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Rare drawings, documents reveal secret history of mid engine Corvette

From an acclaimed concept car John DeLorean reportedly dismissed because he wanted something “smaller and more European,” to the design that ended a feud between a pair of GM giants — but may have set the Corvette back decades — a trove of unique documents, sketches and models tells a secret history of the 60-year quest to build a mid engine Chevrolet Corvette.

The story begins in the late 1950s with legendary Corvette chief engineer Zora Arkus-Duntov and came to fruition when the first mid engine 2020 Corvette Stingray sold for $3 million at auction in January.

Titled “The Vision Realized: 60 Years of Mid engine Corvette Design” and created by GM Design Archive & Collections, the exhibit included 19 original sketches by designers including Larry Shinoda and Tom Peters, the massive 4-Rotor rotary engine from the 1973 Aerovette engineering, a wood wind-tunnel model, even letters from Arkus-Duntov’s personal files.

“The story of the mid engine Corvette is incredibly complicated, full of fits and starts,” said Christo Datini, manager of the GM Design Archive & Collections.  Cristo Datini at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020

Cristo Datini at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)

A mid engine Corvette was a dream shared by GM designers and engineers. The layout, in which the engine is behind the passenger compartment and immediately over the rear wheels, improves acceleration and handling. It’s been a mainstay at Ferrari for decades, and inspired repeated design and engineering projects at GM. None of them made it to production till now, largely because the Corvette’s original front-engine layout was so successful.

“Why would we change the Corvette?” GM chairman and CEO Richard Gerstenberg said to Arkus-Duntov before both men retired in the mid-1970s. “We sell every one we can make.”

‘Design without limit’

A generation of GM designers and engineers had already fought that attitude toward the sports car that debuted in 1953 model, and a couple more would before the midengine eighth-generation C8 Corvette Stingray debuted last year.

The exhibition included dozens of sketches, models, photos and documents.

“Our mission is to preserve the heritage of GM Design and educate our designers on GM’s prominence in the world of design,” Datini said. The archive also is working with the Detroit Institute of Arts on a massive exhibition dedicated to automotive design that opens this summer. 

The Corvette exhibition closed at the end of January, but elements of it are likely to be displayed at other events and locations, possibly including the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which provided materials for the collection.Original magazines with drawings of what Corvettes could have looked like on display at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020

Original magazines with drawings of what Corvettes could have looked like on display at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)

Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle I, Also called SERV I and XP-708, was the beginning. A running model that debuted in 1960, the car had the looks of an Indy car and a chassis that tested what a midengine layout could do. It was “a design without limit” and an “admirable tool” to help Chevy figure out “what to put in Corvette,” said Duntov, himself a former driver in the 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race.

CERV I was used as a test vehicle for years. Larry Shinoda, who would go on to be known as the father of the ’63 Corvette Stingray and the Mako Shark concept car, tweaked its design repeatedly as engineers tested it with seven different power trains.

GM eventually retired CERV I, selling it to the Briggs Cunningham Automotive Museum for $1. When the museum failed in the 1980s, GM bought it back for “somewhat more,” Datini said.A model of the 1968 Chevrolet mid-engine Corvette Roadster that is one of many items for General Motors workers to see at the Corvette design display at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020

A model of the 1968 Chevrolet mid-engine Corvette Roadster that is one of many items for General Motors workers to see at the Corvette design display at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)

Corvettes the world never saw

Shortly thereafter, Duntov heard rumors Ford was developing a Le Mans racer to challenge Ferrari and launched work on CERV II. GM decided not to race, Ford and Carroll Shelby built the GT40 that inspired “Ford vs. Ferrari,” and the CERV II was used as an engineering test bed at secret proving grounds and never seen by the public during its active lifetime. Built in 1964, CERV II had a 500-horsepower V8, 210-mph top speed and 2.8-second 0-60 mph time.

A picture of the CERV II Corvette. The sports car never went into production but it was influential in the design of the C5 production Corvette. (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)

“By that time, engineers and designers knew a midengine chassis was necessary” to get maximum performance from the ‘Vette, Datini said. Putting the engine behind the passenger compartment puts the car’s weight over the rear wheels to put down more power without spinning. Shifting balance from the production ‘Vette’s nose-heavy weight distribution would also improve handling.

