Even as far back as the 1960’s, there were rumors that the “next” Corvette would be mid-engined, in keeping with the developments at Ferrari, and what Ford was doing with the GT40. It, like so many other times, almost happened. Zora Arkus Duntov may not have gotten his brainchild into production, but was able to create a second iteration of the mid-engined Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle, or CERV II for short, in 1964.
Not many people are aware, but Duntov’s CERV II was four-wheel-drive, but even that was unconventional. An 11-inch Powerglide torque converter and clutchless two-speed manual gearbox can be found at the rear of the car, while a driveshaft extends to a second 10-inch Powerglide torque converter at the front of the car, with a second semi-automatic transmission. Over the course of its development, Chevrolet tried numerous torque split ratios and gears, with Duntov aiming for 35% of the power delivered to the front end at low speed and 40% at high speed.
Duvtov and company began to target the Ford GT40 in 1963 and 1964 as a direct racing competitor. But as fate would have it, the higher-ups at General Motors at the time declared that the company would not participate in racing. That didn’t stop the bootleg motorsports program of the original Corvette Grand Sport, but that’s a story for another day.
It is said that the CERV II could achieve speeds as high as 212 mph on the track, thanks to its 377 cubic-inch V8 engine pushing out a “conservatively rated” 550 horsepower. When the car was set up for a drag race, its 0-60 time was said to be as quick as 2.8 seconds.
The CERV II then received a 427 ZL-1 V8 engine in 1969, which was capable of 700 horsepower, and was believed to get the development vehicle to crest and incredible 221 mph and a 0-60 sprint of 2.5 seconds. It weighed just 1,848 pounds.
In 1970, GM mothballed the CERV II, and donated the vehicle to the Briggs Cunningham Automotive Museum in Costa Mesa, California shortly after. The museum closed in 1986, and the CERV II then found itself in the hands of private collectors.
The CERV II was then sold at an RM Sotheby’s auction in 2013 for $1.1 million. The buyer? Officially unclear, but as we see the vehicle proudly on display from Chevrolet during the 2019 Woodward Dream Cruise, it was likely General Motors itself.