Ever since it was first introduced as a stylish roadster in the 1950s, the Chevrolet Corvette has used the same design: engine up front, drive wheels in the back, two seats and a lot of American spirit.
Through seven generations and a steady increase in horsepower and attitude, that formula has remained intact.
But it could now be about to change. Big time.
The Corvette C7 Stingray, especially in its Zo6 variation, is now a proper supercar. On the the racetrack, the Corvette Racing has racked up 100 victories in sports-car competition, getting everything is can out of that Chevy V8 up under the front hood.
But at places like the Daytona International Speedway and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Corvettes are finding themselves running alongside a pair of 21st-century supercars, the Le Mans-winning Ford GT and the new Ferrari 488 GTB. These are both mid-engine designs, with the powerplant located between the driver and the rear wheels. Both are also turbocharged — the Ford GT with an advanced six-cylinder engine, the Ferrari 488 with a V8 — and crank out 600-ish horsepower, while the track Vette doesn’t even make it to 500.
For some time now, there have been rumours that Corvette’s next generation will depart from decades of tradition and go mid-engine. Those rumours got a healthy does of credibility recently when the Detroit News got on the story.
It makes sense. I watched the Vettes in action on the track this season, beginning with victory at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, then on to total defeat at the hands of Ford and Ferrari at Le Mans (where Corvette was the defending champ in its sports-car class), then back to victory at a race at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut.
We’ve also driven every available version of the current-generation Corvette and have been hugely impressed. But we’ve also driven the 488 GTB, and we’re looking forward to checking out the Le Mans-winning Ford GT.
But the writing is on the wall. As good as the Z06 is, mid-engine layouts now rule the supercar world. The top of the genre is now occupied by Ferrari, Ford, McLaren, Lamborghini, and Audi — all with mid-engine machines.
And of course Corvette doesn’t have to stop making the front-engine Vette. In fact, the speculation now is that the mid-engine Vette will be sort of a special edition.
If I were a betting man, I’d say that Corvette will have a car ready to race by next January, with a limited production version to follow in 2017. The full-on production car will hit in 2018 (even though the Detroit News says 2019).