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Leno: The mid-engine Corvette is everything great about American innovation

To quote Mark Twain, I’m in favor of progress—it’s change I don’t like. In the months leading up to the reveal of the new C8 Corvette, I was thinking the same thing as probably a lot of people: Chevy will continue to produce the C7 at an affordable price, and the C8 will be a top-of-the-line car for, maybe, $180,000, and not many people will buy it. When they announced the C8’s base price of $60,000, it totally changed my mind about the car. I’ve got a newer Acura NSX, and although it’s a terrific car and I love it, it was $205,000 out the door.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2020/01/15/mid-engine-corvette-everything-great-about-american-innovation
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The C7 is by no means one of the more memorable Corvette designs. I’d rank it right below the C5, which looks blobby and derivative in photos but is striking and powerful when spotted in traffic. The C7 suffers for having emulated some uninspired recent Ferraris in its detailing.

It’s hard to rank Corvette designs by generations, because the long-running ones changed in appearance during production, but I would not characterize that change as evolution. The C3 and C4 were brilliantly styled - in their introductory forms. That being said, choosing from the best of each generation, I’d rank them:

  1. C2
  2. C6
  3. C4
  4. C3
  5. C1
  6. C5
  7. C7
    8…

It wouldn’t be fair to rank the C8 without seeing one in the plastic, as I like the C5 far more for having seen them at stop lights next to Explorers and Enclaves than I did when they just looked like wanna-be RX7s in magazine photos. I will say that the C8 looks far worse in pictures. It reminds me of the cover cars on Kit Car Magazines from almost forty years ago. It’s like a bass boat for the road. In those days the pitch was that you could build it any way you wanted, from a drum-braked, 46 hp VW re-body to a home-engineered mid-engine V8 prototype. The only difference is that practically none of the people building the cover cars for Kit Car magazine would have given up without figuring out how to engineer a manual transmission shift linkage.

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So that C1 with the straight 6 and the two speed wasn’t a Corvette either? I daily drive a 5 speed, and I am getting tired of this “Why no manual option” whining. The car was built the way GM built it and guess what, there are no more copies to be had, it sold out so I would guess that the no manual option didn’t hurt sales any. If you have a problem with automatic only cars you need to take it up with the EPA, not the automakers. Then again I would love to see someone row a 12 speed and keep it in the exact gear the computer tells them to so that it meets emissions standards, yeah I’m sure that will be loads of fun.

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Sorry, But WW2 was won by American fighting men and woman. Not by making more planes. I just don’t like the American fighting people on the front lines being rated 2nd over “More Planes” for winning the war.
Granted, the C8 is an engineering marvel of American men and woman. And it’s something I’ll never be able to afford but please give the proper credit where it’s truly due.

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I concur. I don’t remember reading anywhere that the planes flew themselves, not did we have any autonomous technology to do so. Our Soldiers are heroes, the very fact we have our freedom do build such automotive marvels is do to their heroic selfless sacrifice.
You such draft your articles and get approval from a veteran before you post.
Jack

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As a car guy, I put Jay with the best, one that has experienced and owned more different cars throughout the years than I could dream of.
That being said, I agree regarding the concept, engineering and value of the C8.
I also think it will improve, (considering price) toward perfection, with tweaks to the styling.
GM , Ford and Chrysler have the talent and motivation to make machines cheaply with performance that embarrasses cars costing many times more.
The negative as a Canadian is the way GM bailed on their promise to the Canadian people to stay in Canada and produce cars here and repay a 10 billion dollar loan to them to keep them in business. Love the Corvette though !

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You guys are completely missing the point about making bombers. He’s making an example of how good we are at production. Things like “Economies of Scale” come to mind, and others that we learned in business school.

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I have a "41 Packard with a 3 on the tree shifting. It’s a fun, though at times awkward, part of the car. Would I like that on my ordered C8? Not a chance! The C8 is Chevy engineers’s vision and I endorse it. If the new Mustang was what I wanted, that’s what I’d order. I’m given lots of choices for a sports car today, and I’m for picking the C8. I’m sure that if a manual is what a purist wants, then there is one out there for them. We do have options. With less shifting effort required, maybe more attention will be given to the road ahead. I think their decision on the taillights for my C7 was also a good one.

Deleted by author High Hope

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I’ve read and re-read Jay’s article intro. And nowhere does it say the war was won by planes, not people. The way I read what he said was America having the best soldiers wasn’t the ONLY reason we won the war. The folks back home (both military and civilian) supporting the war effort provided the tools, equipment and innovation needed for the War effort as fast as the front lines could use it. That is certainly due at least in part to masterful engineering.

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My Dad flew B-24s over the Pacific. He told me they lost more crews to equipment failure than enemy action. 700 miles out over the ocean doesn’t give you much of a chance, I guess. In any case the production rate for B-24s was amazing but the heroics of the crews even more so.