Also in 1964, the XP-819 experimental car was being tested. Designed by Shinoda, it bore a strong resemblance to 1970 Corvettes, but Duntov hated it, calling it an “ugly duckling” at least in part because he wished his engineering team got some of the budget allotted to designing the car. It had a 327 cubic-inch V8 and pop-up headlights.

Like many concept and engineering vehicles, XP-819 was destroyed, chopped up. Years later, the pieces were found in NASCAR designer and mechanic Smokey Yunick’s garage.

Half Corvette, half Porsche

With a name GM would later recycle on a minivan, the Astro II XP-880 was never publicly identified as a Corvette, but it was one, intended for production in 1970, but never got there. It debuted at the New York auto show, featuring a nose, front fenders and Firefrost Blue paint that that foreshadowed 1970s production cars.

DeLorean, then Chevrolet general manager, asked for a rush program to create a different midengine design to match the midengine Pantera Ford was developing with Italian sports car maker De Tomaso to debut at the 1970 New York auto show. The XP-882 had a tapering body with dramatic fender flares and a louvered rear window like the Mako Shark II concept car. Like so many midengine ‘Vettes before and after, GM brass decided to stick with the tried and true front-engine layout.

Also in the 1970s GM president Ed Cole — another legendary engineer who led the development of the small block V8 and catalytic converter, among other achievements — became enamored with the Wankel rotary engine. Duntov built two midengine experimental ‘Vettes with rotary engines, glad for Cole’s support despite not sharing his enthusiasm for the engine.Sketching and notes about the Corvette, one of the many originals on display for workers to see at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020

Sketching and notes about the Corvette, one of the many originals on display for workers to see at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)

The 1973 Corvette 2-Rotor XP-987GT was a smaller, European-scale sports car with a rotary engine. The body was all Corvette, but its chassis came from a Porsche 914. Italian design house Pininfarina built its body. GM displayed the 2-Rotor at auto shows in Frankfurt and Paris before the car disappeared, probably sold to a collector.

Bill Mitchell’s most beautiful car

At the same time, Duntov wanted to develop a bigger midengine Corvette. He and Cole hadn’t been on speaking terms since Duntov refused an annual bonus he thought was insultingly small. They made up, at least in part because Duntov wanted a budget to develop what would become the Corvette 4-Rotor Aerovette, an iconic, gull wing design. Duntov believed it was the most beautiful vehicle GM design chief Bill Mitchell oversaw in a career that included the ’57 Chevy Bel Air and ’66 Buick Riviera. 

Duntov recycled the XP-882’s chassis for the Aerovette, which featured silver leather interior trim.A picture of the Aerovette featuring bi-fold gulping doors in the sports car that was never made. It is one of many photographs, drawings and sketches on display on all things Corvette design inside the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020

A picture of the Aerovette featuring bi-fold gulping doors in the sports car that was never made. It is one of many photographs, drawings and sketches on display on all things Corvette design inside the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020 (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)

Despite the car’s striking appearance, Duntov would come to believe his agreement to use a rotary engine was a nail in the midengine ‘Vette’s coffin.

Despite that, another midengine engineering car arrived in 1974. The XP-895 began its life with a steel body. Intrigued by the idea of lightweight materials, DeLorean asked Reynolds Aluminum to create an aluminum body. That cut the car’s weight by nearly 40%, but DeLorean pulled the plug on the project because he wanted a smaller, more European design.

That never happened, and design work on midengine ‘Vettes came to a halt for more than a decade, as GM struggled meeting the challenge of higher fuel prices.

Closing the deal

By 1986, the quest for a midengine Corvette was ready to create another giant figure, and it got one when a young designer named Tom Peters began work on the Corvette Indy concept car. Peters went on to become the chief designer of the sixth- and seventh-generation C6 and C7 Corvettes and play a key role in starting work on the 2020 C8.

With a radically short hood compared to production ‘Vettes and cutting-edge technologies including four-wheel steering, traction control and active suspension, the Indy — so named because it used a 2.65L V8 Chevy developed for Indy Car racing —  kept dreams of the midengine ‘Vette alive

The 1990 CERV III — this time the C stood for “Corporate,” not Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle — was the next step. Datini’s research convinced him it was an attempt at a production version of the Indy.

