Exceptional aerodynamics was the overriding design goal of the Chevrolet Corvette Four-Rotor concept car. At just 44 inches high, the Four-Rotor tested out with a drag coefficient of only 0.325 -- better than many production cars of 20 years later.
But its real triumphs were sumptuous sensuality and remarkable symmetry. Unlike most midships designs, the Chevrolet Corvette Four-Rotor concept car gave no clue as to the location of its engine; indeed, its styling would have suited a front-engine layout just as well.
And where most "aero" bodies had definite edges, this one cleverly disguised them. The result was organic, "all-of-a-piece," and nearly timeless -- a triumph of surface over line.
The Four-Rotor was arguably more stunning than the Two-Rotor XP-897GT. Its Corvette-like face and obvious high performance potential were taken as strong suggestions that GM was brewing a radical new Corvette for the late 1970s or early 1980s.
Jerry Palmer, who would shape the sixth-generation 1984 Corvette, was among the designers who worked on the Four-Rotor car, which was first shown in late 1973. Car and Driver magazine thought it "the betting man's choice to replace the Stingray," but that winter brought the world's first energy crisis, which exposed the Wankel as a relative gas guzzler. With that, GM scrapped its rotary work and all plans for Wankel-powered cars.
Three years later, the Four-Rotor was still under a sheet in GM's Special Vehicles warehouse. Like DeLorean (who left GM in a huff during 1972), Mitchell had the car dragged out, this time to replace the double-Wankel with a Chevy 400 V-8.
After changing the I.D. to "Aerovette," Mitchell lobbied for the car as the next Corvette. He usually got what he wanted, and GM chairman Thomas Murphy actually approved the Aerovette for 1980 production. Ironically, he might have been at least partly swayed by the imminent threat from the rear-engine DMC-12, the now-infamous sports-car effort of none other than John Z. DeLorean.
Check out the next page for details on the Aerovette.