But are we really surprised?
While browsing the Wall Street Journal we came across a curious article about the upcoming mid-engined C8 Corvette. It didn't have any spy shots or speculation about performance or features, but rather the piece concentrated on the big change for the Corvette in where its engine will be mounted. The focus was on old-school Corvette fans and owners and the "tradition" of the Corvette as a cultural icon and its recognizable long hood and low-slung silhouette which will change dramatically for the C8 generation.
The article opens with a quote from a stereotypically wonderful Mr. Hively from Florida who says, "I am totally, completely and unequivocally not interested in a mid-engine, European-copycat GM sports car." Mr. Hively is clearly no historian because the Corvette was actually based on the European sports cars soldiers were bringing home from Europe after World War II.
Another comical complaint quoted from the article is from a 70-year-old retired accountant from New Jersey who says "I just don't like the look of a short front end," and concludes that he thinks the view from the driver's seat would make it feel like "driving a bus." Curiously, this is not a complaint we've often had driving front-engined supercars that already exist from the likes of McLaren, Ferrari, and Lamborghini.
To hammer home how reactionary Corvette fans can be, WSJ then brings up Tom Peters, who led the exterior design for previous generations of the Corvette. He remembered the controversy when they dropped the pop-up headlamps, specifically the hate mail he got and how "We would go to these Corvette events and people wanted to get physical with me."
WSJ also brings up the outrage from the purists when Porsche switched from using air-cooled engines to water-cooled engines. However, they neglect to mention the fact that Porsche and the 911 is doing just fine and the point of evolving sports cars is to actually evolve. If Chevy was to keep listening to the cigar-chomping Tommy Bahama wearing retirees that are stuck in the past, the Corvette simply wouldn't improve.
However, WSJ does bring up a solid point when it comes to pricing. Yes, Chevy is giving people access to an American made car with, what we assume will be, supercar levels of performance but at what price? The Corvette has traditionally been a blue-collar working man's hero going toe-to-toe with European exotics in performance.
Perhaps the most pertinent quote from the article comes from a Corvette sales manager in Ohio who points out that: "This car has a lot of people nervous because there are so many unknowns with the mid-engine design." On top of that, even a former Corvette engineer Jim Mero has voiced concern.
The fact of the matter here is that Chevy has to smash this one out of the park while not pushing people away with an exotic price tag. While this may be the only real way to take the Corvette to the next level, there's a genuine risk that Chevrolet is taking by moving the engine to the middle. While we may shake our head at boomers that want their cars to still be made last century, this is no small deal and does truly put the move away from pop-up headlights into perspective.