After 67 years of production and 50-plus years of talk, the Chevrolet Corvette will become a mid-engine sports car. And, the world is going crazy over it!
In fact, reports stated that the entire run of 2020 Corvettes is sold out. If this is true, then this becomes a huge landmark for GM and its sports car.
Mid-engine cars are not a new phenomenon. They’ve been around for decades. It is a simple set of physics and calculus that provides a car with near-perfect balance and center of gravity thanks to the engine mounted towards the middle of the vehicle.
Over the decades, mid-engine cars had a certain cache and allure that only a few can enjoy. I drove a few over the time of being a licensed driver – and bore witness to many others along the way. Which ones do I consider my favorites? I hope you’re sitting down for this because you might think I've lost it…or, not.
1980-1983 FERRARI 308GTSi: It was not the first, nor the best (according to true Ferrari aficionados). But, it sold the most, much to Enzo’s chagrin. However, the namesake master of his brand resigned himself to consider the profits of every one sold goes back to his beloved Scuderia. With that said, the 308GTSi was specifically chosen not because Tom Selleck drove one on Magnum P.I. Though he and the show did shine a brighter light onto this mid-engine classic than it truly wanted. Yet, it was simple and complicated at the same time. Its 2.9-liter V8 was temperamental at slow speeds, but work the gears and it will reward you. Still, the Pininfarina body made it what is was – a sexier version of its mid-engine sports car with removable roof and that blasted Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection.
1985-1988 PONTIAC FIERO GT: General Motors originally thought that this Ferrari-inspired mid-engine coupe would be the perfect fun commuter for single folks. The problem with that statement was the "commuter" part. What GM learned was that you simply could not build a car like this as a commuter. Enthusiasts might want to play with one. Enter the dropping of the corporate 2.8-liter V6 behind the Fiero's two seats. Add some side profile extensions from the roof and you have a hot little number. The result was a driving experience, unlike anything you imagined from a Pontiac. That speaks to how the Fiero GT truly made an impression on me some three decades ago.
2012-2016 PORSCHE CAYMAN: I did not include the first two generations for a reason: Execution. If Porsche is known for one thing is that every car they made should be produced on the highest level possible. When I drove the third generation Cayman S, this was confirmed perfectly. When driving a Porsche, you expect performance to be beyond expectations. In this case, this was absolutely true. Handling was supreme and the ride quality was pretty good. What I also loved about the Cayman was the comfort and accessibility of controls and functions. Compared to the iconic 911, a Cayman represents the purest form of experience one wants out of a Porsche.
2014-CURRENT LAMBORGHINI HURACAN: I did not have a poster of the Countach on my wall. Nor did I consider anything from Sant'Agata seriously even after Volkswagen Group bought the company for Audi. But, the first bull I drove was not only relatively civilized, but it was absolutely wonderful. The LP610-4 model featured its V10 at full song, connected to its (controversial) dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel drive. What won me over was its interior – it was easy to get in and out of and it was comfortable. Yes, a Lamborghini can be comfortable to drive. Some detractors would be almost right to say that I should have driven the R8 first. Why? Why not go to the head of the class?
2014-2017 MCLAREN 650S: There is no such thing as perfect. However, Ron Dennis wanted nothing else but perfection from every car McLaren made. The 650S was an extension of a sports/supercar revival in Woking. As an evolution from the MP4-12C, the 650S featured individually controlled suspension at all four wheels for absolutely perfect handling, a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V8 that spewed out 641 horsepower form its flat-plane crankshaft and beyond, and an uncanny way to make driving out a bat of out hell quite easy to do. The Spyder was the way to go since you can remove the roof panel and slide into the car without having to embarrass yourself. You save that for when you get out of it. The 650S was a perfect set up for the expanded lineup we see now from McLaren based on a simple formula of perfection.
1974-1987 FIAT/BERTONE X1/9: Some have said that this car came from a deal with the devil. Maybe, but Marcello Gandini of Bertone penned a car that would not only give sports car lovers something affordable and frugal but one that would meet new safety regulations worldwide. When it arrived stateside for 1974, it weighed under 2,000 pounds, powered by a small 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine, and had a base price of $4,167. Eventually, they installed a larger engine, which enhanced the performance of this mighty little mid-engine, removable roof panel coupe. When Fiat pulled out of the USA market in 1982, an independent importer stepped in to continue the sales of these precious little cars, now under the name of the design house that first designed them. Still, this was one small and mighty sports machine.
1991-2005 ACURA NSX: Honda utilized its expertise in racing to develop the most important product in their history. The original was an exercise in how to create a car that had everything you expected in a sports car icon. The V6 engine may not have put out supercar power, but the NSX’s weight gave it more velocity than expected. The overall design and engineering execution were astounding. And, yes, it was worth the price you paid for one. Having never driven or ridden in one, I was there at the beginning. A red NSX – the first one delivered to Marin Acura in Corte Madera, California – adorned the front of the showroom as I write out the check for my new Concord Blue 1991 Integra RS coupe. You looked at it, admired it, and knew you were buying into the right brand – for the time.