of the GM Motorama Corvette, though he didn’t think much of its luke-warm mechanicals. He joined GM shortly afterward and became “the father of the high-performance Corvette.”

Zora Arkus-Duntov, 1909–1996, Belgian-born American engineer and race driver (with class wins co-driving Porsche 550 Spyders at Le Mans, 1954 and 1955).

It was Zora who transformed the six-cylinder automatic underpinnings of the production 1954 Corvette into a sports car with a proper manual gearbox stirred by a potent V-8.

1960 CERV-I. The CERV-I was a mid-engine open-wheel race car concept powered by a small-block Chevy V-8 and featuring four-wheel independent suspension.

Arkus-Duntov and the CERV-I.

CERV stood for Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle, and a two-seat CERV-II sports car followed in 1964.

1964 CERV-II.

Zora’s idea was to develop a halo line of racing Vettes, but GM brass weren’t ready for “win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

1968 Astro II XP-880. Was the Astro II a Jim-Hall Chaparral race car for the street or the next (and mid-engine!) Corvette? R&T asked this question on its July 1968 cover.

1968 Astro II XP-880, R&T, July 1968.

R&T predicted that the Astro II, “ ‘a successor’ to 1967’s Corvair-based Astro I, is more likely to be the long-rumored mid-engine Corvette.” However, the magazine hedged its bet as to whether the car would be a new Corvette or a production Chaparral supplementing the Vette.

Neither. It was a show car.

1969 XP-882. By the late 1960s, the Vette was a proper sports car and Zora envisioned a mid-engine version as a means of countering Ford’s selling the DeTomaso Pantera through Lincoln-Mercury dealers.

1969 XP-882.

In retrospect, the XP-882 was the closest Zora ever got to a production mid-engine Vette. This one had several variations, including those with Wankel rotaries, one with 2-rotor power, the other a 4-rotor producing 420 hp.

In 1976, the 4-rotor was swapped for a more production-worthy powerplant. The car got gullwing doors, a 350-cu.-in. V-8, the name Aerovette, and production plans for 1980 at a price of $15,000-$18,000.

1977 Aerovette.

To put the price in perspective, R&T tested a 1980 Porsche 911SC that went for $28,985.

Alas, Aerovette production was not to be. Tomorrow, we’ll see how the 2020 Corvette promises to fulfill Zora’s dream. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019

One comment on “2020 (MID-ENGINE!) CORVETTE PART 1

  1. rulesoflogic
    November 12, 2019

    As someone who is on his third Corvette, I very much appreciate posts like this on the development history of the mid-engine Corvette. Unlike many Corvette “purists” I think the move to a mid-engine design was unavoidable and I welcome the change.

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