CERV III had scissors doors and was built of Kevlar, carbon fiber and aluminum. With a 650-hp twin-turbo 5.7L  V8, GM predicted a top speed of 225 mph. It debuted at the 1990 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

After that, work on the midengine Corvette went undercover for two decades. Photos of disguised prototypes at test tracks surfaced from time to time, but the car seemed to be as much myth as metal. There are whispers the Great Recession halted work on one, setting development back years.A display of Zora Arkus-Duntov known as "The Godfather of  the Corvette" at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020.

A display of Zora Arkus-Duntov known as “The Godfather of the Corvette” at the General Motors Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan on Friday, January, 31, 2020. (Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press)

Development of the 2020 Corvette Stingray began around eight years ago, a long time for most projects, but the blink of an eye when it’s the last chapter of a 60-year story.

Mark Phelan for Detroit Free Press


Corvette Poised for Sebring WEC Return

#3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R, GTLM: Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor, Nicky Catsburg

Corvette Racing set for COTA-Sebring double FIA WEC run with C8.R

Corvette Racing looks set to contest the 1000 Miles of Sebring, in what would be the second consecutive FIA World Endurance Championship outing for the new Chevrolet Corvette C8.R.

Sportscar365 has learned that provisional plans are in place to run the Sebring WEC race alongside its two-car factory GT Le Mans class program in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring the following day.

It would come as one of the prerequisites from the ACO, which has stipulated that the Pratt & Miller-run team must run in at least two regular-season WEC races in order to be guaranteed a pair of GTE-Pro entries for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The team ran the Shanghai WEC race in 2018 in addition to Sebring last year with its previous-gen Corvette C7.R.

While declining to comment or confirm on any WEC plans beyond its COTA entry, Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan said that it’s been their intention to run two regular-season races in the 2019-20 WEC season.

“Right now, that’s the plan but we’re running down a road,” Fehan told Sportscar365.

“We haven’t refined what exactly that plan is going to be. I couldn’t give you every detail and widget.

“We’ve been busy for a couple of years trying to race and design, build and develop the new car. This adds to the challenge of all of that.

“I think most people would understand that we don’t have it completely defined yet.

“It’s a case of dealing it in an orderly fashion.

“We can’t become overwhelmed too much with what’s going on down the road when we have to focus on what we need to accomplish [in Daytona] in a couple of weeks.”

While set to give the new mid-engined GTE contender its competition debut in the Rolex 24 at Daytona later this month, the car’s second race will come just four weeks later at Circuit of The Americas, with a single entry having been submitted for the WEC replacement round.

Fehan said details on that program, including drivers, have yet to be determined.

He explained the reason for doing the additional WEC races is to “try as best we can” to support the globe-trotting championship.

“We understand the value that has to the sanctioning body and the value to the global fan base,” he said.

“We know it’s important but they also know the business side of it that prevents us from doing both things. They get that.

“I think they also appreciate how hard we’re trying to make all of the accommodations we can to keep the ball moving down the field. 

“It’s not easy for us and they know it’s not easy for us and they appreciate that.”

No Issues in 2019 ‘Super Sebring’ Endeavor

Fehan said the team faced no issues in its double-duty endeavor at Sebring last year, in what was only the second-ever time the team raced three cars between two different series on the same weekend. 

In addition to its over-the-wall crew and several other staff, drivers Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller took part in both Friday’s eight-hour WEC race and the around-the-clock IMSA enduro the day later.

“That worked out great,” Fehan said. “We were lucky because we had enough equipment.

“It’s not like you can piggyback what you have set up. You’ve got to have a completely additional set of stuff.

“Between stuff that we had in stock and stuff that we had for the Cadillac program, we had enough in place.

“That system is getting better and we learned from that on all the things we did right and all the things that we know we could improve upon.”

Source John Dagys; SportsCar365


Wild, Over-The-Top SEMA-Shown 1967 Corvette Sting Ray

There are several approaches one can take when they set out to restomod a Corvette Sting Ray from the ground up. A person can begin with a perfect example of a factory original car or they can find a Sting Ray in need of so many repairs that the average person would choke at the expense needed to bring it back.

For Dr. Van Bingham, there was a specific plan. The choice was to find a clapped-out Corvette, and it had to be a 1967 Sting Ray coupe. Owning a C2 Corvette Sting Ray has been a lifelong dream for Van. Years ago, at 18 years old, he found a 1969 Corvette L88 for sale but didn’t have enough to buy it. Coincidently, another doctor Van knows—a specialist in his same field—bought that ’69 L88 and years later sold it for a reported $550,000.

