Bob Lutz Shares His Insights On The Mid Engine Corvette23
Bob Lutz has been writing interesting, thought-provoking editorial pieces for Road & Track recently, but the perhaps most compelling of all is his new article “Making The Case For the Mid Engine Corvette.” In it Lutz reveals a mid-engine Corvette was actually in the works in 2003, but the project was shelved amidst General Motors’ financial woes.
It started when Tadge Juechter, lead engineer for the Corvette program, put together a PowerPoint presentation explaining how the C6 ZR1 represented the maximum amount of performance they could extract from front-engine Corvette. Then GM CEO Rick Wagoner wasn’t on board at first, but Juechter convinced him, and work started on mid-engine Corvette and XLR clay models in 2004.
By 2008, it was obvious the Corvette team wasn’t going to have enough money to produce mid-engine car, being given $250 million to work with rather than the ideal $900 million. Rather than go mid-engine, they lengthened the C7 chassis by 1-inchs and pushed the engine back 2-inches for optimal front-engine balance.
Rather than make another front-engine car, “you’d do the Corvette in a mid-engine version. You’d price that at about $120,000, half that of the European stuff, and then suck the doors off everybody,” Lutz writes. “And that would not be a $1 billion project; minus an XLR replacement, I think you’d probably be talking $500 million to $600 million.” It seems doable, and according to him, the chances of a mid-engine ‘Vette arriving are “better than 50 percent.”
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Problem is unless you keep selling the FR C7 alongside it you lose out on the “low end” Corvette buyers. Most people don’t pay $120k for a ‘Vette.
Now I could totally get behind a Chevy/Holden/Opel GT project that placated that audience with a 400 HP TTV6 and moved downmarket with a 1.6L and 2.0T. Then you’d have roadsters for every budget and Kappa would get a second chance too.
But I don’t see C8 going mid-engine at the $120k price point unless there’s something current sitting below it.
Chris you need to let them finish this and gain a lot more information yet to be shown.
Yes the first C8 will be a balls to the wall global super car killer and it will not be cheap. But like the Z06 and ZR1 now we still have a cheaper version of each. The same will happen with the C8 s 2020-22 the C7 will go away and a car that will be price competitive will be in its place. It will be lighter and mid engine. While it may not have the mega HP the lesser engine and less weight will make it very capable to out perform the present Stingray.
Word is there will be several variation of the C8 in a wide price range to meet the needs of all Corvette Customers. GM is not going to build this car just to sell 1500 units a year at $150,000 a unit.
The cost of doing a smaller car would to replace the other car would be in the billions of dollars as they do not have a platform for it. The Kappa is dead and out dated and to do a new one right would not be cost effective.
By the time the C7 is done Chevy will have a very able C8 version to replace it. It may not be 1,000 HP and AWD and all Carbon Fiber but it will be priced in that range and able to out perform the car it replaced.
So not underestimate the Corvette team as they are as good as they come and they know full and well what needs to be done.
Rule #1: You don’t tell people to “just trust”. That’s how the Camaro tail lights got screwed up. That’s how we lost the G8. That’s why the Fiero didn’t get the engine it should have.
And, that’s how we lost all go-fast on the cheap.
Rule #2: See Rule #1. No harm in telling GM where their product panel gaps are. Making glaring omissions sting… can effect change. Lutz said clearly he wanted the next ‘Vette to be MR and start at $120k. That can work if there’s something under it, but I won’t hold my breath and hope – so don’t try and tell me to. I’ve been let down too many times in the past for trusting at idle.
Chris I have been on this mid engine deal since I first got info on it back in 2007. The Lutz story in R&T outlines the time line pretty well.
There is much more to this story than you know and you need to accept that GM in this case is well aware of what is going on with the Corvette.
#1 Sometime when someone tells you to trust they may have a little more info or insight than you.
#2 Don’t start on the Fiero as I could easily write the book on the Fiero as I have been involved with the car since 1980 and have owned on since 1985. I have done tons of research on the car and know the truths about many of the things that happened and went on. The car is perfect snap shot of how the GM culture was so messed up that they only hurt themselves.
I have worked with a lot of GM people over the years researching prototype parts and histories and many web people only have only a inkling on how thing really are on the other side.
Like I have said read the Lutz article and you will see a good explanation on how programs are approve or stopped and why. Most times it comes down to funding and profits.
