Bookshelf: The making of the mid-engine C8 Corvette

Credit: Original article published by Classic Cars Journal.

There are several things I really liked about Corvette Stingray: The Mid-Engine Revolution, which the accompanying news release notes is “the officially licensed” chronicle of the “full development story behind Chevrolet’s re-imagined sports car,” the new mid-engine C8:

Book cover
  • The opening chapter on the earliest Corvette-inspired rear-engine racing-style cars, the Chevrolet Engineering Reserach Vehicles, with vintage photographs and even design sketches by Larry Shinoda, and how, had folks listened to Zora Arkus-Duntov, CERV I might have been the rear-engine car to race at Indianapolis and how CERV II might have been at Le Mans for what would have been Ford v Chevy v Ferrari.
  • The ensuing and again, nicely illustrated chapter, about Arkus-Duntov, the racer and engineer who saw the performance potential in the underpowered fiberglass-bodied roadster General Motors had produced and pushed so hard against corporate momentum to move the Corvette in that direction.
  • “One reason it took some 60 years to make a production mid-engine Corvette was that such a car had to be first and foremost a Corvette,” we’re informed… “It has to remain attainable, something not completely out of reach — even if it’s a big reach — for an ordinary buyer… an eternal Corvette hallmark is its performance-to-value proposition.”

And thus the car was introduced at around $60,000, not the $160,000 or more asked for comparable mid-engine sports machines.

  • The delightful chapter on “Blackjack,” the engineering development vehicle used for two years to disguise work on the mid-engine Corvette in what appeared to be a modified Holden Ute, the El Camino-like car-based pickup truck from GM’s Australian affiliate. 
  • Performance-car exterior design leader Tom Peters’ statement to his team to design this new Corvette not for current owners “for a 10-year-old kid.”

Why? “Everybody remembers when they saw their very first corvette. It needs to just captivate you, like a spaceship that landed. I want it to stay with you or your whole life.”

  • The brief story of how a Hershey candy bar was part of the C8 development process.

It is such details that will make the book cherished by C8 buyers and Corvette enthusiasts of all 8 generations. But there were aspects of the book I found lacking, including precious little detail on engineering development drives and component specifics, or vehicle specs, or photos of a car working its way along the Bowling Green assembly line, or what it’s like to drive the C8.

And, for that matter, an author. Amazon’s page for the book says “Chevrolet” was the author, which would indicate the book is part of the company’s public relations effort to promote the car. 

Full disclosure: I wrote a similar book for Motorbooks on the development of the C7 Corvette, but was among several authors who declined to do the C8 book because the car’s development was too far along at the time I was asked, and such books are best when the author is allowed inside the tent early on.

Fortunately, the book doesn’t read like a PR release and, as I noted earlier, will be cherished by C8 owners and fans of all generations of the Corvette as well.

Reviewed

Corvette Stingray: The Mid-Engine Revolution

By Chevrolet

Motorbooks, 2020

ISBN 9780760367438

Hardcover, 208 pages

$45

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