Here Come the Boomers Who Are Mad About the Mid-Engine Corvette

Illustration for article titled Here Come the Boomers Who Are Mad About the Mid-Engine Corvette
Photo: Stefan Baldauf

As you know, one of the quintessential parts of being a car enthusiast is being routinely Mad Online. Or, if you’re a buyer of a certain demographic perhaps interested in the new mid-engine C8 Corvette, being Mad To The Wall Street Journal. There, we learn that some—perhaps even many—Corvette traditionalists are livid about their beloved car’s transition to a mid-engine layout.

You, a human being on Planet Earth, know that since its inception the Corvette has been a front-engine sports car with two seats and either a fixed roof or a convertible top. With the C8 that’s being revealed tomorrow, the car will evolve into a kind of budget (okay, still pretty large budget) mid-engine supercar, more like a McLaren or a Ferrari than ever, but almost certainly with a relatively smaller price tag.

But this radical change has many owners upset, as documented by the WSJ. The paper even dares to draw comparisons to New Coke, the failed relaunch of that soft drink in the 1980s, which was felled by a vocal minority who wanted to kill something good.


But let’s review:

To Frank Goodman, though, the engine switch will completely change the Corvette’s character. “I just don’t like the look of a short front end,” said Mr. Goodman, a 70-year-old retired accountant from New Jersey.

From the driver’s seat, he said, the view would be like “driving a bus.”

Yes, Frank, that’s exactly what you want in a nimble sports car. A super long front end you can’t see over. “Feels like driving a bus” is exactly the sort of complaint we commonly hear about mid-engine cars, like the McLaren F1 and Ferrari F40. “I’m just Ralph Kramden over here,” the Ford GT driver says.

Then there are the practical concerns, such as where to put the golf clubs on the redesigned car. This has been a point of consternation in online Corvette forums. Mid-engine cars typically don’t have a rear hatch or trunk, just a small cargo hold in the front, often called a “frunk.”

“This car has a lot of people nervous because there are so many unknowns with the mid-engine design,” said Rick Conti, a Corvette sales manager at Coughlin Chevrolet near Columbus, Ohio.

Maybe I’m just out here too busy trying to pay my student loans to care where the golf clubs are supposed to go on my mid-engine sports car, but... sure. Lot of unknowns here. Totally.

And then:

Robert Hively has owned six Corvettes. He has lived through numerous changes to the famed sports car’s design over the decades.

[...] But Mr. Hively? “I am totally, completely and unequivocally not interested in a mid-engine, European-copycat GM sports car,” said the 61-year-old Florida retiree. “I refuse to call it a Corvette.”


My God, not a European car! Like the socialists drive!

I’d actually like to take this time to point out that perhaps Mr. Hively doesn’t know his history as well as he thinks. The Corvette started as a kind of European-copycat car—designer Harley Earl knew that soldiers who were coming home from World War II were in the habit of importing MGs, Triumphs, Jaguars and other sports cars, and he wanted General Motors to get in on that action.


Sure, the earliest inline-six Corvettes were kind of anemic, and it also competed with Ford’s Thunderbird, but it’s a mistake to think that the Corvette historically was purely an American idea.

I’d also like to add that—as the WSJ notes—that this is not a new idea. GM has been flirting with a mid-engine Corvette for decades. Like, for almost as long as the car itself has been around, there have been prototypes, concepts, test cars and even actual race cars with the engine in the middle. The only thing different is that this time, GM decided to shut the fuck up and finally do it. (If you want to be even more pedantic, the car’s been “mid-engined” for a good while, since the motor sits between the driver and front axle.)


I don’t fault the Journal here, with this particular story. It’s an interesting angle, surely, to the traditional Corvette-buying demographic that makes up the vast majority of the people quoted. And they do at least talk to one younger person, a 19-year-old Corvette enthusiast who fears it’s too much like a Ferrari and not what he’s used to.


But I don’t agree with the Florida retiree crowd that thinks the new Corvette should be written off before we know anything about it just because of where its engine is now. That’s just dumb. Wait, at least, to write it off if we find out the base model’s price is $100,000.

And also, maybe this makes me a bad enthusiast, but I can’t imagine caring about anything as much as these guys (and they’re all guys, and virtually all of them Guys of a Certain Age) care about the engine layout of their Corvette. Like the BMW-sourced Toyota Supra, I’m just glad it exists, that it’s one less thing on the road that isn’t a boring crossover SUV.


To the aggrieved Corvette Dads out there: I’m sorry you have to deal with this. I know you’re used to everything in life going the way you wanted, and not having that happen is a new experience for you, so I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

Editor-in-Chief at Jalopnik. 2002 Toyota 4Runner.

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Dear boomers. You are dying off, you aren’t spending money on Corvettes anymore, GM doesn’t give a shit about you, they are making a car that Gen Xers and so on will want to buy.