If you think that the mid-engine Corvette is a new idea, think again. It’s been 60 years in the making.
The idea of a mid-engined Corvette is not new. In fact, it was 60 years ago this year when the first functioning prototype based on that very idea was put together. Known as 1959 CERV I (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle), this open-wheel single-seater rocket was the brainchild of Zora Arkus-Duntov, a Belgian engineer of Russian descent who joined Chevrolet in 1953, just after the birth of the first Corvette.Zora Arkus-Duntov and the 1959 CERV-I. Zora Arkus-Duntov behind the wheel of the 1959 CERV-I.
Duntov, who was also a very competent race driver, fell in love with the idea of the Corvette, but was appalled by the crude mechanics and incompetent behavior of its first iteration. Duntov thought that the mid-engine layout he would spend his entire career championing was the perfect cure to the little roadster's maladies. His 23-year career with General Motors is intimately intertwined with the Corvette’s history, and his failure to finally switch the Corvette to a mid-engine platform was a lifelong source of frustration for him.The 1964 CERV II could have competed with the Ford GT-40 in Le Mans. The 1968 Chevrolet Astro II was conceived as a personal sports car capable of transporting two passengers and their luggage in comfort.
But Duntov planted the seed of a mid-engined Corvette in the heart of Chevrolet, where many more prototypes based on that idea were produced during the next six decades, some of them directed by Duntov himself, and many of them made after his time with the automaker. Today, 66 years after the arrival of both the Corvette and Duntov in Chevy’s history, and on the eve of the unveiling of the very first mid-engined Corvette, we see fit to take a look at the mid-engined Corvette prototypes of the last 60 years. Enjoy.