There’s been plenty of talk over the past few years about taking the Corvette’s motor and sticking it behind the driver’s compartment. It’s not a great idea for several reasons: the car is not an exotic, it never will be, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be.
The fact of the matter is that the Corvette has always been marketed as the blue-collar supercar, and while some of the snobbier automotive enthusiasts would see the car as undeserving of the title “supercar,” its recent performance hikes have established it as such. For the money, there are few cars which can perform on-par with the ‘Vette – especially the hotter versions such as the Z06 and the ZR1. It prides itself on its honesty and its performance, and doesn’t need a silk hat to validate itself.
The car doesn’t compete with the Porsches and the Ferraris on looks alone, and it’s alright with that. It’s fair to say that the mid-engined layout goes hand-in-hand with an exotic, high-dollar sports car, and changing the engine placement would be like inviting the ‘Vette to a cocktail party with quiche and white wine. This simply wouldn’t work – it’s a rugged car that wouldn’t be caught dead in an Armani suit, anyways.
The heart of the issue started a decade ago, when Chevy got the message that their cars were derided on the world stage, regardless of how the racing versions performed on the track. Maybe they gave in to the opinions of the lofty Europeans, or simply recognized that the cars of the day were moving the game forward and unless they wanted next generation of Corvette to become a total laughingstock, they’d have to jazz it up a bit.
Not in terms of appearance – no. The C6-generation ‘Vettes were far from luxurious on the inside and still had a bit of flimsy-plastic charm. However, where it counted, the generation received a slurry of upgrades that, in aggregate, made up a seriously impressive car. Redesigned suspension, usage of lightweight materials in the engine, drawing the motor back towards the firewall and mounting it lower in the car, enlarging the brakes, and sticking the transmission in the back gave the car enough grip and precision to put it on par, performance-wise, with contemporary supercars. That alone was enough to change perception of it among some of the more discerning critics.
The C7 ‘Vette is even faster, better appointed, more exotic-looking, and yet GM still throws out these rumors of making it a mid-engined car. It simply won’t work, except perhaps merely for branding purposes. A mid-engined car invites all sort of packaging issues which, unless a whole boatload of these cars get sold, will make the build process a bit pricier. Corvette owners are known for being difficult people in body shops, since they spend a lot of their life working hard to afford their baby. Where a Ferrari owner might leave a car at a bodyshop and wait to be called, since they can likely afford another, the ‘Vette owner is said to ring twice a day to check in on their pride and joy. Bumping the price up significantly is not a great idea.
It also limits the practicality of the car. The ‘Vette needs to be able to carry a set of golf clubs, a shotgun or two, and still seat two comfortably. It’s designed to cruise long distances on a weekend getaway, and by sticking an engine in the back, that cargo compartment would likely be squeezed too much.
The sight lines need to be right, and the proportions shouldn’t be altered too much. Like the Porsche 911’s silhouette and BMW’s kidney grills, the long nose of the Corvette is something the car will be forever associated with. Changing the shape of the car wouldn’t sit well with many.
It looks striking, it performs well, and it’s at a price point that makes sense to both GM and the buyers. Even if the mid-engined ‘Vette were to be wildly faster in corners, who needs that sort of performance, and who could afford it? If the Corvette is to remain the quintessential everyday-supercar, sticking the engine in back will do it as much good as upholstering the seats in velour. Keep it simple, keep it accommodating, and find cost-effective ways to make it blindingly fast. It’s a formula that works, and it does not need to be changed one bit.