1986 Chevrolet Corvette Indy Concept Car

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.
©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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