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Monday, December 11, 2023

Mid-Engine Magic: XP-882's Short Journey in the 1960s Auto Revolution

Lost GEMS - In the dynamic automotive landscape of the late 1960s, Detroit buzzed with the not-so-secret ambition of Ford to dive into the production of an innovative two-seater sports car. The driving force behind this audacious venture was the desire to seize the spotlight following Ford's consecutive victories at Le Mans in 1966 and '67. Additionally, Ford aimed to throw down the gauntlet to Chevrolet's Corvette, aiming for dominance in the market.
The short-lived 1970 Chevrolet XP-882 concept introduced a novel, crisp, and low-slung design, unmistakably preserving the core essence of a Corvette. (Picture from: Supercars.net)
As the racing GT Mark IV evolved, Ford unveiled the Mach 2 in 1967—an elegant mid-engined coupe concept seemingly on the brink of production. Simultaneously, plans surfaced for a road-car version of the iconic GT40 sports-racing car, emanating from Dearborn's audacious initiatives that posed substantial threats to the Corvette, both commercially and in terms of brand image.
The 1970 Chevrolet XP-882 powered by an 400-cid small-block mid-mounted engine coupled with a silent chain-drive to an Olds Toronado Turbo 400 transmission. (Picture from: MotorTrend)
In response to Ford's strategic moves, Zora Arkus-Duntov, the lead engineer for Corvette, and his team embarked on the XP-882 project in 1968. The XP-882, envisioned with either a small-block or an eventual big-block engine and all-wheel drive, showcased a fresh, crisp, and low-slung design while unmistakably retaining the core essence of a Corvette. This experimental model fueled anticipation that the upcoming Corvette would adopt a similar mid-engine layout, countering Ford's audacious advances.
1972 Chevrolet Reynolds XP-895 prototype built based of the 1970 XP-882 by Reynolds Metal Company. (Picture from: Corvettes.nl)
To overcome the transaxle challenge of the XP-880, Arkus-Duntov ingeniously married a 454 V-8 with a Toronado transmission, siting the entire assembly transversely to mitigate mass. While the solution proved effective, the powertrain weighed a substantial 950 pounds. Nevertheless, it laid the groundwork for future innovations in all-wheel-drive Corvette designs.
1972 Chevrolet Reynolds XP-895 prototype featured with a lightweight aluminum body, weighing 500 pounds less than a standard Corvette. (Picture from: Corvettes.nl)
April 2, 1970, marked a momentous day for Corvette enthusiasts as the XP-882 mid-engine Corvette concept unexpectedly stole the limelight at the New York Auto Show. Even in the nascent stages of the mid-engine Corvette narrative, the model had attained a mythical status among fans. The captivating looks of the XP-882 offered Corvette enthusiasts everything they didn't realize they desired.
1973 Chevrolet Corvette Four Rotor prototype based built based of the 1970 XP-882, and powered by a 585-CID, 350-to-370-HP 4-rotor drivetrain. (Picture from: CarAndDriver)
Despite limited information on the fate of the XP-882, except had graced the cover of Road & Track in January 1971. Intriguingly, the GM headquarters issued a destruction order for the XP-882, leaving its destiny veiled in uncertainty ever since.
The Corvette Four Rotor engine is made up of a 585-CID, 350-to-370-HP 4-rotor drivetrain coupled end­-to-end with their crankshafts ninety de­grees out of phase to minimize the torque pulses in the driveline. (Picture from: CarAndDriver)
Reportedly, at that time, Duntov relinquished one of the XP-882 chassis to Bill Mitchell for the development of the all-aluminum Reynolds Corvette XP-895, weighing 500 pounds less than a standard Corvette. The other XP-882 chassis underwent a new look for the Four-Rotor concept, featured with gull wing style doors, and first unveiled in 1973. Later in 1976, the Corvette Four-Rotor was retrofitted with a transverse 400-CID small-block engine, shown as the Chevrolet Aerovette.
In a narrative reminiscent of the Mako Shark II concept, the aesthetically pleasing XP-882 underwent a transformation behind closed doors, repurposed into something entirely different. If this holds true, it stands as a regrettable turn of events. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | MOTORTREND | AUDRAINAUTUMUSEUM | SUPERCARS.NET | CORVETTEREPORT | CORVETTES.NL | SUPERCHEVY ]
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