1. 1959 CERV-I
Known internally as the ‘R Car’, the CERV-I was an open wheel single seater racer powered by a small block 283 cid V8 featuring a custom-made light aluminum block that was 90 pounds lighter than a regular cast-iron core of the same size. The total output was 353 horsepower at 6,200 rpm, 38 hp more than the similar sized production V8. The CERV-I was revelatory for Chevrolet, a company that had never built a vehicle with such capacities and competent handling. Duntov himself ran it up Pikes Peak 60 times in 1960 with good results, but in 1957 Chevrolet had withdrawn from all types of racing and thus the CERV-I was never in any type of official competition. Actually, its existence was kept secret for almost two years, until an exhibition appearance during the US Grand Prix in Riverside, California in November 1960.
2. 1964 CERV-II
Duntov’s next step towards the mid-engined Corvette, was to build a LeMans type racer to compete in endurance races open to experimental cars. The original plan called for the production of six units of this vehicle, which unsurprisingly was named CERV-II. The first unit was finished in early 1964, just as the Corvair debacle began to unfold. GM pulled the plug on all racing activities while unconventional engine placements within the company got a huge black eye. The only CERV-II ever built was used as a demonstration and test vehicle. Both the CERV-I and CERV-II went to private ownership. In 2013 the CERV-II was auctioned by RM Sotheby’s for $1,100,000. Not bad for a car that never was.
3. 1968 XP-880 Astro II
Zora Arkus-Duntov was determined to make the third generation Corvette an mid-engined sports car, but the only fruit of his efforts was this gorgeous showcar. Designed by Bill Mitchell and engineered by Duntov, the Astro II was conceived not as a weekend track warrior, but rather as a personal sports car capable of transporting two passengers and their luggage in comfort. Power came from a mid mounted 390 horsepower 427 cid V8 mated to a two-speed transaxle. The Astro II debuted at the New York Auto Show of 1968, ironically the same year that the first units of the long lived third generation Corvette arrived at Chevrolet showrooms, with their V8s prominently planted inside their long and bulbous front ends.
4. 1970 XP-882
Immediately after the disappointing Astro II setback, Duntov went back into action. By the end of 1968 he had two gorgeous functional mid-engined prototypes known as the XP-882s that looked and drove better than any Corvette ever made. But in mid 1969 the project was cancelled by none other than John Z. DeLorean, then Chevrolet’s general manager. Duntov found a way around DeLorean and managed to show one of the prototypes, properly repainted and reconditioned, in the 1970 New York Auto Show. Public and press alike went wild for the XP-882 and DeLorean was forced to fund further development. However, the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo not only killed any chances for the mid engined Corvette to be produced, but also slowed further Corvette development. Long live the C3!
5. 1972 XP-895 and 1973 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette
In 1972 one of the XP-882 cars was rebodied with a more European looking bodystyle that was less forward looking, less Corvette like and less wedgy than the beloved XP-882, although still lovely. It also was considerably heavier and slower than its predecessor. The solution? A second identical car with an all aluminum body made by GM’s supplier Reynolds Metals, finished in 1973. The two cars were indistinguishable from one another to the naked eye, but the Reynolds Vette was 450 pounds lighter. The Reynolds Aluminum Corvette resides today in the GM Heritage Center, while the XP-895 was mercifully transformed into something else.
6. 1973 XP-897 GT. a.k.a Two-Rotor Corvette
If a car ever had motives for a full blown identity crisis, this is it. This Wankel two-rotor engine powered show car, was supposed to be a preview of a whole new sub-Corvette mid-engined sports model to be launched in 1975, just to later become another mid-engined Corvette unfulfilled fantasy. Consisting of a Pininfarina body, over a modified Porsche 914 chassis, this car initially known as the XP-897 GT (or was it XP-987 GT?) and later renamed the Two-Rotor Corvette, was first shown in the 1973 Frankfurt Auto Show as a silver car and later shown as a red car elsewhere. Confused? Welcome to the club!
7. 1973 Four-Rotor Corvette
The Four-Rotor Corvette was a beautiful mid-engined Corvette concept with gullwing doors and great proportions that had the misfortune to be powered with not one but two Wankel engines producing a combined output of 420 horsepower. GM had paid a small fortune for the right to develop the rotary engine and was eager to link it to its most prestigious sports car. Bill Mitchell liked this design so much that he decided to garage it and wait for a better time to bring it back to the public light.
8. 1977 Aerovette
The Four-Rotor Corvette spend four years garaged waiting for a good time to finally get rid of its inadequate rotary engines. In 1977 Chevy fitted the car with the XP-895 powertrain and showed it with a new and evocative name: the Aerovette. Instant hit! Soon after the car was approved to be produced for the 1980 model year, the mid-engine Corvette was finally becoming a reality. Sadly, Duntov and Mitchell didn’t stay in GM long enough to ensure that this would actually happen. The new regime at GM killed the mid-engined Corvette as a cost saving measure. Instead we got the C4.
9. 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy
The mid 1980s were a busy time for General Motors. Then the biggest and most powerful automaker in the world, GM was immersed in the development of quite a few groundbreaking technologies like; active suspension, four wheel steering, anti-lock brakes, traction control, on-board electronic screens and even a GPS based navigation system. The company needed a car that was as groundbreaking as the technologies to be showcased in it. In 1985, the Chevrolet Corvette Indy Showcar was greenlighted. By January the concept car was ready to be displayed at the 1986 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The Corvette Indy was powered by Chevy’s new Indy 2.65 Twin-Turbo V8 producing 600 horsepower located right behind it’s only seat. All those technologies have since seen the light of the day, but it would still be 33 more years for the mid-engine layout’s turn. However, its presence in the concept gave way to wild speculation about the impending arrival of a mid-engined Corvette.
10. 1990 CERV-III
The CERV-III was a derivative of the Chevrolet Corvette Indy, and it sure looked the part. It basically was a roadworthy Corvette Indy. Unlike the Corvette Indy however, the CERV-III had a passenger seat and a more public-roads-friendly mid and transversely mounted 5.7-liter 32-valve dual-overhead cam LT5 V-8, producing 650 horsepower. The car was built by Lotus in England generously using carbon fiber throughout its body which was slightly modified to insure its roadworthiness. It’s height was increased, its nose shortened and it was given functioning side windows. 1996 saw the arrival of a CERV-IV, but its was a front engined car and thus not a subject of this slideshow.
11. 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
It took 30 more years after the last mid-engined Corvette prototype was shown, but the first production mid-engine Corvette is finally here.
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