MCACN 2011: Mid America’s Prototype C5 Corvettes
by Keith Cornett
It’s not very often that we get to take an up close and personal look at a prototype Corvette. Most all of them are either crushed or destroyed during development by GM although a few of them have slipped out the door in the past. Mid America Motorworks brought three rare C5 prototypes to the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals last weekend in Chicago. We poured over them a couple of times throughout the weekend and you can too after the jump.
Nestled among the gleaming show cars of MCACN, Mid America had their C5 prototypes still wearing the battle scars of their pasts. Representing the C5’s development were the CERV-IVb, an Alpha phase mule, and a Beta phase Mule. The CERV is the oldest of the trio and the most interesting. More on that one a little later. The Alpha and Beta cars are much more familiar to us as they more closely represent what ended up going into production.
The evolution in design is readily apparent between each of the models. Each car is covered with various labels identifying the cars and giving different warnings to would-be pilots. Gaps are uneven and many of the parts are crudely put together. The CERV is basically a modified C4. The Alpha car is rough and clearly a first attempt at a C5. The Beta car is much more evolved but still an obvious pre-production model. The Alpha and Beta cars both still wear their camouflage over the production bodywork. Hookups for data acquisition systems still reside under the hood and at other locations around each car.
We found ourselves most intrigued by the CERV-IVb. From a distance it looks pretty much like a regular C4 that’s led a long life. Once you get closer to it you notice several things that make it much more than a 4th generation Corvette. Thanks to the black paint and our low buck camera (we’ve asked Santa to bring us a new one), it may be hard to pick some of the C5 items on the C4. First, there’s the trunk door in the rear deck. When looking at the car from the rear you’ll notice that the haunches are wider, resembling those of a ZR-1. Look low on the rear end and you’ll see that the traditional C4 exhaust
cutouts are filled in and the exhaust now exits in the center of the car. There’s also the driver’s side mounted gas filler. Those with a keen eye will notice the lengthened wheelbase. Take a look at the distance between the rear of the doors and the rear wheel. It’s a good 4 or so inches longer than the standard C4. Upfront there’s the big open mouth below front bumper. Inside, the interior is a handmade cabin meant to propose what was to be next for Corvette. The gauge cluster looks to be from a late 90’s Camaro. Again the wounds from development and testing are evident all over the CERV-IVb.
All 3 cars are a fantastic glimpse into Corvette history. These are usually the cars we only see photos of and hear GM engineers tell is about. The trio now lives in the MY Garage collection at Mid America Motorworks. If you get the chance to see them in person take some time to study the nuances and see how much you recognize from the production C5’s in these prototypes.