It never rains in Southern California, but singer Albert Hammond never mentioned snow in his 1973 hit. So, you can imagine the surprise for the folks from Chevrolet when they headed out for a long test drive of mid-engine C8 Corvette prototypes through the mountains outside San Diego only to be greeted with lots of the white stuff drifting down from leaden skies.
That clearly didn’t stop them from continuing their test drive, which was good news for us – thanks to the quick thinking of TDB friend and videographer Tom Voelk. He also was caught in the snowy weather on a long drive route testing another manufacturer’s vehicle when the convoy of Corvettes shot by. He grabbed one of his cameras and started shooting.
Mssr. Voelk was kind enough to provide us with some still shots from the serendipitous shoot, and if you’d actually like to see the mid-engine Corvette C8 in action, you can check out his Youtube post by Clicking Here.
(Aston Martin teases Project 003 ahead of Geneva debut. Click Here for more on the hybrid hypercar.)
Tom provided a few third person details on his chase, noting he was “in the San Diego, California area shooting a review of the third generation Kia Soul when he spotted two C8 mid-engine Corvettes in camouflage streak by. Hopping into the Kia, he and his drive partner thought they would snag a few iPhone shots. Then they looked behind themselves and found that three C8s and a Porsche 911 were following them in the snowy conditions. Voelk jumped into the back seat, pulled his Sony DSLR from the cargo hold and shot the cars in action.
“They ended up catching up with the Corvette team and getting some video of the cars at rest but couldn’t get close enough to catch a view of the interior. Voelk says “even wearing the camo, the car has quite a dramatic presence in person with a very low and wide silhouette. The nose is particularly striking with a steep rise”. It’s clearly a clean sheet approach with a very different look than the C7 Corvette that was running with the group.
“Caught by surprise, Voelk says he didn’t have time to dig a microphone out to capture good sound but ‘It had a very distinct deep growl at idle, I think people will like it.’”
Curiously, I ran into Tadge Juchter, the head of the Corvette program, on the same plane I was taking to San Diego early in the week for both the Kia drive and a Nissan Leaf program. Officially, he wouldn’t acknowledge the purpose of his trip bt, at this point, everyone knows Chevy is putting the C8 through its final paces before officially launching the mid-engine model later this year at a splashy event. (We’ve confirmed the debut will not occur at a traditional auto show.)
It’s become something of a game, General Motors executives continuing to deny, or at least look confused, when the subject of a mid-engine Corvette is raised. But you can occasionally get a whispered – and very off-the-record — confirmation and a satisfied smile knowing that the bowtie brand is finally moving on its European competitors. And, perhaps just as importantly, it is living up to the one unfulfilled goal of Zora Arkus-Duntov, the Belgian-born father of the Corvette, who long dreamed of developing a mid-engine world-beater.
GM showed off a 1970 prototype that was reportedly production ready, but unexpectedly cancelled the project. The project came back to life several times, most recently in 2004, when GM “car czar” and global product development chief Bob Lutz kicked it off again. As it turned out, the entire Corvette program was in serious jeopardy by the time the Great Recession began in 2008. With the automaker forced into bankruptcy, the mid-engine project again was scrapped and even the conventionally designed C7 was put on hold for more than a year.
Tom gives a good description of the C8’s low, long and wide looks. Meanwhile, you might notice the unusual shape of the glass hatchback. But there are plenty of questions about whether a targa roof or convertible version will follow the new coupe into production.
There are, indeed, plenty of unanswered questions, including whether the C8 will stick with an automatic gearbox or add a manual. Several media reports have focused on a recent GM patent application for a clutch-by-wire system that could prove useful considering the transmission is mounted in the back of the C8. Then again, other sources insist a dual-cutch gearbox will be the final choice.
Perhaps the single biggest question concerns the engine. There have been any number of rumors, some suggesting GM is working up a dual-overhead-cam V-8.
(Dodge looking at possible hybrid Hellcat. Click Here for more.)
Don Sherman, who has spent decades chasing rumors of a mid-engine ‘Vette – and who finally has caught it – wrote recently that the C8 could use an upgrade of LT1 V-8 used in the current Corvette Stingray and Grand Sport models. He is predicting a jump from the current 461 horsepower to 600.
That would nab a record as the most powerful factory-built model ever to use a naturally aspirated V-8, (as opposed to the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon which needed a massiver supercharger to blow out 840 hp).
Some of our sources have suggested Chevy may follow the same route as it has taken with earlier Corvettes over the decades, launching with a relatively modest number – if that word could be used for 600 hp – and then roll out ever more powerful versions that truly challenge classic mid-engine competitors like Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren.
The good news is that the layout of the C8 would allow it to put a lot more power to the pavement than even the latest Corvette ZR1 which has climbed to an astronomical 755.
Finally, there’s the question of pricing. Sherman, who has written more about mid-engine Corvettes over the decade than anyone else, is looking at a possible base price in the mid-$70,000 range. Some other reports have the figure bumping up closer to $150,000. That could, of course, just be confirmation that the mid-engine model will ultimately be available in a variety of bad, badder, baddest packages, much like today.
We hope to get all the details soon. There have been some reports that the C8 project was pushed back a bit because of wiring issues. But the debut of a model promised for more than half a century could final come by late this spring.
Again, for a good look at those prototype Chevrolet Corvette C8s in action, Click Here for a look at Tom Voelk’s footage.
(Opinion: Is the mid-engine Corvette too little, too late? Click Here for the story.)