Chris the fact is GM will not stop building 18K-25K average Vettes a year for one model only selling 1500 units a year. GM does not work that way and even the new GM will not work that way.
It is much cheaper to make a lower cost C8 than to fund a new program for a smaller sports car on a platform that does not exist. Sure they could cobble something up again like the Solstice but then it would fall short again as it was not all it should have been. Old GM could be excused as they had no money and Lutz made silk from a Pigs Ear but now that GM has money they can not get away with that a second time.
You really need to do some home work and learn how GM was by reading On a Clear Day You Can SEE GM. and then read Lutz new book Car guys vs. Bean Counters and see how he and others have started the change in the new GM culture.
I may know some people inside but I read everything I can get my hands on to learn too. Right now I am reading What Would Jesus Drive to learn how PR work was done at Chryslers and Ford Crisis of the 80’s and 90’s. It not only shows you the history but you learn what works and what did not work.
Fact is now we have money at GM so they can do things right.
Fact we have people in charge now that are not of the bad culture and have a clue on what needs done. They are winning the war at this point.
Fact GM still has to make money on cars. That is the whole point is it not? They will not vacate all these Vette sales just for a limited super car. The fact they are leaving the C7 in place with the C8 should give you enough creditability with them to understand they are trying to do it all.
Fact is nothing is for sure till it is in the dealer show room as thing change and often change the matrix of what is going on. Adjustments often have to be made and a good business will also make the tough moves that are always not popular.
Building cheap sports cars is the most difficult thing in the world. Any one can build one for $250K but to build one for $20K-100K is damn hard. There are only so many people who can afford a 2nd or 3rd car and if they do often it will have to have more than 2 seats. The less you sell the harder it is to ok funding to build the damn thing in the first place.
Case in point the Solstice was selling what 12K units in the last year or so and that is a death sentence to most cars. Even that number put the Vette on notice and that is why they works to sell more than 25K units or more of the present car. Even the Corvette does not get a free ride as it has to pay its ways.
The bottom line is there will remain a lower cost Vette at some point after the C7 and with the C8 program. You will not see it upfront as the expensive car will pay back the development faster and help usher in the lower cost car as time goes on. From there they can work on the C8 to make a C9 just as they did the C6 to the C7. Cost are cheaper once the big change is made.
Like I have said in other threads often the end of one thing is the beginning of something better. We will see that here.
By the way Chis sorry for jumping on you hard I was just not in a good mood last night and should have better state my case to you.
You can’t tell Chris that Kappa is completely dead with no replacement: he doesn’t want to hear it.
He also doesn’t want to hear from me either, but another hard truth is that going “fast on the cheap” is also dying. Kappa, in whatever contrived and wondrous flavour you could imagine, would not save it nor make the “go fast for cheap” angle more appealing. Gen Y and Z’s simply don’t give a damn about cars, even less so about going fast in one.
The ones that do want such cars are such a minority consumer that their economic voices are simply to weak to be heard, much less cater to with one-off platforms and cars. They admittedly don’t have the money for the sports cars that automakers want large and favourable ROI’s on.
They can point to the ToyoBuru triplets, but they get a break by cost sharing and from Toyota’s MASSIVE body of reserve cash, and with them already canning the planned convertible and turbo models due to weakened demand, it should give you an indication where the ‘compact RWD go-fast-for-cheap’ segment is going.
A 10 year old platform made on the cheap of a shrunken Y-body and a raided part-bin, along with a wing and a prayer and a memory of someone enthusiasts days of 2005, are not enough to revive an already dying segment.
One last thing. With the G8 gone, the much better built SS is still available. So why complain?
Ok lets really set this story straight. First read the story as it is a very good line of history on how this all came about. Much of this info I had heard since 2007 so it was not new but it is good to have a reliable source to confirm it in writing.
Second you need to take note that even tough Bob is not with GM now he remains loyal to them and still works with the folks there as they often do with him. Lets just say they have a good relationship.
What does that mean well that means he can write a story on the history of the C8 and expose for them the same week the Ford GT came out the details of the Mid Engine Vette with GM not officially saying it is coming.
Everything in the story is spot on accept his part on the future. At this point the car I coming unless it is canceled due to some unforeseen crises or global event.
