If you’re one of those purists who won’t take anything other than a RWD Corvette with the engine up front where God intended, who thinks the idea of a Mid-Engine Corvette is blasphemous to all that is holy in the Church of Pushrod, and who conveniently ignores historical facts and evidence to the contrary, then you’re going to want to find someone to blame if this Tribulation ever comes to pass. And that one to blame is the Ford Mustang. Allow me to explain:
As any Fiero fan will tell you: ‘The Fiero was killed off because it was a threat to the Corvette’. There’s not much evidence to support that claim, but the Corvette has always been GM’s halo car. Nothing in the line-up was a greater sportscar than the Corvette (save for a slight hic-up in ’89). Today GM’s halo car can be had with 755 horsepower and a top speed of 210 mph. The problem is the divide that separates ‘The Best’ from the ‘Next Best’ in the line-up hasn’t always been wide, especially as of late. Because the Camaro has just gotten that good.
The Camaro has always slotted below the Corvette in the line-up and has gotten a lot more breathing room since the demise of the Firebird. Today’s generation of Camaro can be optioned with the same LT1 and LT4 V8’s found in the Corvette and the 1LE provides the same track focused goodies of the Z06. And this is the heart of the problem. The Camaro’s performance in comparison to the Corvette makes it look like a great value proposition. Let’s take the Camaro ZL1 1LE and the Corvette Z06:
Now is spending an extra $20,000 worth it to be a second faster around VIR? I don’t think so. Yes, the ZR1 will blow the Camaro and the Z06 out of the water, but it will have a price to match. There still remains a significant amount of overlap between the models and the Corvette needs to do more to separate itself from its Font-engine RWD brother. Thus the change in drive layout.
But the Camaro isn’t the one to blame for this predicament. It has its own war to focus on, that against its cross-town rival: The Ford Mustang. The Camaro has always played second fiddle to the Mustang. Its not news when the Mustang outsells the Camaro, but when the Camaro outsells the Mustang even ‘Real People’ hear about it. Every generation brings better and better Mustangs and Chevrolet must keep pace or risk forfeiting the inevitable magazine head-to-head articles. Ford’s announcement of a 700+ horsepower GT500 is just the next battle in this war. Ford can continue increasing the Mustang’s performance without worrying about it competing with another Ford product. They have no competitor for the Corvette. The Ford GT is a half-million-dollar, limited production supercar. No one is cross shopping a GT and a Corvette, much less a Mustang.
This means the sky’s the limit for the Mustang and Chevrolet is forced to keep up. To save the Corvette, Chevy will have to move the Camaro up and have it assume the position of the front-engine RWD ‘drivers car’ while the Corvette leaps ahead as Chevy’s mid-engined halo car. In short, the Corvette has to become mid-engined to separate itself from the Camaro, which has to keep pace with the Mustang that has no internal competitor. Thus, just blame the ‘Stang.