• Dec 26, 2007
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]


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  • 24 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      my biggest beaf with rotory engines is becase, like a friend of mine who pointed out on his rx7, explaining how powerful it was, how it could goto 9,000 rpms and how its horsepower for a tiny 1 liter something engine is, i think it sounded great untill he told me how much oil it goes through in a week, a qrt of oil a week? i'm sorry, my camry goes through half a qrt of oil in a couple of months, but 1 a week, thats rediculouse! and the fact they dont run very long in the high miles, you litterly have to rebuild the engine every 150k miles, and older rotorys cant just be fixed up because their spark plugs get drenched with fuel and blows a seal.
      • 7 Years Ago
      GM spent a fortune in the early 1970's on the rotary engine for production cars like the Chevrolet Monza and AMC's Pacer...

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevrolet_Monza

      Gleason Works in Rochester, NY made the rotary engine production machinery...

      http://books.google.com/books?id=1UOduBQ8f7IC&pg=PA116&lpg=PA116&dq=gleason+works+rotary+engine+machinery&source=web&ots=K2_XXYWaU5&sig=W-7kfpBIVvG1hqWD_8NYZi9NyUo
      • 7 Years Ago
      Looks like DeTomaso Pantera';s younger sibling with a GT 50 stance. There is a reason why this thing was stillborn.
      • 7 Years Ago
      You can definitely see the pacer. Haha. I kind of like it though.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Would love to see that 13B swapped out for a 3-rotor 20B from a Cosmo to make a proper big-block 'Vette.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Would love to see Mazda do a ultra-light-weight mid-engined rotary sports car.
      • 7 Years Ago
      As long as the 911 stays rear-engined, the Vette can stay front engined. They're not trying to compete with Ferrari here.
      Bryan Pope
      • 2 Years Ago
      This car was one of two Corvette concepts GM had at that time. The other was good too, slightly smaller and no rotary. I had a model of this one and that picture doesn't do it justice, it's a bad angle.
      • 5 Years Ago
      They chopped up a perfectly good 914-6 to build this? Sigh ...
      Fix
      • 3 Years Ago
      actually no the 13b does not use 1qrt a week... and how dare you even compare a sports car to your camary. sports cars in general consume more oil and fuel than ur measly family grocery getter. If oil consumption is a beef of yours... avoid all sports cars... you sound like a person that can't take care of them... on top of them being a reliable engine, granted if the owner is reliable. my RX7 is pushing over 224,567 miles on the original engine without a rebuild... the only repairs i've ever had to do was the occasional hoses, and tune ups, a fuel pump, a slave clynder for my clutch, etc. take note my car is over 25 years old.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I like the way it looks but it doesn't say Chevy to me. Looks like something a group of auto designers and engineers batted around at a convention. "What would we build if we were allowed to work together no matter what company we work for?"

      Speaking of Mazda and the Wankel Rotary, what ever happened to the "Miller Cycle" V6 idea that was in the old millenia?

      • 7 Years Ago
      The General charged John DeLorean with investigating the possibility of putting a mid-engine rotary under hood

      That's probably why the General's rotary-powered-Corvette program failed. They tried to build a mid-engine car but inadvertently put the engine "under the hood." ;)
        • 7 Years Ago
        No, no - put the engine behind the front axle, and it's a mid engine. Lots of front-engined cars today meet that definition.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I can see where my words could seem contradictory, but when a company has already spent millions with little results, it gets increasingly difficult for the company to keep investing in what has largely been a black hole. The fact is that the success of an R&D team is based on talent, money, persistance, and luck. Clearly, Mazda was the most persistent, and GM was not as much so. And as much money as GM threw into its rotary program, no amount of funds can make up for the talent of its engineers. I can't say for sure that Mazda's engineers were more talented, but it's a definite possibility.

      "Imagine if Mazda used one of their more powerful 4-cylinders. I’m sure the fuel economy would easily reach 30+."

      There is definitely an upside in putting the mazdaspeed engine in the RX-8, and frankly, I think that would make it one of the greatest cars of this decade, but one cannot know whether the significantly bigger 4-cylinder would ruin the perfect 50/50 weight distribution and driving dynamics of the RX-8.

      As far as reshaping the chambers goes, while the overall shape must remain the same, the center portion can be cut out, shown here:

      http://static.howstuffworks.com/gif/rotary-engine-rotor.jpg

      yes, it's likely a trade-off between combustion volume and compression ratio, but that shape can be optimized to improve efficiency.

      Lastly, another potential improvement can come from using 3 spark plugs per rotor. This would achieve a more complete burn than the current 2-spark system. Mazda has done a 3-spark engine for Le Mans, why not for the road?
        • 7 Years Ago
        damn, reply function didn't work.
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