The president of General Motors, Mark Reuss, gave the strongest hint five-and-a-half years ago that a right-hand-drive Chevrolet Corvette was in the production pipeline.
It was at the Detroit motor show, in January 2014. Reuss was then GM’s product development chief and had just told reporters that the US carmaker would for the first time develop cars and pick-up trucks with right-hook markets in mind.
Five years earlier (2008-2009) American Reuss had been based in Melbourne as boss of Holden Australia and New Zealand.
He had learned much on both sides of the Tasman about the desire for a GM muscle car to rival what industry observers at the time said Ford was planning to do: build a right-hook Mustang.
“Everything we design new going forward we’re going to try and do right-hand-drive – I think we have to,” Reuss said at Detroit.
He was then asked if a Corvette was on the list. A blurry spy photo had been published in motoring news outlets showing the left side only of a heavily camouflaged sports car. It was said to be a GM prototype – but there was no visible steering wheel.
Could it be a right-hand-drive Corvette that GM was testing? “I’m not going to talk about that now,” Reuss said. Bingo! His response was almost a given – Chevvy was building a right-hook Corvette.
And so it turned out. The eighth-generation Corvette, the first factory-backed right-hooker and the first mid-engine model, will join Holden’s line-up in Australia and New Zealand.
Holden NZ managing director Marc Ebolo is pretty happy about it too. “The news is hugely exciting for our team at Holden and any Kiwi who loves high performance cars,” he said.
“Our team is totally revved up to build on Holden’s performance legacy with the most technologically advanced Corvette ever built.
“We look forward to taking on the European and Japanese performance vehicles with some highly sophisticated American muscle.”
The switch to a mid-engine layout is the headlining feature of the 2020 model year C8 Corvette, especially as it’s visible through the back hatch of the car – “like a jewel in a showcase,” said a GM executive.
The engine is a naturally aspirated 6.2-litre V8, good for 370kW and 630Nm and mated to an eight-speed, dual-clutch automatic, another first for Corvette. There is no manual gearbox, at least for now.
Yet another first is a front-end lift system. It can raise the nose 50mm (two inches) when parking front-on to a kerb. Further, the car’s GPS system can be programmed to raise the front every time there is a risk of it scraping the kerb.
No word of how much C8 Corvette will cost when it lands in New Zealand. The starting price in the US is said to be around $US60,000. At today’s exchange rate that’s $NZ88,000 … and counting.