TYPICAL. You wait years for a midengined American supercar, and then suddenly two of them turn up at once.
Ford’s GT is the one you probably know most about. Star of this year’s Detroit motor show, the new GT is a successor to the 2004 version that paid homage to the GT40 built to take on Enzo Ferrari at Le Mans in the 1960s. But it’s a very different car, with a 450kW-plus 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 instead of the previous supercharged 5.4-litre V8 slung beneath its long body. It’s basically a race car for the road and will be built in very limited numbers – probably no more than a few hundred a year – priced at more than $US300,000. Of course, it’s the basis of the company’s return to international sportscar racing in 2016 (see next page).
While Ford’s mid-engine supercar is now out in the open, the mid-engine Corvette remains a tightly guarded secret within the halls of General Motors.
There have been rumours of mid-engine Corvettes for decades, but this time there’s more than water-cooler conversations to go on.
Mid-engine mules have been spotted recently at General Motors’ proving grounds, mechanicals hidden under Commodore ute body panels. And former Holden boss Mark Reuss, now GM’s global product chief, laughs nervously and quickly changes the subject when asked about a mid-engine Corvette. So it’s real.
The mid-engine Corvette will use similar aluminium spaceframe technology as the current frontengined car – the C7, in GM-speak – and probably be clad in super-stiff, lightweight carbonfibre panels.
GM has a choice of tasty performance engines it could slot in, from a twin-turbo version of the 3.6-litre V6 that already delivers 346kW in the Cadillac ATS-V, to the hand-assembled, supercharged, dry-sump 477kW 6.2-litre LS9 V8.
Transmission would likely be a seven-speed dual-clutch, the brakes carbon-ceramic.
What we don’t know yet is whether the mid-engine Corvette is intended as a replacement for the C7, or an extension of the existing Corvette franchise.
The latter seems the most likely, and for a number of reasons.
First, the Corvette has always been relatively affordable – C7 prices in the US start at $54,000 and stretch to $110,000 for a loaded Z06 – and it has a loyal customer base that’s older and less wealthy than Porsche 911 owners.
Second, adding a mid-engine model gives GM the opportunity to push pricing beyond $150,000, with a mid-engined car’s looks, performance and technology attracting younger and wealthier buyers to the Corvette franchise.
And third, a mid-engine layout would more easily handle higher engine outputs – General Motors sources have hinted the 6.2-litre can be pushed to as much as 745kW – as well as all-wheel drive and hybrid powertrains.
Lending credence to the theory the mid-engine car will be an additional model rather than a replacement for the front-engined C7 Corvette is the fact that last June GM trademarked the name Zora for use on “motor land vehicles, namely automobiles”.
Zora refers to the legendary engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov, the man who transformed the original 1953 Corvette from boulevard cruiser to sports car, and oversaw Corvette development until retiring from GM in 1975.
A mid-engined Corvette Zora capable of taking on Ferrari, McLaren, Lamborghini and Porsche would be a fitting tribute. d e nal aw iring a rsche