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A Case for Making Corvette Its Own Brand

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author photo by Eric Brandt September 2017

Rumors have been flying around lately about a midengine Corvette. By "lately" I mean for the past fifty years or so, but it looks like it's totally, really, absolutely, probably happening for real this time, and it's supposedly due in 2019. Generally, there's a lot of excitement about the idea, but the concept has also been met with its share of critics. The idea is praised for Chevy finally upping its game in the supercar market, and panned for pushing an expensive car farther out of reach for most consumers.

Why Is Chevy Doing This?

Close your eyes. Wait, don't close your eyes. You need them to read this article. Keep your eyes open. Picture a Chevrolet Corvette in the wild. An aggressive, yet sleek and elegant V8-powered sports car thundering down the road blessing the eyes and ears of everyone it passes. A blur of American excellence. Now, who is in the driver's seat? Is it a 64-year-old man in a Tommy Bahama shirt? Does he have silver hair blurring down the road as fast as his 'Vette, or is his National Corvette Museum trucker hat covering his bald skull?

Usually, it's an old man. And Chevy hates that. Chevrolet made one heck of an effort to grab the Young Affluent Male (YAM) market with the C7. They did an outstanding job with the aesthetic integrating heritage with brand-new design. They ditched the round taillights, probably in a conscious effort to make the early bird special crowd less interested and drive down the average age of new Corvette buyers. Chevy succeeded in making a world-class sports car keeping up with the unprecedented bang for the buck that the Corvette is known for. However, it still wasn't enough to shake the stereotype of the drivers.

So, now Chevy is heavily rumored to be putting all of their red chips on midengine. They're finally going to stuff that V8 behind the driver where the great Zora Arkus-Duntov wanted it. But he was also against the C2 having a split window, so can we really trust all of his ideas? Either way, it looks like it's happening. The result will no doubt kick all sorts of star-spangled butt and really go toe to toe with the likes of Porsche and Audi. But what about the front-engine classic that America has loved for well over half a century?

Corvette Should Be a Brand

This is a rumor that's been going in and out of style for almost as long as the midengine rumor. Remember the pair of Chevy concepts from 2012 that didn't come close to happening? One was a forgettable compact, and the cooler one was a little BMW 1 Series-looking coupe called the Code 130R. It notably wore a stylized Corvette badge. This is the most recent example of a Corvette brand rumor. It was quickly forgotten, but I think The General really had something there. You can't blame GM for being a little gun-shy on amassing too many brands, but hear me out.

Corvette has always practically been its own brand. Chevy dealers need a special certification to sell and service them, and they've never worn a bow tie unless you count the tiny one in the Corvette logo. The cars haven't even said the word "Chevrolet" on them since the C1 when it was brand-new. The only thing that hasn't actually made "Corvette" its own brand is the limitation to one model. Sure, they've always had variations like Z06 and Grand Sport, but they're still the same Corvette at their core. Corvette needs to expand and make an affordable baby Corvette, a traditional Corvette, and an insane midengine Corvette.

The Boxster single-handedly saved Porsche in the nineties. A little Corvette roadster can bring the same renaissance to the Corvette brand. We all know that small cars with small engines are better now than they've ever been by a long shot. Corvette needs to bring the Code 130R to its logical conclusion -- a V6- or turbo-four-powered compact roadster priced somewhere between a Mazda Miata and a Porsche 718. In classic Corvette fashion, it could be a convertible or a coupe. I'm confident that this would bring new, younger customers to Corvette in the way GM so desperately wants. They could even do it without upsetting the purists. Sure, it won't have a V8, but it'll be even cheaper than the traditional Corvette -- which they could still have, anyway.

One of the main reasons to make a Corvette brand is to preserve the traditional Corvette. A good, old-fashioned, pushrod V8-powered, front-engine, rear-drive, workin' man's sports car. Despite Chevy's distaste for the geriatric Corvette demographic, the elderly are still loyally spending their money on these cars. They don't want to lose that base, but Chevy's just reasonably worried that they're all going to be too old to drive very soon.

The top tier of this Corvette brand, naturally, would be the midengine dream that everyone's been talking about. They say it will still have a pushrod V8 to keep the price somewhat reasonable. They're probably shooting for a price point somewhere between the current C7 and the Acura NSX or Audi R8. If Corvette were its own brand, however, there would be even more room for a crazier, more expensive supercar. Don't want to spend that much on the midengine model? Great, there are more Corvette options for the more budget-conscious customers! This midengine beast could finally be GM's launch into the next level of supercars.

At best, this idea would bring America's sports car to a greater audience. At worst, it would turn into a high-end SUV brand that also makes a sports car. In any case, I'd love to see the crossed flags get their own sign in front of dealerships.

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