We’ve already covered General Motors‘ multitude of Chevrolet Corvair-based mid-engine experimental prototypes, including the Corvair Monza GT, the Corvair Monza SS and the Astro I Experimental – so now it’s time to turn our attention to one of the later concepts in this lineage, the 1968 Chevrolet Astro II Experimental.
While the Astro I Experimental still utilized a version of the Chevrolet Turbo-Air 6 boxer engine, the Astro II Experimental had a 427 cubic inch V8 engine. The presence of the V8, along with the Corvette crossed flags logo on the nose, fuelled speculation that the Astro II was a sign of what’s to come for the Corvette. The car also used a two-speed transaxle from a Pontiac Tempest and also featured four-wheel disc brakes and lightweight aluminum wheels wrapped in sticky Goodyear rubber.
The Astro II appeared more production-ready than the Astro I as well, thanks to its traditional doors and comparatively tame styling. GM eventually decided against moving the Corvette to a mid-engine platform, though, concluding that the substantial investment required would not help generate more sales for the already popular nameplate, nor make it more profitable.
While the Chevrolet Astro II never directly resulted in a production mid-engine Corvette, the model now seems quite historically significant after the debut of the mid-engine C8 Corvette. This is the earliest true mid-engine Corvette prototype and is the true start of the lineage that eventually resulted in the mid-engine Corvette we have now – though GM’s mid-engine development program was bolstered by earlier vehicles like the CERV I, CERV II and Corvair-based mid-engine concepts. The Astro II was also followed up by other mid-engine Corvette prototypes including the 1970 XP-882, 1972 XP-895, 1976 AeroVette and 1986 Corvette Indy.
The 1968 Chevrolet Astro II Experimental currently resides in the GM Heritage Center collection. For additional photos of this early mid-engine ‘Vette, check out the collection’s dedicated page for it at this link.
Source: GM Heritage Center