GM’s engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov was the man behind the first Corvette. He knew that a mid-engined car has a lot of potential and to prove his point, he had to create many prototypes, some of which were never commercialized. Chevrolet went on to make eight Corvette prototypes that it called the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicles (CERV), or experimentals (XP) but they never got a nod from the GM management to have this Corvette car for sale. Here are some of them:
XP-819 was the first Corvette’s prototype that was meant to be on the road. The car’s engine was put toward the rear and behind the sears. To offset the rear weight, the car had an aluminium V-8 but this didn’t really work and the car failed its tests. Thus, GM engineering boss F.J. Winchell didn’t approve the rear-engine design and the car never made it to the road.
2. XP-880 ASTRO II
Unlike the 1967’s Astro I, which had promising aerodynamics but a rear-engine, the 1968’s Astro II was a mid-engine Corvette concept that was meant for the streets. It featured off-the-shelf parts such as Camaro and Corvette suspension parts, a Pontiac Tempest two-speed automatic connected to the front of the rear-mounted engine, and a 427 cubic inch V-8. Although the car was reportedly a strong contender for production, Chevrolet decided against it as in 1968, the company’s third-generation Corvette was already doing well and it didn’t want to go all experimental and invest more money.
The XP-882 was kind of inspired by the Astro II but since the two-speed transaxle was deemed insufficient, the 1969’s XP-882 got a 454 cubic inch V-8. It was placed transversely on the back of the seat, on a tweaked Oldsmobile Toronado transaxle. The drivetrain was turned sideways to distribute weight more efficiently and a bevel gear was also designed to replace the axle’s differential so a driveshaft can go through a tunnel in the oil pan to a Chevrolet differential. The car was never meant to be commercial but it did get some show time in 1970.
GM wanted to make the Wankel rotary engine successful and thought that it could work well with a Chevrolet Vega small car and a sporty one as well. The company developed a downsized Corvette concept using the Porsche 914. It was known as the Two-Rotor ‘Vette, but it was a dud.
5. Corvette Indy Concept
The 1986 Corvette Indy Concept was born out of GM’s obsession with Lotus cars. It had a twin-turbo 2.6-liter IndyCar V-8 which was mounted transversely. It featured four-wheel steering, active hydraulic suspension, carbon-fiber bodywork and chassis, traction control, ABS, electronically controlled throttle, and a navigation system, amongst other things. Three cars, the initial concept, and two development cars later, the engineers settled on the third as the final mid-engine Corvette concept.