If the rumors are true, the C8 Corvette will be king in a way that no other Corvette has ever been.
And that's me saying that.
If I were Acura, and had the NSX out right now as the quintessential modern American mid-engine supercar (Yeah, American, fight me in Marysville), I'd be scrambling. Because the C8 is coming. And after it launches, nothing will be the same.
At this point, there's little reason to doubt the leaks and rumors on the C8. Between Corvette forums, Reddit, and good-old fashioned journalism, basically every previous reasonable leak has been proven true. From the mid-engine layout, to the wiring issues, to the hybrid rumors, to the Cadillac coverup, to the engine options, it's all been rumors or leaks, and it's all turned out to be fact. Two months before the car's official debut, there's a new rumor, and it's about the price. According to Hagerty, the base-model C8 Corvette is slated to start between $60-70,000. We predicted that by the way. Or at least we asked "What if". But divorced from our awesomeness and objective right-and-righteousness in all things, remember: That Acura NSX, the Corvette's main American competition, starts at $157,000. Not twice the price, $100,00 more, almost three times more. Holy shit.
Imagine this: A Corvette C8 that costs $65,000 and matches the performance of the NSX. Not almost matches, not comes close, but matches it. That car would be king. Right now, the C7 Corvette ZR1 is just slightly faster than the NSX in pretty much every measurable test. But the ZR1 also matches the NSX when it comes to price, with the top trim coming in at around $155,000. Of course, the current ZR1 has that big Supercharged V8 in the front making over 600 HP, but the first C8s are expected to sit on lots with a 500-ish HP V8 in the middle. Okay, so maybe the 570 HP hybrid NSX beats the base C8 in a drag race, but doesn't the C8 need to match it around a track? It feels that way to me. After all, we know that Corvette loves racing, and we know they've been race-track testing the C8 since August of last year, all the while watching the NSX race across the class line in the Weathertech Championship. Corvette won't release an all-new mid-engined car that's a slouch on the track, it's not even possible. We also know that Corvette perennially has one eye on Ferrari. And with the C8, they have their other eye on hybrid technology. Ferrari is announcing their first-ever hybrid V8 any day now. Try to imagine a Corvette engineer who isn't quaking and frothing at the mouth to see the specs on that Ferrari, ready to rabidly work on how they can match the Ferrari on it's home layout turf for half the cost. Given what Corvette wants to have the top trim of the C8 compete with, and given how much the layout change has put at stake for Corvette, Chevy, and GM at large, I don't think it's strange to say that the base C8 needs to match the NSX. Actually, I believe it's fair to ask if Corvette can afford to not go directly at the NSX, a car that has its own cult following and launched to international acclaim. In fact, if Corvette can't make a huge international impression with the very first C8s, this whole mid-engine transition could fail before it even makes it off the ground.
But just for a moment, let's say that all my prophesies come true. Let's say that the base C8 gets fabulous reviews, that it matches the NSX, and that the top-tier C8 is a twin-turbo, hybrid, Ferrari-mashing, scalpel-wielding track lunatic from Bowling Green. And let's imagine the C8 comes in a color called Bowling Green, because it really helps the imagery. All of that still might not matter. Because of Nick.
Not Nick specifically, but Nick too. Reading the C8 rumor threads in Corvette forums is an awful, awful time. So many FRAM-brained layout truthers pop in to talk about how the C8 isn't...whatever, or how it doesn't...uh...how it...Okay, I honestly don't know what they're talking about, because I get really bad synesthesia when I read something fundamentally at odds with reality, and all I hear is this song. I said this about the Charger all the way back in the Mustang blog, and I'll say it again now: Any given modern car is so different from any of its progenitor's roots that a layout change cannot even matter. Oh wow, the first Corvette was front-engined! Y'all sure cracked that case. It also was also so ugly it caused an Anthrax outbreak in Manchester, New Hampshire. The C3 was a trash fire. The C4 was so 80s you still can't legally be seen in public next to one. The C5 was a fantastic race car...as long as it had its entire own class. But they didn't keep any of those parts for the C7 just because they were tradition! They didn't even keep the appalling chrome wheels from the C6. Does anyone truly believe that the C7 should be compared to the C1? Of course not, nobody wants those problems. The C8 doesn't need that comparison either.
The truth is that if you look at the entire history of Corvette with an objective eye, not only are they one of most changeable cars in all of car history, but they also are notable trend-followers who lead from the front. Meaning, Corvette is rarely the first one to do anything new, but they are regularly the first ones to do anything new successfully. That's not damning with faint praise, it's just praise. Between the C1 and the C8 lie four dozen rusted hulks of lost, failed, and abandoned American supercars. The Corvette has outlasted the Mustang. It outlasted the Camaro. It outlasted the Panoz Esperante, the Delorean, the Firebird, the Thunderbird, Vector, Mosler, AMC, Callaway, the Cobra, Consulier, Plymouth, SSZ, the Charger, the Falcon F7, the Saleen, the GNX, the Viper, every single weak attempt from Cadillac, the GTO, Mercury, Glickenhaus, the Challenger, the Ford GT40, the Ford GT, the Ford GT, the Roisson, everything from SSC, the Venom, the G8, the SS, and every single other car that has challenged it for its entire existence. Yet people who stanned the Corvette would dare to threaten to leave over an engine layout change? Pure nonsense. Utter foolery!
But of course, some old fans will leave. Some, like Nick, already have. Former Corvette fans taking their nonsense and leaving could be damaging enough to kill the brand, potentially. But staying where they've been since 1953 would kill the brand with absolute certainty. When we initially talked about the mid-engine Corvette rumors, we postulated that maybe - just maybe - the Camaro division had fired a ZL1-shaped bullet directly through the heart of the Front/Rear Corvette by making a car that could, with a hobbled engine, race on track in a class with the ZR1...for the price of a Grand Sport. Now, there's no doubt in my mind that was the final straw. That fact - added to the ever-mounting staleness of a C7 that was an on-track winner and off-track media darling, but has been utterly humiliated by the Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger in sales for the C7's entire existence - makes it clear to me that Corvette had no choice but to swing as hard as they could with the C8 and hope for the best. No matter what The Olde Guard might think about it. Corvette was in the Harley dilemma. But they chose to act, instead of gracelessly sliding into a grave of their very own American design and manufacture.
And so, Corvette is taking on almost endless risk with the C8, specifically because of the fans: new, old, and prospective. That's why I titled this post Scary Hours. Not just because I like Drake, but because the Hours be Scary. Acura has to be scared. Ford has to be scared. Ferrari better be scared. Corvette stans have been scared, scared enough to run away. GM must be scared. We all know Chevy is scared. Corvette themselves have to be scared too, because it's all on them. Right now, every major development in the world of the supercar is entirely focused on the C8. If they execute, none of this Corvette fan grandstanding will matter or even be remembered. If they waver, or if they fail, then how long will it really take for a GM on the desperate hunt for cash savings above all else to shutter the Corvette division in total and let the resurgent Camaro reign? It's already the face of the brand in NASCAR, and their sports car volume-seller, and they could easily make a more plush, GT-style trim to grab the older Corvette buyers, and it could definitely be homologated to race in IMSA. It even has that precious Front/Rear layout that brings all the old men to the yard. I don't think it's a far-flung imagining to say that should everything break wrong, Corvette could be two or three years from disappearing out of car history. GM has killed better-selling brands for less.
Fortunately, all of this imagining and prophecy and guesswork ends soon. Because 7/8/19 is almost here. Right now it's scary hours, but a new king is coming. And after that - come hell or high water - nothing will be the same.