How Every 2020 C8 Corvette's V-8 Came to Get a Retro "Tonawanda" Badge
GM executive Mark Reuss bypassed the design team to make it happen.
Chevrolet's design team spent a lot of time on the new Corvette's LT2 engine, making sure it looked aesthetically pleasing. After all, unlike in past Vettes, the C8 Corvette's 495-hp V-8 would live nearly out in the open on every coupe, being as it's on permanent display beneath the glass rear window. The designers agonized even more than usual over the aesthetics of the red rocker covers, the finish and look of the fasteners, and the general prettiness of what's going on in the engine bay. And yet they had nothing at all to do with the small, retro-looking badge that will live on the V-8's driver's-side rocker cover, the one that reads "Built by Chevrolet Tonawanda, the Number 1 Team."
All of the credit for that badge goes instead to General Motors president Mark Reuss, an avid Corvette fan who bypassed GM's design staff entirely and declared that it be installed on every C8's engine. This happened by decree and not consensus—a rarity in today's automotive industry and GM, in particular. (The company is notoriously bureaucratic, and decisions have traditionally moved slowly.) So, how did this happen, and why?
The short answer is because Mark Reuss digs the Tonawanda badge, which was used in the 1960s on V-8 engines built at GM's Tonawanda plant in Buffalo, New York, and Reuss is what's known as an "important person." The executive also apparently has fitted similar badges to his own classic V-8-powered GM cars. On his way to an event earlier this year in which General Motors announced that Tonawanda had been selected as the site that would build the 2020 Corvette's new LT2 V-8, Reuss decided that that old-school badge just had to be on every LT2 that left the factory.
As the story goes, he announced this on-the-spot decision to his staff, who then worked to create a mock-up of the design to show to the gathered media about an hour later. GM design was more or less informed, not asked, that the badge was going to live in the Corvette's obsessively stage-managed engine bay (both the engine and design teams were looped into the hurried preview session before the media were shown a sample). No word on whether their feelings were hurt, but we dig the small badge, which confers an air of history and tradition on the otherwise all-new, forward-looking C8. We're pretty sure the GM employees at Tonawanda appreciate the nod, as well, although it didn't stop them from joining other UAW-organized GM workers and striking until recently—helping delay the Corvette's on-sale date until early next year.
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