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I own nine corvettes (57,57,59,60,62,62,63,67&67) I have a weak spot for the C1s and C2s but one look at the new C8 and I was hooked. I have an orange convertible on order, in fact at my dealer, I’m number one on the convertible list.

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I would consider myself more of a Ford guy but impressive cars are impressive no matter who puts their badge on it. The C8 is impressive. In person I’ve only seen the IMSA number 4 race car at the 2019 Petit LeMans but…wow. Looked amazing, sounded incredible…impressive. All of this for a “bargain” price of 60k? Well done. If I had anything approaching that much money, I would consider one even though I’m definitely one of the “whiners” that would prefer a row your own transmission. It’s already been established that the modern day sport derived auto transmissions can shift faster and more precise than a human. They also sell easier these days as many makes of cars require a buyer to pay extra for manual. However, I’m not going to set a track record at the Nurburgring and I simply prefer my sporty cars to be manual trans. Sadly, I’m a champagne guy on a beer budget so Chevrolet doesn’t really care what I think of the Vette because I cannot afford one.

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Well written.
Progress for sure.

As with your NSX, It forces me to reconsider some of the other mid-engine sports cars on my bucket list.

Another example of our industrial capability during the war is that shipyards on the west coast were building destroyers from the keel up in only two days. Winning the war was a total team effort by the entire American citizenry, from the pilots flying bombers and soldiers storming beach heads to Rosie Riveters and school kids collecting scrap metal and foraging in fields to collect milkweed for making life vests. I wonder if this country could mount that kind of effort today.

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Let’s all enjoy the 24 hours at Daytona next weekend. This will give all of the Corvette loves the chance to see how the C8 performs and can it last, 24 hours under stress. Our Corvette group went to the C8 reveal in Lampasas, Texas on Monday. Most were not overly impressed. One, the driver side is arranged like a video game. The passenger can not even see or change the radio, on the entertainment screen. For the passenger, it will be somewhat of a boring ride, except for the speed and riding in a Vette. Major work on the engine, looks like a mechanics nightmare. How does this get accomplished, removing the body off of the frame? Time will tell from the new owners, how many first years bugs they will encounter. Love my supercharged C6 and I think I will pick up a good deal on a C7. I am not impressed with the C8, time might change my mind.

The redesign to the C8 prompted me to look into buying a 2019 ZR1 Convertible. Not because I did not love the new C8 redesign, but I figure that like the '84 redesign, the first couple of years will be spent ironing the “bugs” until they get the car right. Even so if they produe the C8_ZR1 most likely I will wait another year to make sure that the drive-train performs like it should. All said, I bought the least year of the best performing 'vette to date ( used-1k miles) and saved the depreciation from a new one, still the price was mid '90’s and worth every penny.

I think you were referring to Liberty Ships not destroyer class vessels-
Fastest build time for a Liberty Ship (EC2 class) was 4 Days 15 Hours 29 Minutes based on what I found. First one took 150 days- so we can and do improve. In any case 4 days to build a 450 foot long ship is amazing.

I agree with Jay (who by the way is a super friendly guy in person- not a typical self-centered celeb) the real point is that we have the ability to make a lot of stuff, faster, cheaper and better than almost anyone else. At $60,000 (after the dealer gouging for early production cars is over) its a hell of a bargain. A Ferrari 488 at a quarter of the price and that you can get serviced anywhere in the USA. Sounds like a real winner to me- can’t wait to get one on the track to see what it will do- Daytona should be perfect for the car.

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Only one small quibble with the article - the term Innovation in the headline. I suspect Leno didn’t write that.
The C8 is not particularly innovative. Much/Most of it is derivative, from the overall design to the specific elements within the car itself. Other cars from elsewhere, including but not limited to Leno’s NSX, have had the same characteristics with only slight variations.
Given the very large consumer and enthusiast base anxious and ready to buy nearly any new Corvette, GM has an advantage with economy of scale from the start. It can design manufacturing techniques that discuss something more than a production run of little more than the several dozen that most other exotics brag about. And the fact that the potential market is not balkanized as the market for most exotics is means that the price at point of purchase can be more attuned to financial constraints.
No question that the C8 is a styling, engineering and manufacturing tour de force. Being able to sell a lot of them captures manufacturing efficiencies as no other exotic ever could. I haven’t seen another car I would appreciate as much since the Monza GT of the early 60’s.
I’ll never have one and don’t particularly want one at my age. But if I did want a mid-engine exotic, this would be the one I’d choose.

Yes, yes, of course, America had the best of everything and won the war by herself.
Never mind Canadian Lancaster bombers, British Spitfires, or dare I say German Tiger tanks and their exceptional crews?
With the greatest of respect for the American boys that served and died, the first waves onto Europe were easy pickings for better trained and experienced Germans.
I’ve been to Normandy, and there are cemeteries filled with young men from many nations who were every bit as good, and in some cases better than their American brothers.
The war could not have been won without American involvement, but you did not liberate Europe by yourselves.

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