The current-generation Corvette represents a great engineering effort—and an even better sports car value—but for its evolutionary qualities moreso than its revolutionary ones. That is to say that its merits lie under the skin, with too-gaudy styling detracting from the finer points and sales alike. Though those who were waiting for a Corvette to scream a bit less Vette and more trendy were satiated by the redesign, disappointing sales numbers suggest that the contingent eager and able to put a down payment on a plastic fantastic with a drastic redesign has been largely exhausted. However, with age-old
heresy rumors swirling around regarding a rear mid-engined and turbocharged C8, I would like to offer up an option that is likely cheaper, more appealing, and more lucrative alike in the Sting Ray/Stingray tradition: a C8 built on the solid bones of the C7.
This refreshed C7 would be executed in a fashion similar to the inception of the C3; keeping the proven and capable underpinnings, elements of the car would be reimagined to enhance its faded appeal. Please ignore the mishaps of MY1968 for the sake of the comparison. The C3 looked different, defining the model’s styling cues for decades to come, and brought about improved powertrains as well. The C2 chassis and suspension was good enough to make enhancements more effective than an expensive ground-up redesign. It is clear that the same is true of the C7's aluminum frame and transverse monoleaf suspension with MRC. Let us start with tweaking elements and incrementally changing tune to improve the steering, handling behavior, ride a la Porsche with the 911 and BMW with the M3. Judging by most reviews, there is room for improvement in these areas.
Then there is the weight, so obviously integral to every aspect of a vehicle’s performance. Standard convenience items and luxuries such as infotainment can be made optional along with excessively stylized and sized wheels, aiding performance some while marginally broadening the potential audience for the Corvette. The engine would be a key factor in this regard, as it is one component that has been gaining weight and (scoff) complexity. While this latest all-alloy small block is compact and lightweight for its displacement, more can be done. In the 13 years between 1984 and 1997 (C4 to C5), the Corvette produced a 65% improvement in power of 140 hp while the the 13 past years come MY2018 will have yielded just 60 hp/15%.
Retaining the newfound direct injection, compression can be raised further using a twin-spark combustion chamber configuration, as is found in many high performance engines today. With higher volumetric efficiency and perhaps a better-flowing head, the displacement and physical dimensions of the engine can be slightly reduced while still producing at least 500 hp due to higher engine speed capability. Valvetrain, cam, and other small changes are a given but should not be difficult based on a look at GM’s current crate engine catalog. Given a loosening of regulations, recently-introduced cylinder deactivation and VVT can be discarded for a very marginal power bump and weight reduction. While a physically smaller engine with a similar bore:stroke ratio, there would be an advantageous reduction of curb weight and shift in its distribution.
The real opportunity, however, lies in materials advancements. The modern SBC has been all-aluminum with iron sleeves since 1997. However, Chevrolet can drop significant heft taking a page out of BMW’s tragically dusty naturally aspiration book. A hydroformed camshaft, magnesium alloy block, and use of lightweight materials and components could potentially drop nearly 100 pounds. Electric oil and water pumps round out the list to reduce parasitic loss. We can call this gem of the lineup the LT-0, a powerplant that can serve a greater marketing purpose and serve many duties proficiently due to its hypothetical packaging, poundage, and sheer potency.
Now attention must turn to the aesthetics of the facelifted car. The current profile certainly eschews the right look, but the details can be significantly revised without angering the consumer base. On the contrary, rehashing older details such as a large glass hatch, four circular taillights, and generally softer edges would resuscitate sales and allow the C7 to appeal to the traditional target market its controversial design initially could not. Basically more of a Bill Mitchell design than a Tom Peters one. All of those who viscerally jilted the sharp edges and coupe-like concept would flock back to the brand, seeing the reimbodiment of the car they initially fell in love with. A changed body would also present opportunities to drop fruitless bulk while using present-day research to make it more widely appealing.
To those who say that the Corvette is good enough currently, they are right. It does not need to be a Porsche equivalent to outperform or outsell the real deal. These less-than-educated suggestions, however, may at least contain some reasonable changes to make the current Corvette more appealing and popular while improving the sensations transmitted to the driver. The competition would not even have to blink to produce the same effect. It is time for the current Stingray, rather than a modern “Sting Ray” equivalent, to embody the historically accurate Stingray nameplate: the updated, ultimate, true-to-form Corvette it can be.