Another point he was coy about is that the program may have been restarted 6 months ago. well by the mule photo’s you can see the interior and green house of the car is pretty locked in as this car is about 1.5-2 years out.
Note too the mule photos were not an accident. GM lets out what they needed to let out due to the Ford news at Detroit. They know how to keep things quiet if they want to. This time they did not want too.
Makes you think different on the 2014 Malibu with the engine in the rear seat now doesn’t it?
Keep watching as Ford makes more noise GM will answer back as this is how the game is played. They are also doing this with the Camaro too.
Also I want everyone to make sure to read the part of the story where Bob explains how financial choices are made and budgets and staffing of programs are done and why. It will answer to many here why things are done as they are. It will make sense of so many things you read if you learn the factors he points out.
120k may be fine for the top end model, but they need to roll out the entry level versions along with it. No one is going to buy a C7 once the C8 is sitting there in the showrooms. I want a 60,000 C8 and I don’t want to wait!
Some have said it before and I think it could be possible; we may see a Corvette sub brand within Chevrolet. Land Rover has done well with its Range Rover sub brand and I think Corvette could do it. Have the Corvette Stingray as the entry model and keep it front engine, then offer different powertrains like a Stingray Z06. Then have the Corvette Zora be the halo, mid engine supercar as a second model in the family. The C7 has brought so much attention and customers to the Corvette line that I could see them forming a brand to go head to head with Porsche. Maybe even a Corvette sedan?
I want this Corvette with the engine behind the seats; I want my continent cars are humiliated by the sportiness and performance of a car they call in my country charisma “Junk made by Americans who can not handle a manual shifter”.
I want that “This car made by fucking rednecks” exceeds the claims of egocentric European manufacturers.
I want that mid-engine Corvette, now more than ever, they see that Ford is back with his GT Supercar
Is the perfect moment; regards from Spain
At fist that is what you will see as the C7 will hang around for a while.
This is why we have the Stingray name now as it is not just a Corvette but a Corvette Stingray. The C8 could carry several names most leading now a Corvette Zora.
The plan as of now is to not like the C7 where they start with the cheap one and then give you the expensive Z06 but they will start at the top and then migrate down to cheaper models like a Z06 and a Stingray or what ever they call the replacement.
I see varied Material used and engine power to off set the cost for the cheaper models later
It will also give time for the Mid Engine car to catch on with those who are traditionalist. You know every time they change something half the people love it and half hate it till 6 months later and 90% are on board at that point once they see what it can do. Just look at the number of people who sniped at the C7 and now not nearly as many complain. Now with the Z06 road test coming out many of the complainers are now fans who are bragging about the car.
What the hell, all of you are crazy. Corvette dosent even need a mid engine but hay bild it someone will buy it. For me there is nothing wrong with any C6 or C7 vette now. Corvette is the best car out there. Hang the expensive others. We may be rednecks here in amrica but the automatic paddle shift and 436 hp Z51 roadster that i own is better than any other car including fix or repair daily gt, anything spanish, all other makes of super cars, high performance cars. CORVETTE ANYTHING FROM C6 UP CAN NOT BE BEAT FOR POWER PRICE AND ENGINEERING.
Howard you need to get up to speed on what all is going on.
You want more power and you want it to get to the ground you need to move the engine back more. You have three choices.
1 Move it back into the seating area. Not going to happen.
2 you make the wheel base longer again like the C7. Then you are getting too long and it hurts handling.
3 You move the engine to the back and get it low and in the true middle of the car and then the car will hook up better.
Also you can design it for less weight and other options in the engine bay as time goes on into the regulation heavy future.
I agree the new C7 is a great car and I saw it yesterday with a new Z06 demo. But that is today and they are now working on the future. There are limits to the physics here and they have used about all the tricks they have in getting the present layout to where it is at.
Like the Push Rod engine there is a cost effective end at some point. So that is why you move the engine to the back as it will open up the ability to add a larger supercharger, cut weight and lower frontal area, lower the center of gravity.
While it is a class leading car today it will be a has been in 10 years as the market will continue to move on.
The fact is GM can make up to 1,000 HP with the engine they have now and the present car can not use more than 700 HP now unless it is a drag race. You can put the power in but lap time performance will be hindered with engine management issues. I see this today in my daily driver where it could be much faster but management holds it back to get the power down.
