What if there is no mid-engine Corvette?

After decades of rumors and spy photos we’re finally getting towards the C8 Corvette’s official release to the public. And though we think we know a lot about it, we very well may not know anything. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the C8 will bring a mid-engine to the American sports car’s long-standing nameplate. And even though we can be all but certain that the all-new car is coming, the skeptic in me can’t help but think: “don’t believe it until you see it.”

Source: Motor Trend
Source: Motor Trend

So in the wake of the endless spy photos and incessant speculating, it’s not that far-fetched. What if GM really doesn’t end up building the mid-engine Corvette?

Would there be backlash? Would GM fans riot in the streets? Would the brand as a whole throw up its hands, walk away in a huff, and jump ship?

Alternatives?

Or would no mid-engine ‘Vette mean retaining the front-engine layout, but add some kind of way of powering the front wheels? It would be easy to envision something a-la NSX, with electric motors giving the front tires extra power and traction to supplement the V8 driving the rear wheels.

NSX Powertrain
NSX Powertrain

Supposedly the C7 ZR1 is the absolute limit of what a front-engine, rear-drive platform can manage. But we’ve heard that before, and each time the respective automaker pushes the envelope even further. The C7 ZR1 is bonkers like no ‘Vette has ever been, and something deep inside me knows there’s lawyers reeling its potential in just a bit in case they want to do one more hurrah for the MR-platform Corvette as we know it.

Then again, maybe they’re thinking of doing exactly that with the rear-engine layout. It makes all the sense in the automotive world: the C8 could be GM’s breakthrough in competing with the electrified super and hypercars. It could be their first true fight against the NSX and memories of 918/P1/LaFerrari. GM’s pioneering of battery technology through the Volt and Bolt projects very likely could have provided the know-how to come out swinging. In pairing some kind of battery and electric motor tech with their seemingly endless eight-cylinder petrol-fueled pushrod engines it could make for GM to have the equipment and innovation to make for a great first stab at it.

Is it just too much?

But what if it all just doesn’t happen? GM has been in the news lately for laying off workers and shutting down manufacturing plants. Would some kind of financial trouble mean they put the brakes on an all-new project with a high-dollar price tag? What if the stock market suddenly takes a massive nosedive, rendering the $150k price range too tough to swallow for the times? Would they still bring the C8 out as a tech leader and flagship for the brand name? Or what if prior to the C8’s release something catastrophic happens with GM as a whole, something in line with Dieselgate? Would the project be pulled completely?

Source: Chris Doane / Road and Track
Source: Chris Doane / Road and Track

It’s fun to play with hypotheticals, especially considering the mid-engine ‘Vette’s history. Now, the supposed very-real car has already been delayed due to wiring issues and just this week news broke of a test mule needing to be rescued from a gas station. Clearly this vehicle is not without faults, and GM is undoubtedly working endlessly to iron out all the problems before it debuts. Which, as we all think, is probably going to happen this year.

And then there’s the possibility that the C8 is going to be either a Cadillac-branded vehicle or released in tandem with a Cadillac variant. Rumors have this happening in a way not unlike the C6 and XLR were effectively the same vehicle with different priorities. This time around think C8 as being more of a McLaren and NSX fighter and the Caddy being more to battle the lower-trim Ferraris and similarly-luxurious exotics from companies like Bentley. In this case, what does that mean for each of them? Should the models be differentiated by their drivetrains, or just grilles and leather quality?

2009 Cadillac XLR
2009 Cadillac XLR

It’s coming though, right?

Clearly there are almost endless questions circulating everything regarding the upcoming Corvette and everything surrounding it. Its drivetrain, its price point, even its release date. So while enthusiasts all over sit around and debate these questions, how much power it will have, what it will compete with on a performance basis, and so on, I’m left somewhat on the side. My mind isn’t thinking of how great the C8 might be, but rather: what will it be, and will it be at all?

At this point we’ve been waiting for a mid-engine Corvette for what feels like forever. Longer, even, than we waited for the LFA, NSX, and Supra. Since the C7 debuted we’ve been hearing that the C8 is coming. But the Corvette’s entire history is marked with rumors of the platform moving to mid-engine, so there’s always the possibility it might not happen at all.

Call me the skeptic on this, but I’m still holding out until I see the reveal with my own eyes. For now I’ll just wait, hoping it happens… because if it doesn’t, GM might just have the automotive letdown to end all automotive letdowns.

Source: Motor1
Source: Motor1

27 Comments

  1. Sitting here with no emotional investment at all, the location of the C8’s engine won’t matter to me in the slightest. I can only say it would be unwise for GM– given the current hype– to proceed at this point with anything but a mid-engine design. “Mid-engine” has been in the Corvette conversation since the the 50s, but never with such apparent certainty. Are fanboys even in support of this change, or do some prefer the traditional layout? It honestly seems like the Camaro is treading on Corvette ground these days, and the plasticar needs to up its game.

