When it was first introduced, back in 1953, the Corvette was powered by the 235.5 c.i.d. Blue Flame high-compression engine, which was a six cylinder. Two years later, Ford, with the release of their Thunderbird two-seater, gave Chevy 312 reasons which the Corvette needed a V8, and that same year t he Bow Tie Brigade responded with a 265 eight of their own. In the 55 years hence, with the exception of some wankel-powered show cars, and marine engine V12 one-offs, a V8 under the hood of a Vette has been as much a constant as that hood being made of plastic. But does that need to be the case?
There’s a horsepower war going on right now. And it’s not just fire-breathing V8s waging the battle, as both GM and Ford are firing salvos across each other’s bows using their six-shooters. GM opened with a 300-bhp six in the reborn Camaro, and Ford countered with a 311-pony entry in the 2011 Mustang. Stop by your Chevy dealer in the fall and you could drive out in one of their pony cars with a 312-bhp motor under the hood.
Not only are these six pot motors putting out horsepower ratings that would have been jaw-dropping in an eight just a decade or so ago, but they do so with all kinds of fancy technology that makes them efficient as well. Both Ford and Chevy claim 30-Plus MPG on the highway with these compact converters of potential into kinetic energy.
So that brings us back to the Corvette, and why one of these motors might be a good choice (perhaps not the only choice) under the hood of the plastic fantastic. Half-way through the C5’s life a plan was afoot to construct a lightweight version of the car, stripping it of its heavy glass hatch, and some of the bells and whistles, as well as the v8 under the hood. In place of the LS1 would go a lighter, and more fuel-efficient V6. Performance with the six proved unremarkable and the focus of the lightweight Vette effort was changed to the creation of an even more potent V8 car- resulting in the Z06 FRC.
But what if, today, you could start with a clean sheet and design a smaller, lighter Vette around that 312-bhp LY7? maybe instead of being the Corvette, it could be an adjunct model. Maybe it could be that mid-engine Vette that has been rumored all these years. Would that be a good thing, or is the idea of what a Vette is so deeply entrenched in the public’s psyche that any derivation – and especially one that lops a pair of cylinders off the engine – would be seen as blasphemy?
Would you be cool with, or cool to, the idea of a V6 Vette, if it were handled right – think 308GTB vs V12 Ferrari? We don’t know what Chevy’s got up their sleeves, but maybe we can give them a push in the right direction.