The reality is not how much power you have but how much power can you really get to the ground is where it is at. The one who wins in this league is the one who manages all parameters of the car not just big numbers.
Case in point the Hell Cat. Nice engine but they could hit the same numbers with less power. The big numbers are just for marketing and it is a shame as the engine is really better than the car. The same can e said with the new DI LT engine as there is more there but you need the car under it to take advantage of it.
So while I am happy you love the car you have there is a lo more left and can be had if you let them do what they can to extract it.
You can be in the lead now but you can dominate the future we let them get what they need. If not someone else will take your lunch and eat it.
Yet even with the more expensive model coming it will trickle down to a lighter and better handling lower power cheaper model that will cost similar to the Stingray adjusted for inflation and out run the present Z06 with less power. Do you have an issue with that? If so I feel sorry for you.
A $120k corvette is not a corvette.
Now that’s bull!
According to this C&D article, “This $125,920 example has the $10,000 3ZR Premium Equipment package, a big spend for a leather dash wrap, plus some other sugar. The $1495 ZR1 High Performance package (which includes lighter wheels, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup almost-slicks, and a short-throw shifter) separates this one from, er, low-performance ZR1s.”
If you were right, you’d have to admit that the $125,920 ZR1 wasn’t worthy of the Corvette name.
GM sold every ZR1 they built, and I never saw on sale for less than $100K. It is certainly well within the realm of possibility of GM to build and sell a $120K (and higher) Corvette.
I see this option. that the next Corvette comes only mid-engine and AWD, and competitors may have a sense of the Porsche GT3 or Turbo, Turbo S. Ferarri Italia. at least in this class corvette and the quality of the machines, techniques and materials, and fine-finishing all the pieces are super. and the price will be either 120000usd or whatever. Corvette model fully employ the following moves to a new level, literally. The current model is already a big step forward, however, some things are still missing, and this is understandable, because the price is also cheaper than other hard.
120000usd minimum minimum price this machine does not have to sell en masse.
and current corvette gm many units should be some kind of sports car in the form of a new Chevrolet to. or make further covette but this mid-engine maker to bring some new name. new name and new lewel. not
which is easier to obtain and not mass-produced. But while my vidos in the higher Levels are difficult to move. not difficult, however, is still science fiction, at least it seems that way. porsche spyder 918
Why does changing to a mid-engine design cost $120K when you can you build and sell a front engine C7 for $60K? The individual components of the car should cost about the same. Once the basic design is done the design cost is over. I thought Corvette was GM’s “image car” and investment in its design was part of GM’s PR effort. A mid-engine C8 with the same 465 HP V8 engine should cost no more to produce than the current C7 Z51. Why not release something like that at the same time as this $120K version no one will buy?
Jim it is not where the engine is but the parts used and the engine placed in the car that add to the cost.
Jim the ZR1 with the carbon package is well north of $120,000 now but yet it is bases on the Stingray. But if you look it has a supercharged engine $10,000 brake package and lots of carbon fiber parts. Also it is priced to a point it sells in the numbers GM expects the market to bear and makes a profit.
The C8 we are looking at here is the same thing as the first model would be the top end add all the supercharger, carbon and ceramic parts you dare and make it fast. It would cost about the same as a Front engine model would in 2017 too.
Now the reason for the expensive car first is to help elevate the image first of a radical change. Second to help recover the investment cost in doing a all new platform for the first time in years and then let the parts trickle down to the cheaper cars as they bring them out and phase the older C7 away in 2020 or later.
It is a way to help cover cost, build image and make a more effective cheaper version that will be better than what we have now.
Now to build the cheap one first and try to work up would be difficult to give you all the good things right off and the Cheaper car would suffer. Let the C7 take the price leader roll for a couple years and once the tooling is paid for the parts become cheaper to make and the lower priced can be had to put people into a exotic that they can have at least some hope of owing and maintaining.
It is kind of like anti lock brakes and stability control. They first show up on only the most expensive cars and then once the technology is paid they show up on a Sonic.
This is as big or bigger move than the 62-63 move years ago on the C2-C3. but in the end you will have something to be proud of.
I for see better than Z06 performance in a car that would be priced as a Stingray would be.
The real cost is in the development as the C7 was pocket change and to do a all new car with much more room to improve it take a lot of money.