    1. I wonder about that too, and I would be wary of venturing too far from the traditional market. Is it more than just the race team and development engineers that are driving the move to mid-engine?

  2. With that Rorschach paint job I just imagine the test drivers being asked, “Is that the new Corvette? and answering, “What does it look like to you?”

    The mid-engine will be released, and if there’s some catastrophe concurrent with it, even GM’s stone-age manufacturing paradigm can be dialed back so that there’s not a glut of them. Leave them wanting more, right? Spin the limited production angle right and you can get more profit from fewer cars.

    If after all this build-up they raise the curtain on another front engine Corvette it’ll go over like a fart in church. They’ll sit on the dealer’s lots while everyone waits, again, for the mid-engine.

  3. Strictly speaking, haven’t several generations of mid-engined Corvettes already existed? A cursory glance at a C4 engine bay (since the big clamshell hood makes it easiest to show) certainly looks like the engine block is behind the front axle line. I don’t know if GM would stoop to that kind of pedanticisim (the true lession is that the mid-engine was inside you all along!), but it’d be a small way out.

    Also, I would bank on Cadillac’s new Nightwing V8 ending up in the fancy Standard of the World Cadivette..

    1. My Matrix gif would have been more relevant here as a reply to your C4 comment, but alas, it was already posted before I refreshed the screen.

    2. “Strictly speaking, haven’t several generations of mid-engined Corvettes already existed?”

      Only to people that really want to claim they have a mid-engined car when they know in their hearts that they don’t. Front mid is a variant of front, and not a variant of mid. A mid-engined car, without qualification, has the engine between the driver and the rear axle.

      1. Also, to me – I don’t own a Corvette, may well never own a Corvette, and have no horse in that race, but have a diagnosably strong “Well, ACKTUALLY” instinct.

  4. I’ll remind you all that they did unveil the G8 ST and never built a single production model. Of course, those were very different times.

  5. This whole thing is a bit weird. Why is the holy grail of Corvette something the Corvette never was? The limits seem to be pushable from generation to generation, even though I get that the market would go “huh?” on a car that doesn’t outdo the previous generation in all that matters.

    1. “Why is the holy grail of Corvette something the Corvette never was?”

      Well said. It’s like a 911 or MR2 going front-engined, or a Mazda RX adopting pistons. I wonder if this will create a rift within the Corvette fanbase?

    2. “Why is the holy grail of Corvette something the Corvette never was?”

      Well said. It’s like a 911 or MR2 going front-engined, or a Mazda RX adopting pistons. I wonder if this will create a rift within the Corvette fanbase?

  6. The newest Corvette I can afford is a C4 so this is really a moot point with me. 1K horsepower and lots of gadgets would be pretty useless for me since I pretty much drive safe speeds depending on road conditions. I just saw the latest Jay Leno garagewith Jay featuring another fiberglass sports car – the Marcos. With a Ford V6 and about 150hp and no driving enhancement electronics Jay was having a ball. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t care anymore what GM does. They dropped the ball twice on rear/mid engine development with the Corvair and Fiero wasting millions on engineering and technical data collection. Not to mention not establishing a tradition of mid-engine automobiles in the American culture.

    1. A thousand horsepower is meaningless for everyone who doesn’t go mile-racing or similar. Below 100 mph you’d likely just turn the tyres. Almost shades of FCA distraction techniques by producing endless variation of the Challenger when they have much bigger issues.

    2. A thousand horsepower is meaningless for everyone who doesn’t go mile-racing or similar. Below 100 mph you’d likely just turn the tyres. Almost shades of FCA distraction techniques by producing endless variation of the Challenger when they have much bigger issues.

  7. Am I the only one wondering why GM doesn’t have a flat bed tow truck? Seems a bit crude to drag the wounded C8 away by its rear wheels.

    1. Excellent point, of all the sports car makers I can only think of Lotus and Alfa to be that cheap. I’m stuck in the 80ies,though.

  8. I think GM has to produce the mid/rear engine corvette in order to sustain credibility. It is the Halo Car that proves that they still have engineering skills. The Volt was supposed to do that but somehow just sort of vanished into the shadow of Tesla and others. To fail to produce this Corvette will drop them into the land of Studebaker and AMC where GM becomes a third or fourth choice brand, selling only on price. When that happens they’re doomed.

    It’s already started to happen. Barring the Camaro, what is the GM vehicle that ‘everyone wants’?

    Even if they do get the car on the road, so to speak, there is no guarantee of survival. The Avanti is still legemdary, even in a time when spell-checker doesn’t recognize Studevaker.

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