Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Enough About Mid-Engine Corvettes, Already

Enough about mid-engine Corvettes, ladies and gentlemen.

In every Vette redesign since the Zora Arkus-Duntov days mid-engine Corvette rumors waft through the air like vaporized Goodyears. Look at the comment sections on any car blog and reliably find three or four "everybody knows that mid-engine layout is the best" missives.

So, OK ... all open-wheel racers are mid-engine, so sure ... it's the best handling layout. For a race car rocking a few hundred pounds of downforce and tires that are stickier than Gummy Worms left out on the sidewalk in mid July.

But street cars don't play by the same rules as open-wheel racers. Torque and traction and precious-little speed-induced downforce are the order of the day on the public roadways, which is why you rarely find mid-engine designs dominating the performance spec panels of the car mags. Road and Track, for instance, has the piggish Mustang Boss 302 LS out-slaloming both the Ferrari 458 Italia and even the celebrated Enzo. Positively dumpy front-engined beasts like the Nissan GTR and lump-of-iron-hanging-out-over-the-rear-axle 911 Turbo S regularly spank Ferraris, Lambos, Boxsters, and Loti around test tracks.

Race tracks? Anybody who watches the GT class in the LeMans series knows that the dominance of any one team is related to driver and crew talent, not engine layout. As cool as those shrieking Ferrari engines are, it's the well-prepared, well-driven Chevrolet C6.R Vettes, BMW M3s and Porsche 911s that dominate the race results year after year.

And speaking of Vettes, which we started speaking of at the beginning of this entry, there's nothing cooler than listening to the banshee soprano wail of a big-buck Ferrari being overhauled at Road America by the all-balls bass bellow of a get-er-done Corvette using the wrong engine layout and overhead valve technology straight out of 1955, give or take a few sodium-filled valves. It's like watching that dull American lug John McClain outwitting his smarter, more sophisticated Euro-foes lap after lap.

Enough about mid-engined Corvettes, ladies and gentlemen.

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