How Van ended up owning a ’67 Corvette Sting Ray so far over the top in comparison to a garden-variety ’67 Sting Ray can best be attributed to “one thing leading to another.” Tray Walden at Street Shop referred Van to B Rod or Custom in Knoxville, Tennessee, and the project grew wings from there. The car selected was a $25,000 big-block ’67 coupe that turned out to be a lot rougher than first thought. Upon dismantling the ’67, B Rod’s Larry and PJ Burchett discovered the birdcage was rusted out far beyond usefulness. That set the wheels in motion to fabricate a new birdcage and ultimately created a new product for B Rod to offer Corvette owners.

The starting point for the project was to commission Eric of Eric Brockmeyer Design to pen a concept illustration for Van to approve. The chassis, as is for all Corvettes B Rod builds, is from Street Shop and is constructed from mandrel bent 4×2-inch steel tubing and based around C7 suspension components. The front coilovers are QA1 and a 1-inch sway bar capped with billet endlinks spans C7 spindles carrying 14-inch Z51 disc brakes. The rack-and-pinion power steering is a Flaming River unit made to Street Shop specs steered with an ididit Corvette-style column topped with a Billet Specialties steering wheel.

The C7 rear suspension is damped with shock absorbers and springs custom-made for Street Shop to use with its in-house machined lower billet mounts. Rear brakes are Z51 discs and body roll is controlled with custom 3/4-inch sway bar. Cast in aluminum alloy, the Super 8.8 differential limits wheelspin with a Truetrac unit and packs 3.50 gears. Custom Street Shop axles are made by the Driveshaft Shop. Fashioned after 1967 Corvette N89 cast-aluminum bolt-on wheels, the one-off Forgeline wheels measure 19×9 shod with Nitto Invo 245/40ZR19 tires in front and 20×12 mounted with 345/30ZR20 tires in the rear.

B Rod designates Van’s Sting Ray a “Wide Body” because wide wheels demand a very wide space. From the quarter-panels forward to the nose, four inches has been added to the car’s width. B Rod manufactures complete Corvette bodies and Wide Body C2 creations using press-molded fiberglass. Equipped with C7 suspension, the Street Shop chassis requires modified floors, hence a B Rod-modified floor and widened wheeltubs were utilized. B Rod purchased a new roof deck, taillight panel and hood surround from Lee Bumb Composites. The custom-made billet aluminum grille by Dan Baker’s Alumicraft rests beneath LED quad headlights by RestoMod Tech. Dan’s Polishing Shop did the chrome-plating work.

In Larry Burchett’s words, “The next step in the process was forming new front and rear floor molds and fabricating new widebody quarters, doors, fenders and front nose. Once the body plug was complete, the long hours and tedious work began. First, molds were built, then parts made and then these were assembled around and onto the reconstructed birdcage. With the body completed, the next decision was color. Discussion entailed every color of the rainbow when green was settled on. PJ Burchett mixed several spray-outs for Van to choose from. Axalta Hot Hues candy green was a starting point, then a multitude of pearls were blended into the mix to create Vanguard Green.

Under the 427 Corvette Stinger hood lies a 427-inch 2018 LS7 mated to a TCI 6x six-speed paddle-shifted automatic overdrive transmission. A Vintage Air Front Runner serpentine system drives a high-amp alternator charging an XS Power AGM battery and a Sanden compressor pumping R134a refrigerant to Vintage Air air-conditioning.

Street Shop stainless steel fuel lines feed an LS Classic twin throttle body fuel-injection system supplied from a Rock Valley gas tank fitted with an Aeromotive internal fuel pump. B Rod commissioned Dan Dittberner Engineering to develop the CAD data to make a breather top and fuel rails. In keeping with the look of a 427 Corvette Tri-power air cleaner, B Rod handformed a set of coil covers with the look of big-block Rat valve covers. The cooling system consists of a DeWitts radiator and DeWitts twin electric fan shroud assembly.

