C8 Chevrolet Corvette Exclusive! What to Expect from the Heart-Stopping, Mid-Engined Zora!
We have still more serious dirt on GM’s secret mid-engined supercar.
(This is the 3rd installment of the “Car-and-Driver” article about the C8 Corvette.)
The C8s structure will build on GM’s expertise in aluminum.
Today’s aluminum space frame will need a heavy massage to provide the C8 with strong, stiff bones. But it’s doable: The robotic frame fabrication GM tooled up for the C7 can be expanded and reprogrammed to serve the coming car. Also, GM has recently developed advanced processes for magnesium casting and sheet forming that could be useful for the Corvette’s structure and help drop the C8’s curb weight below today’s 3450 pounds.
Expect the current control-arm suspensions, composite leaf springs, adjustable magnetic dampers, and Brembo brakes to carry on with appropriate revisions. Shifting weight rearward to improve acceleration and braking will necessitate new wheel and tire sizes. Expect Michelin to continue as the tire supplier.
Since the engine no longer impedes the driver’s view ahead, a lower seating position is practical. A much shorter hood would also improve forward sightlines. This is the designer’s delicate balancing act, because rear visibility will be hampered by the new engine location.
We’d also love to see a larger touch screen in the center dash to take over additional secondary-control functions. This would be an ideal opportunity to switch from the common landscape format to a portrait-mode (taller, narrower) screen, à la Tesla Model S. As long as round knobs for basic entertainment and HVAC functions remain, we’ll be happy. The absence of a traditional gear-stirring stick means that new space will be available for a smartphone dock, storage bins, and the requisite cup holders.
We’re hoping that the lessons learned from today’s GT and Competition Sport seats help the Corvette team home in on one improved bucket suitable for both soft- and hard-core users.
Doors are the next logical candidate for conversion from sheet-molded fiberglass to lighter, stiffer, crash-resistant carbon-composite assemblies. Current Corvette supplier Plasan Carbon Composites manufactures carbon-fiber panels for both the Corvette and the Viper, and this firm has the interest and ability to supply additional parts using its advanced pressure-press processes.
Every candy bar needs an enticing wrapper, and every prom queen deserves a gorgeous gown. The Corvette is no different: It’s an automotive candy bar, a V-8–powered prom queen. To give the Zora shape and form, we held a design contest and invited three world-class automotive artists to draw their visions of the C8. To pick a winner, two dozen C/D staff members pored over the submissions. The bake-off got heated at times, but the win was decisive. Their renderings are below.
This is the predictable outrageous proposal from the designer of the Ferrari Enzo.
Japan native Ken Okuyama’s portfolio includes the original Acura NSX and the Ferrari Enzo. He was Pininfarina’s creative director for two years and worked on the Chevy Camaro and C5 Corvette at GM. During a stint at Porsche, he helped sculpt the 996-generation 911 and the original Boxster.
Okuyama’s views of the next Corvette are, shall we say, uninhibited. He explains: “As C2 to C3 took a radical departure in styling, I thought it’s about time to do so for C8. For C3, designers Bill Mitchell and Larry Shinoda were inspired by stingray fish. This time, I was inspired by Le Mans prototype hybrid racers.
“The mid-engine model shown here takes a step upmarket,” Okuyama says, “to boost the Corvette’s image, plus GM’s as a whole, as the Enzo did for Ferrari.”
Advanced materials, such as polycarbonate and carbon fiber, are built into the design to allow more aerodynamic shapes for the cabin and fenders. A rear-mounted radiator draws cooling air from both internal and under-car flow.
“These special features will advance Corvette to the top of the super-sports category and ahead of any European competitor,” he says. We say Okuyama’s ZR1 is too extreme for series production and that it better suits a hypercar than a mere supercar. But we love the wildness of it.
Stevens aimed for recognizable Corvette forms in his mid-engine design proposal.
At Lotus, Peter Stevens designed the 1988 Esprit and the 1990 Elan. Moving to Jaguar Sport, he penned the XJR-15 roadgoing racer. But he’s best known for designing the ultimate automotive moonshot, the McLaren F1, which is still one of the most sought-after cars ever created.
Referring to America’s two-seat sweetheart, Stevens notes: “People don’t buy a Corvette after considering a Porsche, Ferrari, or McLaren. They buy one because they know this is what they want. They’re either replacing an older model or buying the car they’ve always wanted.
“To introduce these people to a mid-engined Corvette,” he continues, “means making sure they know what it is with visual familiarity. The designer has to respect the current design language for at least the first new iteration of the car.” After that, he says, things can take off in a more dramatic way.
“The Vette never took major design side trips,” Stevens says. “That’s why this proposal respects the existing design culture.”
Our Goldilocks panel thought this porridge was a bit too cold. But that’s not to say that it isn’t cool. Maybe we just couldn’t get past the taillamps.
A fan of the C7’s look, Pardo retained some of its language in his mid-engine design.
Camilo Pardo earned our cover and cash prize with a Corvette proposal that’s fresh yet familiar.
Growing up near Detroit and taking courses at the city’s Center for Creative Studies (now College for Creative Studies) nurtured Pardo’s passion for sports cars and modern art. Upon graduation in 1985, he joined Ford and had studio assignments in Dearborn; Turin, Italy; and Cologne, Germany.
In 1999, Pardo was summoned home for a dream assignment: catapult Ford’s GT40 sports racer from the 1960s into the 21st century. The success of the resulting 2002 Ford GT concept earned him fame and the task of heading up the production model’s design while serving as Ford’s SVT studio chief.
Pardo owns a three-story building on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue that serves as his residence, studio, and garage. When he isn’t fretting over future sports cars or competing in open-road races with his nicely patinated Ford GT, Pardo exercises his creativity with oil painting, furniture sculpting, and fashion design.
Designing Fords didn’t curb Pardo’s Chevy enthusiasm: “Mid-year [1963–1967] Corvettes are my favorites, especially the ’66 roadster. It’s a beautifully contained design, in essence a speed form with a pocket for the passengers.”
And he kept the car’s history in mind when looking to the future: “To build on Corvette’s legacy, I created a new mid-engine speed form that’s both kinetic and aggressively directional. The challenge was combining Corvette’s well-known DNA with exterior sculpture that’s fresh and contemporary.”
We loved Pardo’s ability to shift the car’s proportions while maintaining a decidedly Vette-like personality. This is a sketch that could make it all the way to the street and fully establish the mid-engined Corvette as a $150,000 Ferrari killer.
Meanwhile, in Warren, Michigan, and in other GM styling studios around the globe, the real designers of the C8 are sweating the final details of this Corvette to be. However that car turns out, keep this issue handy to compare Pardo’s sketch with the finished product. We bet he’s gotten pretty close. View Photo Gallery