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New mid-engined Corvette takes to the track

Published: 04 September 2018

► Corvette to go mid-engined in 2019
► Spyshots show new Vette supercar
► ZR-1 and Zora names rumoured

Yesterday we published hot new spy photos capturing the mid-engined Corvette supercar on test on road, ahead of a planned launch in 2019. Today we can follow that up with fresh pictures of the sports car testing on the Nordschleife, providing our best look yet at the new C8.

We'd already seen the mid-engined C8 R race car testing at Road America, but this is further proof there will be a roadgoing verison too.

Our long-lens snappers have now caught prototypes on track, on road and at the Goodyear tyre testing facility near the Nurburgring. It's an American-registered supercar silhouette which surely must have the engine mounted amidships.

Prominent air scoops behind the doors scavenge slipstream to cool the multi-cylinder engine in the middle and there's an Italianate rear deck and screen nestled over the powerplant. Note also the wry detail of the USA nationality badge on the rump!

We've seen similar (though more disguised) test hacks testing for some months now, and the last sighting was during winter-testing in Scandinavia earlier this winter. They were testing alongside front-engined 'Vettes on that occasion.

But the mid-engined Corvette has been seen testing alongside Porsche 911 Turbos S models, suggesting that Chevrolet is targeting Zuffenhausen's evergreen sports car with its proposed new supercar slotting above the front-engined models.

The rumour mill about 'Project Emperor' went into overdrive in 2017 when various media spotted mysterious prototypes sneakily snapped from above that were thought to be an experimental mule for a mid-engined Corvette – a car that’s been rumoured for decades but has never quite made the jump into production.

These earlier spyshots below capture that early hint.

Mid-engined Corvette?

The C8 replacement for the current (and excellent) C7 Corvette is being engineered with its powerplant behind the seats. The notion of a mid-engined Chevrolet Corvette has been around since the early ’60s, but while there have been Corvette-branded racing cars with mid-mounted engines there hasn’t yet been an official middie ’Vette road car.

Projects and prototypes have come and gone, but never made it as far as showrooms. Most notably, there was the curvaceous Corvette Indy concept car in 1986, subsequently developed into the high-tech CERV III in 1990.

What might the mid-engined Corvette be called?

In 2016, Chevrolet re-applied to trademark the ZR-1 nameplate – previously applied to highest-performance Corvette derivatives.

The name ‘Zora’ – a homage to long-time Corvette engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov – may also be applied. GM-owned engineering firm Katech is reported to have briefly published a landing page on its website for the ‘2018+ Corvette ZR1/Zora LT5’ – which has since been taken down.

GM has recently heavily invested in its Bowling Green plant in Kentucky, which currently produces just one car – the C7 Corvette. Production of the C8 is expected to get underway at the Bowling Green site early in 2019.

Mid-engined Corvette at the Nurburgring Nordschleife

Details are about as masked as the pictures right now, but industry rumour suggests there could be three different powertrain options – two being regular combustion engine drivetrains, and one being a hybrid.

Multiple roof options may be offered, too – from a fixed-head coupe to an open targa top, via an intriguing-sounding full glass roof option – a jetfighter-esque canopy would be quite something, wouldn’t it?

What about the good ol’ front-engined Corvette?

The C7 is expected to continue in production until 2021, by which time all body and powertrain variants of the C8 are expected to have been rolled out.

As to whether a front-engined ’Vette derivative will continue alongside the mid-engined C8 post-2021, we’ll have to wait and see. Ditto as to what will power the mid-engined car – smart money’s on a twin-turbo V6, but to some, the thought of a Corvette without a V8 will be even more sacrilegious than where that engine's mounted…

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By James Taylor

CAR's deputy features editor, automotive design graduate, Radical champ

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