On this day in 1968 the annual New York International Auto Show opened its doors to the public. Among the most unique vehicles to debut at the show was the Astro II, the first true mid-engine Corvette prototype, internally known as the XP-880. The father of the Corvette, Zora Arkus-Duntov, designed the car hoping to create a production model that could compete with the European sports cars of the time. He was shut down, winning only the consolation of debuting the hard fought project car at the auto show. Today, the 2020 Corvette can trace its lineage to this concept.
While some may argue that 1964 Corvette XP-819 concept is the forefather of the modern mid-engine Vette, this simply isn’t the case. This car was actually a rear engine vehicle that featured a marine engine poking out behind the rear wheels. Built against the wishes of Arkus-Duntov, the XP-819 proved to be a flop.
The Astro II featured a 427 cubic inch V8 tucked behind the drivers seat and production Camaro and Corvette suspension components. Arkus-Duntov believed he had a winner on his hands with the Astro II, but because Chevrolet was having no problems unloading front engine Vettes, messing with the vehicle’s existing success was out of the question. Though a trail of mid-engine Corvettes would follow, they wouldn’t see the production line until 2020.
Body images via Kyle Smith at Hagerty.com. Cover image from autowise.com