First mid-engined Corvette becomes first folding-hardtop Corvette for good measure

Chevrolet has officially launched the production-spec Corvette Convertible, at an event in Cape Canaveral. The eighth-generation Corvette (C8) represents a generation of firsts for the legendary American sports car, and the drop-top version continues in this vein, by using a folding hardtop for the first time in the car’s 66-year history.

Corvette’s C8 Convertible debuted at a launch event in Cape Canaveral

Corvette’s C8 Convertible debuted at a launch event in Cape Canaveral

Chevrolet said in a statement that the C8 “was engineered first and foremost as a convertible,” and that they chose a folding hardtop, here made of “sheet-moulded composite”, for this edition to maintain the cabin quietness and smooth look of the coupé (which itself has a lift-out panel in the roof anyway). As such, they have managed to keep the side profile exactly the same on both versions.

The storage capacity is also equal on both versions, which will be a boon to Floridian golfers. The roof mechanism itself is powered by six electric motors, takes around 16 seconds to flip it up or down, and can be used at up to 30mph. It apparently adds less than 80lbs (~35kg) of extra weight, too. Corvette engineers tweaked the chassis to account for the weight differences.

Viewed from behind or above, the design changes start to appear. As is often the case with mid-engine convertibles, the rear deck and large vented tonneau is largely flat, with two jet-inspired buttresses – or ‘nacelles’ – tapering down from behind the seats’ headrests. These can be blacked-out, along with the roof, as an optional extra. The tonneau, made of composite, lifts up to reveal or stow away the roof, and no longer allows you to peer through glass at the 500-horsepower V8 engine like the coupé does. A small, vertical rear window can be lowered separately to manage air through or out of the cabin… and to better listen to that engine.

The Corvette Convertible will enter production before the end of the year, for $7500 more than the equivalent coupé version.

As well as launching the Convertible, a fun surprise popped up: the C8.R racing car. It replaces the thunderous C7.R that raced in the World Endurance LM-GTE and IMSA GTLM categories from 2014 to the end of 2019 and achieved class victories in prestigious events at Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring. A mid-engine layout seems to be the way to go in those categories at the moment, and we wonder if this also informed their decision to go that route with the C8 road car, upon which the racecar has to be based.

Corvette Racing, the USA’s most successful racing team of all (by total race wins), has worked alongside General Motors’ design, propulsion and engineering departments to create the C8.R, which will enter its first event at the Daytona 24 Hours in mid-January, next year. Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president of Performance and Motorsports, commented: “The collaboration between these teams has allowed us to take these vehicles’ performance to the next level, both on the street and the track.”

The new silver-with-yellow livery is inspired by the 1959 Corvette Stingray Racer and 1973 Aerovette concept cars – but Corvette Racing will also field a car in an inverted colour scheme with the traditional bright yellow making it easy to spot. We imagine the C8.R will also be quite loud.