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.