Golden Jubilee of Mid-Engined Corvettes

Don Sherman

GTP Eventually, GM did get around to racing a mid-engined Corvette. Collaborating with Lola Cars International, the General campaigned cars with a vague family resemblance to production Corvettes in IMSA's GTP (grand touring prototype) class for five seasons commencing in 1984. The first T710-chassis racers were powered by turbocharged 3.4-liter V-6 engines followed by T711 models fitted with 5.7-liter normally-aspirated V-8s. For 1986, a T86/10 Lola chassis reverted to 3.0-liter turbo V-6 engines. In 1987, Lotus provided the effort an active suspension system which was used (unsuccessfully) in just one race. V-8s became the preferred power source at the end of the 1987 season. A total of seven Corvette GTP racers were built and two wins were earned in 1986. Plans to race at LeMans never reached fruition.

GM's Heritage Center currently has 1984 and 1986 vintage GTP racers in its collection.

INDY, CERV III Even though the chinks were beginning to form in its armor, GM in the mid-1980s was technically at the top of its game. The addition of Hughes Electronics and Group Lotus as GM subsidiaries greatly expanded concept car possibilities. Collaboration with Ilmor Engineering yielded a competitive Indy car V-8.

The Corvette Indy concept GM displayed at the 1986 Detroit auto show joined these sprawling interests into one arrow pointing towards an auspicious future. Indy's composite-plastic structure supported a twin-turbo 2.6-liter V-8 producing 600 horsepower. The list of advanced features sounds like a spec sheet from the latest Porsche production model: electronically controlled four-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, active suspension, and by-wire throttle control. Car and Driver's Corvette Indy report concluded, "The next-generation production car will almost definitely be a wild-looking, mid-engine design."

Four years later, that was definitely not the case but GM trotted out the same basic concept car wearing a familiar sounding Corporate Experimental Research Vehicle (CERV III) nameplate. Additions included ultralight body panels, carbon-carbon brakes, and a twin-turbocharged twin-turbocharged 5.7-liter LT5 V-8 delivering 650 horsepower. Claimed performance - 0-60mph in 3.9 seconds, a 225 mph top speed - accurately anticipated today's Corvette ZR1.

Offers to the press to test drive the Indy/CERV III concept car were never fulfilled. Today a resin mockup of the Indy show car and a functional CERV III are parked in peaceful repose at the GM Heritage center.

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