When this low-roofed, mid-engined, V-8–powered Chevy thing thundered into view at the 24th annual Rolling Sculpture car show, held in our hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, we just knew we’d been had. Could this be the Corvette engineering team’s rejoinder to our years of stalking the next-generation mid-engined C8 Corvette? Payback for our incessant needling and nagging for inside info on the future supercar? A raised-middle-finger riposte to our tenacious spy photogs who’ve done everything but breaking and entering the General Motors proving ground to get a shot of C8 prototypes? Was the Corvette group counter-taunting us by brazenly entering one of their development mules in a car show taking place in our very backyard? Consider the evidence.
Joe Romeo, who accompanied the outrageous Chevy “truck,” claimed that he does not work at General Motors and that he has no association whatsoever with the Corvette development team. Sure, Mr. Romeo. (Is that even his real name?) Joe also attempted to convince us that he and his father, not GM Engineering, built the vehicle back in 1986 on a tiny budget starting with a 1983 C20 pickup-truck body and “stuff we had lying around our shop.”
Oh, sure. That explains its sophisticated coil-over suspension, automatic rear transaxle, and thumping mid-mounted Chevy V-8-mechanicals that virtually describe the new C8-right? No it does not. Car companies routinely make their development mules look like something entirely different, so they can drive them in plain sight knowing nobody will suspect what’s underneath.
Okay, so the engine sitting behind the passenger cabin is an old-school 396-cubic-inch Chevy big-block topped with twin four-barrel carburetors on a tunnel-ram manifold and blasting its exhaust through open headers-and, yes, production C8s will spit their fire from several quite different, smaller V-8s. But development mules never have all the production-car pieces. Hell, Joe, your truck is painted the same shade of blue as our long-term 2017 Corvette Grand Sport. Where’d that paint come from? Your truck even has Corvette taillights! Admit it: This thing lives in GM’s Building 104 development garage, where C8 Corvette mules are fed and watered.
No matter how hard we probed, Joe just looked at us and smiled knowingly. In any case, whether this is a true mid-engined Corvette prototype or actually is the creation of Joe and his dad, we appreciate whoever was behind bringing it to Rolling Sculpture. Every year, we scour the show for the most noteworthy vehicle on which to bestow our Editors’ Choice award-and this was definitely it for 2018. (Last year we chose a time-capsule 1983 Mercury Lynx.)
In an eclectic field of roughly 280 vehicles that included everything from a 1932 Ford highboy roadster hot rod to a 1970 Toyota Land Cruiser to a 1956 Dodge La Femme, this truck was the big dog. There was a crowd around it all day, and Joe delighted the multitudes by firing up the bellowing big-block V-8 again and again. Further cementing Joe’s bond with the locals-and a number of us from the office-was the truck’s maize-and-blue paint scheme, which pays homage to the colors of the University of Michigan, our hometown school.
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So, Joe, even though you may be a plant from the Corvette team, there’s no question that your truck was the most outrageous vehicle at the show. That alone is enough for it to earn our Editors’ Choice award. But we also honor your concise explanation of how the truck came to be. It was, you revealed with a grin, “the result of too much drinking.” Geez, Joe, we hope you don’t get fired from GM for saying that.