What this change will do is open the future for the Corvette up for a lot longer reach into the future. If not you will be saddled with things that I think may not make you happy as regulation change. The future is going to be tough on performance cars and V8 models and if extreme measure are not taken now you may lose the car you love or you will get one that is a shadow of itself.
Scott3, you have a good point that GM may want to introduce their expensive model first to “elevate the image”, and doing so would certainly do that for Corvette. BUT, why would I buy a C7 when I know a couple years down the road the entry level C8 will be available for about the same price? I won’t. And nobody else will either. Mid engine has been the way to go for high performance for 60 years. All (not production based) race cars have been mid-engine for many decades. Corvette is very very late to the game. GM needs to eat the development cost and trade on the publicity and image that a Corvette that beats Ferraris will give it. It will cost them more to produce only 1,000 Corvettes a year with nobody buying C7s than to just introduce the non-carbon-fibre $65K C8 at the same time as the $120K C8 Zora. It would be a revival of the Corvette as the car the younger generations lust after. Just my 2 cents.
But with your thinking why would I buy a C8 when I know they will do a even better C9. The fact is people will buy what is available now because most will not wait anymore in this instant gratification age.
Jim there are enough diehard conventional Corvette guys out their that will keep the sales moving along. The present car is still a great car.
I just saw a Z06 yesterday and believe me it is nothing to be avoided and will serve GM well till all things are transitioned over.
The key is they will be fine.
FYI GM will not eat the development cost as the Corvette has to pay its bills just like any other model at GM.
Who knows may keep the Stingray too and market several versions of each cars for a while.
Now use care on saying all non production race cars were mid engine. Panoz may have something to say on that as well as the new Delta Wing.
I own a Mid Engine car now and it has its good points but there are also some negatives too that you have to deal with. This is why not ever Ferrari is Mid Engine.
I know they said the Stingray would go away but I often ponder could they just continue both? Cadillac will be in on the Mid Engine deal too.
All I can say it is going to be interesting and a lot of fun.
Scott3, Yes, there are older “conventional Corvette” guys who still want only a front engine Corvette and would not want a mid engine Corvette. But they are close to dieing out now. In 1973 I bought a Ford/DeTomaso Pantera. It was the best car I ever owned . With 65% of its weight on the rear wheels and a very low polar moment of inertia, it had outstanding handling and acceleration/braking. That was 40 years ago. Corvette could have done the same thing at the same time.
And saying why buy a C8 when the C9 will be even better is ridiculous. GM may want to recover their development cost for the C8. Did GM recover their development costs for the C7? I doubt it. GM trades on the Corvette image to enhance its product’s image and get buyers into its showrooms. After GM’s computer software investments, LS engine, aluminum frame design experience, and other high-tech investments in the C7 which transfer directly to the C8, I suspect that the additional development cost of the C8 will not be that large.
I’m sorry to say your two examples of racing cars not being mid engine are pathetic. Panoz never was successful, and the delta wing car is mid-engine with 70% weight on the rear, 1200 Lbs, and a 4 cylinder engine. It qualified 5th fastest at Daytona this year.
What are the “negatives” of a mid-engine street car? You didn’t mention any. Lower polar moment, lower weight, better power to the road with 65% weight on the rear wheels, better split of braking force front to rear? There were no negatives in my Pantera 40 years ago, just positives. What mid-engine road car do you own with negatives?
The front-engine-only-Corvette guys are dieing off, and the wet dream of the younger generation I predict will be a mid engine C8 Corvette. How few C7s can Bowling Green afford to produce and keep the C7 line going? I predict C7 sales will drop like a stone when the C8 goes public. GM can either eat the C8 development cost or cancel the Corvette entirely. That’s what I predict. And that would be sad.
The reality is that mid-engined cars DO NOT need to be that much more expensive than front-engined cars, but there is a significant performance benefit from putting the engine behind the driver. The Corvette V8-powered Factory 5 GTM proves this.
GM needs to continue building front-engine Corvette Stingrays, which should be available with all the options packages and touring goodies. In a few years, it should add a mid-engine Corvette Zora with higher levels of dynamic performance across the board, and quite a bit less weight. The price premium that GM could charge would be obvious as it destroys Ferraris and Porsches on both road and track. At $100-150k, it’d be half the price of those supercars. It’s time, especially now that Ford has resurrected its GT.