As illustrated by Eric Brockmeyer, the rich tan leather interior by Steve Holcomb’s Pro Auto Interiors relies on custom fiberglass bucket seat pods by B Rod for shape and Dynamat to suppress heat and road noise. The sound system features an Antique Auto head unit with Rockford Fosgate speakers and amplifiers. Instrumentation is by Classic Instruments. The completion of Van’s 1967 Corvette Sting Ray Wide Body by B Rod took three years to the month, making its 2019 SEMA debut a massive success. Vette

Original source; John Gilber- HotRod


Most Expensive 2020 Chevy Corvette Convertible Costs $113,955

Configurator with pricing info is up, so we’ve decided to max it out.

We’ve been periodically checking Chevy’s website for the Corvette C8 Convertible configurator ever since it went up at the beginning of October to see if there’s pricing available. You can finally know how much the desired spec is going to set you back as the configurator now has all the pricing details included. Much like we did with the coupe a few weeks ago, we’ve decided to max out the online builder in an attempt to find out how much a fully loaded Stingray Convertible costs.

We’re not going to go through each and every option as we did in the previous post because most of them are identical. It’s worth pointing out the convertible commands a $7,500 premium over the coupe and it starts at $67,495 for the entry-level 1LT. Go for the better-equipped 3LT and the price jumps to $78,945, and then you can add this $995 Long Beach Red Metallic Tintcoat paint and a dual racing stripe also priced at $995.

The most expensive options available for the C8 Convertible are the $5,000 Z51 Performance Package and the $4,850 Grounds Effect Kit, but on top of these, you can also add the $2,095 grille insert and $1,145 side mirror caps both finished in visible carbon fiber. Another pricey option is the $2,695 wheel set measuring 19 inches up front and 20 inches at the rear, with a five-spoke design and a Performance Pewter-painted finish.

If you truly want to go all out with the configurator, Chevy will be more than happy to provide you with a two-piece leather travel bag set for $1,450 as well as indoor and outdoor car covers each priced at $460. Inside, a carbon fiber trim adds $1,500 to the final bill, while the Competition Sport bucket seats are an additional $500.

With all the boxes ticked, you’re going to end up with a 2020 Corvette Stingray Convertible that costs $113,955, plus an additional $110 worth of dealer-installed

As you’re probably aware by now, production of the C8 has been delayed until February 2020, so it’s going to be a long wait to park the new Corvette in your garage.

Hit the source link below to play with the configurator and see if you can beat our price.

Hit the source link below to play with the configurator and see if you can beat our price.

Original source: Adrian Padeanu; Motor1


Final C7 Stingray Donated To National Corvette Museum

While the last C7 Corvette will be in a private collection, the last C7 Corvette Stingray will be on permanent display for all to see.

The final C7 Corvettes rolled off the assembly line on November 14th marking the end of the line for the front-engine Corvette before production begins for the all-new, mid-engine C8 ‘Vette. The final Corvette – a black Z06 – was auctioned off earlier in the year for $2.6 million to a software company CEO, but the second to last Corvette isn’t going far. This car will represent the last C7 Stingray ever, and today it was donated to the National Corvette Museum, which is right across the street from the Corvette’s assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

This penultimate C7 was purchased by NCM lifetime member and supporter, Ivan Schrodt, who was riding shotgun in the ‘Vette while NCM CEO Dr. Sean Preston drove the car into the museum. Mr. Schrodt took brief delivery of this Stingray before handing the keys over for donation, and he was one of more than 4,000 people who took advantage of Chevy’s museum delivery program. 

As part of the donation ceremony, the NCM had a number of Bowling Green Assembly Plant employees on hand who signed the engine cover of this Stingray. From here, this Corvette will be permanent fixture at the museum enshrined among all of the other important and significant Corvettes on display. This ceremony was a fitting send off for the C7 Corvette ahead of the highly anticipated launch of the C8.

In fitting style, the last C7 Stingray was equipped in a familiar Corvette color scheme featuring the Arctic White paint job over an Adrenaline Red interior – mimicking the look of the original 1953 Corvette with its Polo White paint and red interior. This 2019 Corvette Stingray is equipped with the mid-level 2LT trim level and the upgraded Z51 performance suspension, and it also has Carbon Fiber and Painted Body Color removable roofs, Carbon Flash exterior trim accents, chrome emblems, red calipers, personalized plate package, brake package, performance exhaust and chrome aluminum wheels. All in, this well-equipped Corvette had a sticker price of just over $70,000, making it quite an impressive donation to the museum.

Source; Jeffrey N. Ross, motorious