Lutz Speaks On Why Next Vette Should Be Mid-Engine, NG XLR & Chevy "Solstice" Version
Road & Track
Article Quotes - Summation
I first saw rough plans for a mid-engine Corvette around 2003.
That's when we were starting to think seriously about a replacement for the C6. GM's head of engineering, Jim Queen, came to see me and said, "The next one's got to be mid-engine".
Tadge Juechter had a PowerPoint presentation demonstrating, very credibly, that the C6 ZR1 was at the limit of usable rear-wheel-drive performance. The problem was really the front-mid-engine layout. We couldn't get the engine low enough and far back enough for proper weight transfer to the rear wheels under acceleration.
I didn't want to move out of our price class, but Tadge explained that while the transmission would cost more, the list price would increase by no more than $5000. Imagine an American-built car with the proportions of a Lamborghini at that price point...that's pretty appealing.
Rick wagoner's reaction was the same as mine: "Oh, no, no. We're not going mid-engine". He thought a little more power next time would fill the bill. Problem is, lap times would be no better using the same architecture, even with, say, 750 hp.
We did two full-size mid engine clay models around 2004 - a Corvette and a Cadillac XLR replacement, each with entirely different bodies. They were both gorgeous. We started working on it.
Around 2005, GM started having budget problems, so the mid-engine project got deferred. By 2007 it was obvious that we were not going to have the money. A whole bunch of stuff got canceled. Impala was delayed. XLR was cancelled. Camaro convertible was delayed. The CTS was delayed.
For the C7, the Corvette team didn't get the $900 million. Instead, it got the nominal sum of $250 million and "do the best you can". There's no way we were going to get a production volume mid-engine car for $250 million.
They wound up doing what Tadge said was absolutely necessary, moving the engine back another two, two and a half inches - which wasn't possible with the C6 - and that's why the C7 has an inch more wheelbase.
We also looked (at the time) at a smaller, more youth-oriented Corvette for a lower price point. We actually had Chevrolet versions of the Solstice modeled, and a lot of us were enthusiastic about a European styled car. But, keeping the pickups and sport-utilities modern, to generate cash, is frankly more important than introducing something that enthusiasts will love.
(Regarding a mid-engine C8): I hope GM does it, and I hope they use the name Zora. The name sounds great and would pay homage to one of the most brilliant engineers GM ever had, the father of the Corvette. All things considered, I'd put the chances of a mid-engined Corvette at better than 50%. With Mary (Barra) in charge and Mark Reuss at product development, my guess is that, if work has indeed started on the Zora, it started six months ago.
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01/07/2015: GM Press Release
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Chevrolet announced today it is resuming the exclusive Engine Build Experience for Corvette Z06 customers – the only program of its kind for supercar customers.
Starting in March 2015, Corvette Z06 customers will be able to assemble the 650-hp supercharged LT4 engine for their cars at the new Performance Build Center inside the Bowling Green Assembly Plant.
“Chevrolet recognizes the passion customers have for Corvette and the Engine Build Experience offers them a truly unique opportunity for hands-on involvement in the creation of the heart of their new car,” said Harlan Charles, Corvette product manager. “It’s a chance to bond with their new car.”
The Engine Build Experience is selected with order code PBC and is offered on all Z06 trim levels. The $5,000 package includes a full day with a Performance Build Center engine assembly technician who instructs and oversees the build, a personalized engine plaque identifying the owner/builder and the date of the engine build, and professional photography of the experience.
After the order is submitted, personnel from the National Corvette Museum will handle concierge services for the customer, following up on the scheduled build date and handling logistics on the day of the build. The customer is responsible for travel costs to Bowling Green and lodging.
Upon completion, the engine moves to the vehicle assembly area of the plant, where it will be installed with the scheduled assembly of the customer’s Z06.
“It’s important for customers to understand their engine won’t be installed the day after they built it,” said Charles. “It will flow into the scheduling process for vehicle assembly, which depends on a number of logistical variables.”
Customers can catch their Corvette being assembled through a special tour organized by the National Corvette Museum. They can also opt for Museum Delivery (order code R8C), which personalizes the buying experience with delivery at the National Corvette Museum, located across the road from the Bowling Green Assembly Plant.
The assembly line tour and Museum Delivery are available for Corvette Stingray and Z06 customers.