(Antfer) #1

From 7,

Pounds of


to a Fake

Pickup in GM’s

Secret Garage

to (Finally)

the New



Cars &
// B Y E Z R A D Y E R //

code-named Blackjack. Under its
Holden bodywork, Blackjack was
teaching GM how to build a whole
new kind of Corvette.
With the mid-engine Corvette
finally upon us, I kept thinking
about that first rough-hewn test
car, which was caught by a spy
photographer soon after I drove
the Z06. What happened since
then? And how did we get from
that freaky one-off development
car to a production Corvette? I
asked GM whether they still had
Blackjack and any other vehicles
from the development pipeline—
physical snapshots of where
they were years ago, cars that
show what kind of obstacles they
overcame on the way to the pol-
ished end product. In the case of
a normal mass-market car, GM
probably wouldn’t have retained
a fossil record of its development.
But the mid-engine design is the
biggest deal since the Corvette got
a V8 in 1955, so GM had the fore-
sight to keep some development
cars around. They agreed to con-
vene four of those cars and four
key engineers in one room so we
could retrace the path that led to
the 2020 C8 Corvette.
Blackjack is the oddball. Three
of the Corvettes in the garage at
GM’s Milford Proving Grounds
look reasonably Corvette-like,
inasmuch as I can judge their
appearance through various
degrees of camouf lage. But Black-
jack wears a pugnacious Holden
front end grafted to a C7 cabin
that leads to the suggestion of a
pickup bed. The bizarre aesthetic
points to the first challenge for
the team, which was keeping the
damn thing a secret. “Before,
we could disguise development
work by tweaking a current car,”
says Juechter. “You can’t do that
with mid-engine proportions, so
we decided to make it look like a


half years ago, I drove
the then-new Cor-
vette Z06 at a track
in Nevada. With
650 horsepower, the
Z06’s rear tires strug-
gled to cope with a
firestorm of torque dispatched by
the massive V8 sitting out ahead
of the cockpit. For all its superla-
tive capabilities, the Z06 needed
more traction, more weight on the
rear end. I told Tadge Juechter,
Corvette executive chief engineer,
“I think to do any better than
this, you need to go mid-engine.”
He assumed a look of weary
annoyance and replied, “Yeah,
that’s what everyone keeps telling
me.” Which, you’ll note, was not a
Juechter had a good poker face,
because back in Michigan, he and
a team of engineers had been
working on such a car since 2013.
Disguised to look like a mutant
Australian pickup truck, it was



18 September 2019