The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette made splashdown in the summer of 2019, dropping cover after years of speculation and hype. However, the story behind the new mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette’s development includes far more than just leaks and spy photos, as outlined by the Vette’s Chief Engineer, Tadge Juechter, in a recent interview with Autoline After Hours.
During the interview, Juechter talks about the relationship the development team had with Corvette Racing, saying that the racers helped a good deal with regard to thermal modeling, vehicle dynamics, and weight distribution. Juechter also said that that the race-spec C8.R was developed in parallel to the street car in order to make it as competitive as possible come race day.
“We’re super close to the race team,” Juechter said. “We have joint meetings all the time, talking about various aspects on the vehicle design. It’s almost like one team at this point.”
Later, Juechter is asked how his team kept the mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette project a secret. Juechter responds with an incredulous laugh, saying that he felt as though the car was front-page news almost the entire time it was in development.
“That was actually one thing we knew right from the beginning, is we weren’t going to be able to keep it a secret,” Juechter said, especially with regard to the mid-engine proportions. To address the issue, the development team talked about adding a big nose to the front of the test cars, while also utilizing a Holden Ute as a test mule to make it “at least questionable what it was.”
However, given the constraints of aero camouflage, not to mention advances in digital rendering, Juechter admits that he knew folks would know what the new mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette would look like prior to its release.
“The interior, I think, was a big surprise to people,” Juechter adds.
Later in the interview, the hosts ask Juechter how long he worked on the Chevrolet Corvette C8, from the initial proposal to the final product.
According to Juechter, a mid-engine Vette was considered a workable product from the Corvette C6 onwards, and was driven largely by the performance limitations of a front-engine, RWD layout. Pratt & Miller was enlisted to create models using raw data to simulate lap times, and proved that a mid-engine layout would be superior with regard to weight distribution. The ideal was determined to be around 40/60 front-to-rear, similar to a Formula 1 car.
“There’s a sweet spot, around here,” Juechter says, pointing to the C8, “that is great for race cars.”
However, progress was stymied by individuals inside General Motors that didn’t see a need to change the Chevrolet Corvette platform, given its sales success.
Nevertheless, Juechter pursued the idea, and worked towards implementation for the seventh-generation vehicle. Then the 2008 Financial Crises hit, and the project was once again delayed. Luckily, when the opportunity to for a mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette once again presented itself, the lessons learned prior were still applicable.
Juechter is also asked if consideration was ever given to parallel production of both a mid-engine version and front-engine version of the Corvette. Juechter confirms the idea was indeed floated, but by the time the C8 took shape, the idea of doing two different platforms was ditched, given how good the C8 turned out.
“People are saying, ‘Oh, you’re so brave doing [a mid-engine Corvette],'” Juechter said. “We didn’t have a choice. We had to do this.”