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C8 Mid Engine

Mid-Engine Thoughts. . .
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General Motors Mid Engine Corvette
Yeah, that’s just what the world needs: A $100,000 mid-engine Corvette. Hell, make it $150,000.
Who’s counting anymore? Certainly not auto journalists, who drive cars for free and forget that only a handful of Americans can actually afford a six-figure car.

After decades of speculation and disinformation, it appears Chevrolet will yank the engine from the Corvette’s shark-nosed engine bay—where it has resided since 1953—and move it to the middle. Or, as Car and Driver put it, “;where God, Ferry Porsche and Zora Arkus-Duntov intended.”;

Personally, I didn’t realize that God or Ferry Porsche had a stake in the placement of a Chevy V-8. As for the late Arkus-Duntov, the Russian-born engineer and Corvette godfather, his dreams for a mid-engine ‘Vette went as far as the CERV concepts, including a CERV II in 1962 that he envisioned as a separate line of racing Corvettes.

According to Car and Driver, Chevrolet will unveil an eighth-generation C8 Corvette in January 2018 at Detroit’s auto show. And with the exception of a bon vogage in the form of a final hyper-powered C7, the next Corvette would adopt the mid-mounted layout common to Ferraris, McLarens, Lamborghinis and every other sports car that only hedge funders and the children of Chinese immigrants can afford.

We will call this progress.

Car and Driver, after previously estimating the so-called “Zora ZR1” would cost up to $150,000, has backpedaled on the name and the price, landing at a more palatable $80,000 base price. Even considering the Corvette’s emphasis on value, that $80,000 sounds optimistically low to me. I'm thinking closer to $100,000 after options, on par with today's Z06. And even 80 grand is a nearly 50 percent jump from today’s $55,400 base fare. Next comes the extinction of the Corvette’s traditional pushrods, via a new four-cam, 32-valve V-8. Now the ‘Vette’s price “surely" tops $100,000, the magazine attests.

Then Chevrolet tweaks some more, via a hybrid version with front electric motors. Wait, that sounds suspiciously like . . . the Acura NSX, a hybrid supercar that can reach $200,000 with options. And that’s
with a twin-turbo V-6.

If that all happens, the sound you hear isn’t an electric motor. It’s a death knell for the Corvette, at least
in the (relatively) accessible, aspirational form that made it America’s Sports Car. Apologists will point to what people spend for Porsches or Ferraris with comparable performance, but that misses the point.

The Corvette is still a Chevrolet. Corvette buyers are not Ferrari buyers. They demand unmatched bang
for the buck, in part because they have fewer bucks.

According to Strategic Vision data, the typical Corvette buyer has a household income of $145,000.
That’s affluent, but it’s barely half the $262,000 household income of the Porsche 911 buyer, or $272,000 for the Jaguar F-Type. The average Audi R8 household rakes in $350,000 a year. In my mind, turn today’s $55,000 Corvette into a six-figure car, and you can kiss a big chunk of those buyers goodbye.

Send the price past $100,000, and you’re left with a more-practical Viper, a car that will find only a few thousand buyers a year.

At least in the traditional universe of General Motors and Chevrolet, that’s not enough to make the Corvette a going concern – unless they’re happy with the Corvette being a mere halo car. Which doesn't make me happy at all. I'm fast growing tired of the supercar obsession, especially from mainstream brands like Ford and its ultimate Richie Rich show off, the perhaps-$350,000 Ford GT. Look, not every sports car has to compete with Ferrari or McLaren to be worthwhile. Engineering ambition is fine, but it can shade into hubris.

More and more, sports car makers seem to be designing cars for themselves – to stroke their egos, brands and the billionaire boy-clubbers of LeMans or Pebble Beach -- instead of actual buyers. There’s already a troubling dearth of affordable sports cars. The Mazda RX-7’s and Toyota Supras that once proliferated have largely gone “poof."

The Corvette has helped carry the torch for people who can't afford a $1,500 a month lease.

Allow me to explain my soft spot for the blue-collar Corvette. After a dodgy youth in Detroit that included a job at an auto parts factory, my first car writing job was at Corvette Quarterly. I thought I knew Corvettes before that. But I had no idea. The pride, the loyalty, the obsession of owners just blew me away. I met at least one guy who owned one of every year of the Corvette, beginning with the romance-on-wheels of the ‘53 model.

Don’t get me wrong. Part of me understands the Corvette team wanting to go bold and radically reinvent the car. The car's leadership played it safe for decades, afraid to alienate repeat-buying loyalists. The C3,or the third-generation, Mako Shark-styled Corvette, straddled the Beatles and Boy George eras, built from 1968 to 1982. The C4 generation ran from 1984 to 1996. That complacency did the Corvette no favors.

The Drive
 
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