1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy Concept Car

Image Gallery: Concept Cars The 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy concept car was another in the rich tradition of midengine idea cars that have tantalized Corvette fans for years. See more concept car pictures.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Some concept vehicles are strictly for show; others one day are meant to go. The 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy concept car was one that combined both duties. The mid-engine Indy stretched toward the boundaries of not only all previous Corvettes, but of the sports car world.

What's the first thing you were likely to notice about the Chevrolet Corvette Indy? Its stunning shape. Though it debuted at the Detroit Auto Show in 1986, it resembled the California Camaro that hit the auto exhibitions three years later. The next thing you might have noticed was that this 'Vette looked a lot more like something belonging on a race track than an "ordinary" Corvette. Not exactly a surprise, considering the "Indy" part of the car's name.

Not that the Chevrolet Corvette Indy was a simple lead-in to the later Camaro. It was far from that. This was a mid-engine design, suggesting the cream of the exotic car crop. A longing look at that far-forward cockpit in the ultra-low body (43 in.) immediately set a Corvette enthusiast's eyes aglow. The forward slope of the front hood was so steep that the car appeared to be ready to leap into a foxhole, while the protruding back end had an almost fin-like profile.

Displaying a huge amount of glass, the windshield and backlight were so steeply angled that they appeared almost horizontal. A super-wide air intake up front looked like a gigantic, barely-open mouth with only a pair of teeth remaining.

Toss in those exquisitely slanted and tapered headlamps, massive bodyside airscoops, and the huge glass dome that served as cockpit, and who could have resisted a chance to climb behind the wheel for a future-world spin? A few lucky folks did exactly that, and they reported the Indy belonged right up in the automotive stratosphere, along with the likes of the fabled Porsche 959.

Good concept cars never seem to be composed of the right materials to make it to production levels of completion. Therefore, the Indy soon evolved from strictly a concept car to a full-scale running prototype. Phase Three, rumored to have begun at the time of the release, was to be a preproduction version -- some believed it might have been a forerunner to a future 'Vette.

So in addition to original duties as a show car, the Indy was created as a test bed to evaluate advanced technical systems. Chief engineer Fred Schaafsma called it a "work-in-progress vehicle." The Chevrolet Corvette Indy, while not only looking good at speed, appeared to be a test mule for new Corvette technology.

To learn more about the development of the Chevrolet Corvette Indy concept car, keep reading.

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1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy Concept Car Development

Body and chassis materials had race-car origins.
Body and chassis materials had race-car origins.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy concept car development process incorporated ideas from previous Chevy concept cars. For example, the mid-engine layout was nothing new to Corvette engineers. Studies had begun as far back as 1959, with the single-seat CERV 1 (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle), which eventually ran at speeds up to 200 mph. After that, the CERV 2 became the world's first mid-engine car with full-time four-wheel drive.

By the 1980s, Chevrolet was studying the technical developments of competitive exotic car manufacturers, such as the active suspension concept developed by Lotus. Corvette head engineer Dave McLellan noted that the Chevrolet Corvette Indy was actually the result of a number of separate projects, including the desire to build a dramatic showcase for the Ilmor racing engine. Not to mention the fact that Chevrolet, like all automakers, could always stand one more image-booster to attract show audiences. Originally, it was a quickie project, directed by Jack Schwartz, which took just six weeks from the clay model stage to a complete (but inoperative) show car.

While the first Indy was strictly for show, two additional prototypes were to be fully roadworthy. One was meant for publicity purposes, the other for engineering research. Since it wouldn't be going anywhere, the show car carried the twin-turbo Ilmor engine mounted transversely behind the single seat. This motor was rated at a whopping 600 horsepower.

Chevy built three versions of the 1986 Corvette Indy concept car, one static example strictly for show, and two running prototypes. Chevy built three versions of the 1986 Corvette Indy concept car, one static example strictly for show, and two running prototypes.
Chevy built three versions of the 1986 Corvette Indy concept car, one static example strictly for show, and two running prototypes.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Technical features ran the gamut from soon-to-be-reality to sci-fi staples. Two of the Indy's features, anti-lock brakes and four-wheel steering, soon made it to production cars.

Also, the car had a hydraulic active suspension, developed jointly with Lotus, which was controlled by a microprocessor (like dozens of later under-hood systems). It needed no conventional springs, shock absorbers, or stabilizer bars. Indy's Kevlar monocoque chassis was also later used in some top racing cars.

Dave McLellan had some ideas that went a lot further, such as computer monitoring and control of the relationship between tire and road. A "drive-by-wire" system, similar to those used by fighter planes, would adjust the throttle electronically instead of by linkages and hydraulics, using a sensor to monitor the gas-pedal position.

