1969 Mid Engine XP-882
As of right now, it is the consensus of industry information sources that the C8 will have the engine mounted behind the cockpit and ahead of the rear axle line. Most, maybe all, of you know that for decades, Zora and others in GM tried to get the GM brass - Board of Directors - to approve a rear mid Corvette chassis.
Just for fun and hopefully to provide you with some bits of new information, I thought I would post a few threads that focus on some of these past concepts that were NOT produced. The first to be covered is the XP-882:
It is 1968 and the C3 had just made it's debut. The C3 was essentially a C2 chassis re-bodied with heavy cues from the Mako Shark, set up for extensive use of the big block engine and wheel wells that could accept MUCH more (and newer tech) rubber than the C2.
The very popular C2 had been production for only 5 years, so at the release of the C3, Zora immediately started developing what he expected to be a C4. Zora wanted the handling of the next gen to be as radically improved over the C3, as the C2 handling was over the C1. Zora had been working on the CERV for 10 years and had completed 2 generations of the vehicle he used to test suspension concepts and set ups. From his CERV findings, it was obvious his C4 had to be a rear mid. He didn't expect any problems with GM brass about this. After all, Ford's rear mid GT 40 had long since won LeMans and there were rumors that Ford would offer a production rear mid.
In 1970, the Pantera, running a Ford 351 Cleveland engine was shown in Europe in March and a few weeks later at the NY Auto show in the US it was announced "For Sale." Also at that NY Auto show, in response to Ford's thrown gauntlet, was Zora's XP-882. Auto journalists swooned at how polished and production-ready was the XP-882.
Although both were rear-mid engine chassis, Zora's packaging solution was very different from the De Tomaso designed Ford. The Pantera had a longitudinal mounted (front to back) engine and ZF transaxle. Zora knew he would never get approval for of a mid design that used a European transaxle, so his solution was to mount a transverse (facing the side of the car) 400 SBC engine (later a 454 CI would be ordered up) to slightly beefed up Toronado transmission and connect that to the differential. This made the XP-882 shorter than the Pantera and provided lower and better weight distribution for handling. Yes, this meant that only an Automatic tranny was available for development, but remember, the Auto trans Chaparrel was winning plenty of races about that time. A manual could be adapted once production was approved.
Zora, and the industry, was certain that this would be a mid-70's release Corvette. He even developed an all wheel drive adaption for it, inspired by his CERV II.
BTW, Zora had created the CERV II hoping to send it to LeMans to take on the GT 40. Bunky Knudsen moth balled the finished CERV II under the no racing policy as soon has Zora's intentions were known.
So what happened? Why wasn't the XP-882 the C4?
More tomorrow if you are interested.
August 1969: Chevrolet General Manager John Z. DeLorean directed Zora to stop work on the XP-882 in August 1969. DeLorean wanted to pursue making Corvettes more profitable, using the new, inexpensive Camaro chassis. However, DeLorean was met with fierce resistance from sales, styling, and engineering, NOT to take the car in that direction.
Sometime early in 1970: Duntov hears about the Pantera and also finds out that AMC is negotiating a similar [Ford De Tomaso deal] with Bizzarini to build an AMC rear mid engine design. Duntov showed Bill Mitchell and Chevy’s Chief of Engineering Alex Miar his mothballed XP-882. The immediate response was, “Get the car into the New York show!” The XP-882 was quickly painted silver and dressed as a show car. As seen in NY the 882 was 5.8 inches wider, 8 inches shorter, the wheelbase was 2.5 inches shorter, and at 2,595 pounds, it was almost 700 pounds lighter than the C3. However, it was not completely production ready. It was a HUGE hit at the show.
Surprisingly, it retained most of the C2 / C3 front AND rear suspension off-the-shelf-parts. How? The Toronado tranny that was tucked under the side of the V8 used a "differential" to send a driveshaft through the oilpan and mate up with the otherwise stock rear suspension. I'm guessing that the transverse leaf spring probably required at least one more leaf - maybe two - to carry the drivetrain that was a few inches ahead of it. Also, the coils in front were, no doubt a bit weaker with less weight up there. But the A arms and linkage in front were from a C3 as were the swing arm tubes, et al out back. Yep. Not so different from the front mid production model.
Due to the extremely favorable reaction - both public and press - DeLorean immediately funded a manual trans, big block version.
Before much work could be done GM President Cole, screwed up Corvette history big time. Cole had purcha$ed a licen$e to produce the Wankel engine at an initial cost of $50million - BIG bucks back then. The expectation was that the Wankel would solve all of the upcoming emissions requirements. Cole thought Zora was a genius and it was already apparent that it would take a genius to make the Wankel succeed. Cole redirected Zora to build a high performance Wankel. Duntov had no interest in the spinner engine so he delegated the Wankel task to Hufstader. At the same time Zora was required to hand over one of the only two XP-882s in existence, to Bill Mitchel who had been directed by Cole to design a "Wankel" body for it.
With the Wankel now the full focus of GM development engineering, it was directed that the remaining XP-882, that had come so VERY close to production, be re-skinned as part of a partnership exercise with Reynold's Aluminum. Imagine Zora's frustration. So close, only to fall short.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, bored Congressmen discovered they could cause tremendous havoc in the Automobile industry by passing short horizon safety and emissions requirements. All Engineering resources were refocused to meet quick arriving and steeply yearly increases in government standards. What's worse, they were doing a pretty bad job of finding solutions through the 1970's and early '80s. In the showroom, Baby Boomers were still buying C3s and with limited engineering resources, tweaks were made each year, rather than introduce new designs or new chassis.
The XP-882 was dead and the C3 would be sold for 15 years total and through two "Oil Crissis."
What happened to the mid engine Wankels? Most of you probably know, but THAT will be the next mid engine concept story ... if you are interested. If this is boring to you and just wasting space, please let me know.
Love it. Keep it coming.
More pics of the XP-882
An earlier design study:
The Mid Engine Concept histories threads have been locked. If you have a question or comment about them, please start a thread below. Thank you.
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