Mid-Engine Corvette: 1973 XP-897GT 2-Rotor Concept8
As we continue to look back at the mid-engine Corvette prototypes that Chevrolet has produced over the years we turn to one of the most radical of them all, the two-rotor 1973 XP-897GT Corvette concept.
The XP-897 was a continuation of the 1969 XP-882 and 1972 XP-895 mid-engine concepts that came before it. It was built with the purpose of showcasing General Motors’ new 266ci 180 horsepower Wankel rotary engine and its new automatic transaxle being developed for the upcoming X-Body Chevrolet Citation. The car, with its Pininfarina-designed steel body, quirky rotary engine and Porsche 914 chassis, was unlike anything GM had ever produced.
The 2-rotor Corvette made its debut on the auto show circuit in 1978 in Frankfurt, Germany. It later made the rounds to all the major auto shows until GM decided to cut its rotary engine program due to poor emissions and mileage. After its British Motor Show debut, it was put in storage in the UK without its Citation transaxle or its Chevrolet rotary engine.
Chevrolet wanted to crush the XP-897GT as it was a reminder of the huge waste of time, money and resources its Wankel rotary engine program had been. Englishman Tom Falconer heard from a friend that the steel-bodied Wankel Corvette was headed for the crusher and frantically contacted then-head of GM’s styling department, Chuck Jordan, telling him he’d like to purchase the car. The two arranged a meeting at the GM Tech Center in Michigan and Stevens eventually agreed to let Falconer keep the car.
Because it was missing its transaxle, Falconer had to get creative with the powertrain when trying to rebuild the car. Initially he equipped it with a four-cylinder engine from a Vauxhall Cavalier just to get it going, but later swapped in a Mazda 13B rotary engine that was more in the spirit of the engine the car originally had. The transmission was sourced from a Cadillac front-wheel drive unit and Falconer had the car repainted in its original Candy Apple Red color, as it had been repainted to silver while making its auto show rounds.
The XP897GT is still owned by Falconer today, where it resides in his car collection in Snodland, Kent, England.
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Sam – Charles ‘Chuck’ Jordan was the head of GM Styling at the time , and one of the greats of GM design.
Please correct the text in this story.
Dont know how ‘Stevens’ got in there but happy to blame your spellchecker if it helps!
– Tom Falconer, author of ten published books on the Corvette.
Oh, and it is XP-987 GT, NOT ‘897’ .
Best go to original sources when writing this stuff
Best is the the latest Star Spangled by Karl Ludvigsen
If this is not beside your desk, best buy and read it now!
Thanks for the mention anyway……..
Thanks for taking the time to read the story and I’ve edited Chuck’s name. The GM Heritage center lists the car as being called the XP-897GT.
The link is here: https://history.gmheritagecenter.com/wiki/index.php/Corvette_2-Rotor
Maybe you can give us some more insight into why they have the car listed as 897 instead of 987.
It was a stupid typo way back when. 897 would place the car years earlier , and XP numbers were issued in numeric order – after all GM was run by accountants! Sorry for late reply. XP987-GT is back in our workshop soon for recommissioning and a major road test feature by a British Classic monthly magazine.
From the text of the story, it sounds as if the 2 rotor engine AND the transaxle might have been developed for the Citation. My best guess is the transaxle was designed for the FWD Citation, but the engine wasn’t. Is that the case?
So can we correct the title please, Sam? ‘XP 987GT 2-Rotor Corvette’
Unfortunately GM Heritage are by no means the authority on Corvette. They even list its launch date incorrectly as 1978 , when it was 1973!
More reliable sources are NCM, NCRS and in this case Chapter 46 of the latest 2015 Corvette Star-Spangled Sportscar by Karl Ludvigsen, which has 14 pages on the XP987 GT, which he actually drove at GM back in 1973.
hi – following your comments on the correct naming of my Corvette 2-rotor I went back to all the sources,
and now accept that my 2-rotor is correctly the XP-897 GT, and not as I have called her these last thirty-three years.
I have always deferred to Karl Ludvigsen , as mentioned above as the premier authority , but when looked at in the time context of the XP-series prototypes and projects, then clearly it has to be ‘897’, and Ludvigsen got it wrong. I have been changing the numerics on all the posts i can access, and will continue to do so
So please accept my apologies ..and continue your good work !
Thanks Tom for clarifying the typo….yup, even Karl can sometimes make an error! 🙂 Peter Brock