Upon examining the 1970s Chevrolet Corvette concept cars, it seems that for one brief shining moment, General Motors honestly intended to build a midengine Corvette for public sale. The moment came in late 1977, just as "America's only true sports car" was about to celebrate its 25th anniversary.
Regrettably, the decade-old "Shark" model had to carry the birthday banner, because the midships Corvette wasn't slated until 1980.
But enthusiasts wouldn't have minded the wait, for the car in question was a virtual clone of the stunning Aerovette, perhaps the most widely admired of the many mid-engine experiments with which GM had been teasing Corvette lovers since the late 1950s.
Those tantalizing exercises were owed to Zora Arkus-Duntov, fabled as chief Corvette engineer almost since the car's 1953 inception. After conjuring the open-wheel CERV I single-seater and envelope-bodied CERV II (the letters stood for Corvette Engineering Research Vehicle), Duntov turned to more passenger-oriented designs, beginning with the Astro II of 1968.
Like the previous year's Corvair-based Astro I, this was a curvy, ground-sniffing two-seat coupe with a lift-up rear engine cover/cockpit canopy. It was also a remnant of project XP-880, a mid-engine effort that Duntov hoped would appear in showrooms for 1968.
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But GM decided to stick with traditional front-engine design and a little-changed 1963-1967 Sting Ray chassis for that year's new "Shark" generation, thus rendering Astro II a dead end.
There was still hope, however. Go to the next page to learn about project XP-882.