Back in the 70s, GM was looking to take its much beloved Corvette to the next level. The General charged John DeLorean with investigating the possibility of putting a mid-engine rotary under hood, and the 1973 GM XP897 was the culmination of his efforts. The steel-bodied Vette was built atop a Porsche 914 chassis, and GM poured millions into R&D. The problem was that the Rotary engine was just as thirsty as America's much loved V8, and it was an emissions failure. GM deemed the XP897 a lost cause, and the Pantera look-alike was relegated to an eternal parking spot on the 10th story roof-top of the Vauxhall design building.
Luckily for Corvette lovers everywhere, Englishman and Corvette historian Tom Falconer went out of his way to save the car he loved. Falconer received a phone call from former one-time Jaguar design chief Geoff Lawson about a steel-bodied Vette that was about to meet its maker. To save the XP897, Falconer flew to Detroit to beg GM execs to let him keep the Vette for his own. Luckily for history, Falconer succeeded, and to this day the mid-engine Rotary Vette sits in his Snodland, Kent museum. Since Falconer received the vehicle without its engine, it currently draws power from a Mazda 13B two rotor engine mated to a front-drive auto from Cadillac. With the recent unveiling of the 2009 Corvette ZR1, we see just how far the Vette has come since 1973. but the mid-engine debate still rages on. Can and will GM one day succeed where it failed 35 years ago? As long as the General keeps pouring money into the Corvette, we're all for taking chances.
[Source: Telegraph via Winding Road]