By 1959, Zora had milked just about all the handling improvements possible from the C1 chassis. Those improvements had firmed up the chassis to the point that some owners were complaining about the firmer than a truck ride.
Zora knew it would soon be time for Corvette to take the next step its performance evolution. So he built the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle to become the frame (125 lb of chrome moly tubing) for as many experimental suspensions as needed to identify the best combination of a high performance suspension, reasonable ride and efficient, practical production. By 1959, Scarab, BRM, Porsche, and others were experimenting with rear-mid engine chassis. Zora had first hand experience racing rear engine Porsches and front engine Allards and Vettes. He knew the limits of both, so he set up the CERV with s a rear mid.
At one point in its development, it ran so well that Zora tried to sell GM on entering it in the Indy 500. If you've been able to stay awake reading these threads, you know what they said: "NO. That would be a violation of the Big 3 non-racing agreement." You know... the agreement that Ford was about to break first by entering the GT at LeMans and then by not-so-covertly talking Carol Shelby into making Cobras....all while GM management heads were buried in the sand.
Zora wasn't content to just play...er...practically experiment with suspensions. The CERV would explore all automotive boundaries perceived at the time.
The first CERV engine was a 350HP 283
CI SBC that used magnesium and titanium extensively in order to weigh in 175 lbs lighter the production engine.
Front disc brakes / rear drums inboard with a two piston master cylinder (reminder this is 1959). The inboard drums were a carryover from the '57 XP-84 Q Corvette concept that Zora proposed moving the transmission to the rear of the Vette and Mitchell's team provided clay that looked like early [Sting Ray Racer / C2] designs. Yep 1957! The Q had a front
engine so we are not covering it in these threads, but I'll include a pic anyway, following my rambling.
Cast magnesium alloy wheels
Shinoda designed an 80 lb fiberglass body.
Independent front and rear suspension. Out back was a unique-at-the-time multilink system that is very common on many cars today (without the rear drums, of course). BTW, the inboard drums were popular in IRS systems in the late 50's and 60's because they reduced the unsprung weight significantly.
The finished CERV I weighed in at 1600 lbs,
Everything I've ever read on the CERV I attributes the C2 / C3 IRS development to the CERV. Now maybe at some point Zora had the CERV outfitted with an IRS that looked a bit more like the C2 / C3 IRS, but I have never seen a pic of the CERV with even a transverse leaf spring, so I refuse to support that statement here. However, I WILL say that I can see how Zora might have looked at his multilink design and have been inspired to simplify it into an early prototype of what became Corvette's IRS for ~20 years.
Later in the CERV I's life, Zora and Shinoda gave it an update. A 377 CI Aluminum SBC with an advanced FI system replaced the 283 and Shinoda redesigned the body.
CERV I Gen 1
CERV I Gen 2 (still current and owned by Mike Yeager/ Mid-America Corvette):
The '57 XP-84 Q Corvette Concept that might have donated its IRS to the CERV I:
BTW, the next time some Porsche lover says that the C5,6,&7 front engine / rear transmission were derived from the Porsche 928, you can straighten him out. Corvette engineers first worked on this configuration in 1957!