Also planned was a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) information display on the dashboard, as well as the navigational system. A digitized map display could be programmed to show the car's current position, as well its destination. Electronic traction control would prevent wheel spin, responding to sensors that determined when one wheel was turning faster than the others.

Continue to the next page for more on the design features of the 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy concept car.

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1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy Concept Car Design

Massive bodyside airscoops helped to deliver the impression of never-ending length.
Massive bodyside airscoops helped to deliver the impression of never-ending length.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

The 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy concept car design was great in theory, but it wasn't until the operative Indy, which emerged after the show car made its rounds, that some of its technical ideas were put into practice.

One feature was the automatic adjusting hydraulic suspension, which responded almost instantly to alter compliance in response to varying road and driving conditions. Also included were CRT displays. One atop the instrument panel displayed what was "seen" by the rear-view video camera that replaced mirrors.

A driver's message screen showed operating data. An Etak navigation system was available for use, even if the satellite to provide the necessary signals wasn't yet ready to deliver.

Still under development were the drive-by-wire system, traction control, and four-wheel steering. But provision was made for retrofitting for all of these high-tech extras at a later date.

The Chevrolet Corvette Indy's body was made of carbon fiber/Nomex composite, with a carbon fiber torque tube "backbone." Scissors-style doors, like those on the Lamborghini Countach, pivoted up and forward to allow drivers to enter without too much strain.

Under the ready-to-roll Indy's engine cover was an experimental all-aluminum 5.7-liter (350 cid) V-8 with 32 valves, code named 350/32, not dissimilar to what would later power the "King of the Hill" Corvette ZR-1. Since Lotus had been involved with the development of both, that's not exactly a surprise.

The engine had double overhead camshafts, sequential fuel injection, and 16 exposed intake runners. Driving all four wheels was a modified 1974-85 Oldsmobile Toronado automatic transaxle.

Hitting the ground were 275/40ZR17 tires up front, and 315/35ZR17 in the rear. Seldom were you likely to see tires with a designation that started with the number "3." That was big. In fact, each one looked more like a pair of tires side-by-side than a single gripper. Their wheels measured a full foot wide, machined from a chunk of solid aluminum.

The top of Indy's expansive glass greenhouse stood only 42 inches above the pavement. The top of Indy's expansive glass greenhouse stood only 42 inches above the pavement.
The top of Indy's expansive glass greenhouse stood only 42 inches above the pavement.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

Ready to run, this Chevrolet Corvette Indy was expected to manage a top speed of 180 miles an hour and reach 60 mph in less than five seconds.

If wishes were pennies, car lovers would have taken a jar-full and asked for a drive in this all-out example of Corvette capabilities -- and then wished that the Bowling Green, Kentucky, plant would have produce the real thing for real drivers.

Since each prototype took a good half-million dollars to develop, that might have been asking too much; but at least one could dream. Chevrolet called the car a "running vision of the future." As that future became reality for the Corvette, this Indy concept car gave us a glimpse of dreams to come.

Go to the next page to see 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy concept car specifications.

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1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy Concept Car Specifications

The 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy concept car recalled the real-world Corvette in the shape of the front end and the ZR-1 in terms of the engine.
The 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy concept car recalled the real-world Corvette in the shape of the front end and the ZR-1 in terms of the engine.
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

As the 1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy concept car specifications listed below demonstrate, this dream car had what it took to rank among the world's most exotic high-performance super cars.

Manufacturer: Chevrolet Division, General Motors, Warren, MI

Body design: 2-passenger, 2-door coupe; plastic/carbon fiber/Nomex panels bonded to carbon fiber tub

Powertrain layout: mid-engine, 4-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 98.2 inches

Overall length: 189.0 inches

Overall width: (est.) 79.0 inches

Overall height: 42.9 inches

Track, front: 63.9 inches

Track, rear: 66.1 inches

Weight: 3300 pounds

Approximate price: (est.) $500,000

Engine type: dohc V-8 (32-valve)

Displacement (liters/cu. in.): 5.7/350

Horsepower @ rpm: 380 @ 6000

Torque (lbs./ft.) @ rpm: 370 @ 3800

Fuel delivery: port fuel injection

Transmission: 3-speed automatic

Suspension, front: independent; unequal-length control arms, transverse- mounted (indirect active)

Suspension, rear: independent; unequal-length control arms, transverse- mounted (indirect active)

Brakes: front/ rear vented discs, anti-lock

1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy Concept Car Performance

Top speed: over 180 mph

0-60 mph: under 5.0 seconds

Quarter-mile: not available

mph @ quarter-mile: not available

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