The story of the midengine prototypes and the role they played in creating the eighth-generation Corvette.
The road to C8 takes us back more than 60 years, to the late 1950s. Even though Chevrolet had pulled out of factory racing programs in 1957, Zora Arkus-Duntov and the Chevrolet engineering team still wanted to build the most daring Corvettes they could and didn’t hesitate to use racing technology to make it possible. They also wanted to prove to the world GM still had the right stuff to go racing if it so chose. This resulted in a series of prototypes. Some were engineering-based like CERV I (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle) while others were design exercises meant to test public reaction to a potential new production Corvette down the road. These cars created a speculative frenzy in the press and often appeared on magazine covers.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: An early scale model of CERV I; John Fitch, left, with Zora-Arkus Duntov; the Aerovette concept car.
Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov made it his life’s goal to give the world a production midengine Corvette. He finally got his wish.
Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, the man considered the principal champion of a midengine Corvette, had a simple philosophy regarding production cars. It boiled down to this: Make the best race car you can, then let the chips fall where they may. Racing was always his real love, his center. He firmly believed a great race car, particularly a midengine race car, would make the best sports car, despite some daunting challenges in terms of cooling, passenger comfort and practicality.
Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov made it his life’s goal to give the world a production midengine Corvette.
The new car thus had to embody all these preordained truths and fit into the model’s long history, while undergoing perhaps the most radical design transformation in the nameplate’s nearly 70-year life. This was a profound task, in part because of Corvette’s extensive and consistent history. Corvettes have been manufactured pretty much continuously since 1953, and since 1955, they have always been available with the most potent V8 GM could muster, lodged up front under its shapely hood.
Though its midengine architecture required a wholesale reimagining of the car’s overall forms, the eighth-generation Corvette was not only being redesigned from the outside in—it was being completely reenvisioned from the inside out. “It was not lost on any of us, or anybody on the design team throughout the process, the monumental task that was set before us,” says 36-year-old Tristan Murphy, interior design manager on the Corvette and a 13-year GM veteran.
“The shape, the form, the sculpture has to be the brand,” says Peters, the retired director of exterior design at GM’s performance studio and a 30-year veteran of General Motors. This was the first point in the exterior design brief Peters gave his team for the midengine 2020 Corvette, a program he led. Peters knows of what he speaks. He has lived and breathed Corvette for decades.
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is one of the world's largest car brands, selling more than 4.0 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature engaging performance, design that makes the heart beat, passive and active safety features, and easy-to-use technology, all at a value.