1970s Chevrolet Corvette Concept Cars

Chevrolet Aerovette Concept Car
A good-looker even now, the 1976 Chevrolet Aerovette concept car used a conventional V-8 in place of earlier concepts' rotary engines.
A good-looker even now, the 1976 Chevrolet Aerovette concept car used a conventional V-8 in place of earlier concepts' rotary engines.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The Four-Rotor Car got a transplanted V-8 in 1976 to become the Chevrolet Aerovette concept car, which came close to production four years later. GM design chief Bill Mitchell kept its original lines intact, however -- not that there was reason to fiddle.

The Aerovette displayed a strongly triangulated "mound" shape, deftly balanced proportions, and artful surface detailing. "Gullwing" doors harked back to the original Mercedes 300SL coupe but were articulated for easier operation in tight parking spots.

The interior was more fully engineered than the typical concept car, another indication that the Aerovette was indeed a serious production prospect.

The process to make the Aerovette production-ready moved swiftly. A full-scale clay was ready by late 1977, and tooling orders were about to be placed. The showroom model would have had a steel frame with Duntov's clever transverse driveline and probably a 350 V-8, which was then Corvette's mainstay engine.

Transmissions would have likely been the usual four-speed manual and three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic, and suspension would have come off the old "Shark" per Duntov's original cost-cutting aim.

The Aerovette's gullwing doors were engineered to allow for opening in tight parking spots.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

So despite its complex gullwing doors, the Aerovette wouldn't have cost a whole lot more to build than a front-engine Corvette. Indeed, 1980 retail price was projected in the $15,000-$18,000 range.

Best of all, the gorgeous styling would have survived completely intact. As Mitchell later confirmed: "The only difference between the Aerovette and its production derivation was an inch more headroom. Otherwise it was the same."

But once more, the mid-engine Corvette was not to be. There were several reasons. First, the project lost its two biggest boosters when Duntov retired in 1974 and Mitchell followed suit three years later. Ed Cole was gone by then, too.

A further blow came from Duntov's successor, David R. McLellan, who preferred the front/mid-engine concept over a rear/mid layout for reasons of packaging, manufacturing economy, even on-road performance.

The interior of the Aerovette was more fully engineered than that of most concept cars.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

But the deciding factor was sales -- or rather the likely lack of same. Though Porsche, Fiat, and other import makes had all proffered midengine sports cars for several years, none had sold very well in the United States.

Datsun, meanwhile, couldn't build enough of its admittedly cheaper front-engine 240Z -- as GM bean-counters evidently observed. Simply put, the midengine design was too risky.

Go to our final section to learn about one more 1970s Corvette concept car -- the mid/V-6.

For more on concept cars and the production models they forecast, check out: