Hooniverse Asks: If Chevy Dusted Off the 1973 Wankel Corvette—and Gave it a V6—Would it Sell?

As you may or may not know, back in the 1970s General Motors had a dalliance with the Wankel engine. The company was so sure that they were going to join the legion of those who didn’t know the words but could hum the tune that they assured AMC that they could source GM’s rotary engine for their new car, the Pacer. GM also planned to supplant—or at least supplement—the V8-powered Corvette with a mid-engined rotary sportster. The future was so bright they needed shades.
Alas for both company’s fortunes it would not come to pass, and both the AMC Pacer and Chevy Corvette were denied the rotary’s benefits… and its detriments. Along the way however, Chevy produced a pair of mid-engined, Wankel-powered prototypes that made the show circuit, if sadly not the sales floor. The first was the XP-897GT, which was built on a modified Porsche 914 chassis with a GM-designed body crafted in Italy by Pininfarina. The 180-bhp transversely mounted 2-rotar engine drove an automatic transaxle that would eventually see the light of day… in the X-body Chevrolet Citation.
The second version was the 1974  XP-895, a show car with doors that predate the Tesla Model X’s seagull wings by decades and an engine made up of two of GM’s prototype GMRCE (General Motors Rotary Combustion Engine) rotary engines. It was perhaps too wild in its day, and maybe even by modern standards to make production, but what about the XP-897GT? I mean, just look at it up there! Do you think that the design of that 1973 car, when mated to, say the V6 engine out of the Camaro, could be a successful addition to the Corvette family? Would the world applaud a mid-engine V6 Corvette with such classic styling? Or would they ignore it?
Image: GM Heritage

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25 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: If Chevy Dusted Off the 1973 Wankel Corvette—and Gave it a V6—Would it Sell?”

  1. 0A5599 Avatar

    Chevy wouldn’t dilute the Corvette brand that way, but a Chevy Fiero II might work.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      They did a fair bit of dilution with the Corvette Twin Rotor showcar.
      It is based on an actual Porsche 914 Steel monocoque and suspension, with the body made in Italy out of steel and as three speed auto transaxle only. And for a while now has had a Mazda rotary engine fitted as the original GM engine isn’t available.
      It is no wonder that it lives in the UK, as a Porsche based, Italian made, Steel bodied, Japanese enginned, automatic trans only, Corvette in the ‘States would severely unbalance ‘The Force’.

  2. P161911 Avatar

    Don’t call it a Corvette unless that V-6 has twin turbos, even then a Corvette should have a V-8.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        The Corvette would have been dead by 1955 if they hadn’t put a V-8 in it. And yes, my 1977 Corvette is white with a red interior.

        1. Maymar Avatar

          Not that I’m hellbound on a V6 Corvette existing, but the V8 wasn’t exactly for the sake of being a V8, but because that’s how American cars mostly made power at the time. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say a 283/327/305 in base tune is roughly equivalent to the naturally aspirated 3.6 today (considering the base 327 in both early C2 Corvettes and their contemporary Impalas both made 250hp). Furthermore, the Camaro 1LE is within spitting distance of the C5 Corvette on paper.
          Of course, realistically, the Camaro renders the market for any other sub-Corvette performance car irrelevant.

          1. P161911 Avatar

            Ford went down the road of “American Performance Car” without a V-8 in the 1980s/early 1990s with the Mustang SVO and the Thunderbird S/C. Both were quickly supplemented or replaced by V-8 models. When the MN-12 debuted, there was no V-8. After a year or two Ford was forced to stuff a 5.0 under the hood, even if it didn’t really fit and lost some power due to smushed intake and exhaust. I don’t have a problem with a non V-8 American performance car, but the sad reality is that they don’t sell. I loved my T-Bird S/C and even liked my Buick Regal Turbo (pre T-type).

          2. boxdin Avatar

            And just last week Ford dropped the 6 cyl Mustang. V8s only from now on.

  3. Maymar Avatar

    The people who buy Corvettes would likely largely hate it because it’s not a V8 (or there’d be a lot of comments about how it’s nice GM made something “for the wife”). Yes, I know there’s a small group of buyers who just want the best bang for the buck they can get, but they’re not the ones keeping the Corvette alive.
    The majority who are okay with six-cylinder sports cars probably want imports. For an example, see the success of the ATS-V.
    Now, if they could sell it in the mid-$20k price bracket, it could sell (see Solstice/Sky) well enough for the class, but that price pretty much demands a four.

  4. CraigSu Avatar

    A mid-engine V-6 variant of the Corvette would be akin to the Porsche Cayman vs the 911. I think it would work personally, but then I prefer the Cayman to the 911 anyway.

  5. Peter Tanshanomi Avatar

    No, because I’m betting that body construction couldn’t be made street-legal and/or corporate lawyer-approved nowadays.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      Probably wouldn’t meet the European pedestrian impact standards.

    2. Batshitbox Avatar

      Exactly. I’m looking at that pic and mentally moving the door beltline up to Camaro heights (side impact air bags), straightening that A-pillar while also quadrupling its girth (rollover strength), sloping out that windshield even more (fuel efficiency), smearing those sealed beams out around the corners (ibid, god forbid a ‘Vette should have pop-ups!)
      Yeah, what I’m seeing doesn’t say Corvette.

  6. P161911 Avatar

    A Chevy with a 6 cylinder behind the passengers, that’s a Corvair!

  7. Alff Avatar

    No, the world no longer lusts after a sexier Chevy Monza.

  8. Sjalabais Avatar

    It looks terrific, I even like the wheels a lot. They needn’t be gold though. And in any case, can’t see myself putting a GM product in my driveway. There’s never a short answer, is there?

  9. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    Front end really looks like the BMW Z1. I always liked the Wankvette, which is how it would have been marketed in the UK

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      Named after the likely buyers, like the Harley Fat Boy?

  10. JBsC6 Avatar

    Put a v8 in the engine bay. Light compact and powerful. We don’t need dohc v6 engines for any reason. JMO

  11. Lokki Avatar

    Corvette is in the Harley trap -change it too much and you lose your base; don’t change it and you die off as your customer base does.
    I would probably not sell it as a Corvette but as, say The Banshee next to the Corvette and then phase out which ever model didn’t sell. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b25aab5ed3b633891e59aa125c808a3c7d3349c81e234aa30581d492599c5670.jpg

  12. boxdin Avatar

    This was 10 yrs before the Fiero. GM has always wanted a lower end sports car but the corvette lobby insists GM has only one sports car !

  13. crank_case Avatar

    Mid engined V6? Nah, GM should make something even lighter, with a turbo ecotec 4 cylinder. Oh wait, they did! (well Lotus did on their behalf)