However, Motor Trend has often seemed particularly adept at missing the mark. What’s more, it seems there are certain models that are more susceptible to exaggerated hype and expectations.
What do you think they were predicting for 1977 in this drawing?
Wow, were they mistaken
If you haven’t yet guessed what the subject car is, it’s a Corvette. Or, it’s supposed to be. Midway through 1975, Motor Trend’s Bob Hall wrote an article entitled, “The 1977 Corvette!” (Exclamation and all.)
But before I go any further, I want it stated that I have not altered the coloring of these pictures. Motor Trend’s conceptual artist (Harry Bradley) decided to do them in pink. With that clear, let’s take a look at what the magazine had readers hopelessly salivating for.
Keep in mind that the C3 (or, third-generation Corvette) had been introduced as a 1968 model year car. It had trudged on largely unchanged over those years and by 1975 enthusiasts were understandably anticipating a replacement at any time. After all, Chevy had been showing off some mid-engined concepts and the speculation was ripe.
However, amazingly Motor Trend kept their cool and was calling for this heir apparent C4 to be front-engined. In fact, they were predicting just a re-skinning. Well, a major re-skinning. They compared the “rejuvenation” to what the line had gone through from C2 to C3. Although, I’m not sure where the artist came up with the idea that Corvette’s taillights would be horizontal slats. Strange.
They did call one thing correctly, the rear glass would go from ‘sugar scoop’ to fastback-style glass. However, that didn’t occur until the year following their prediction, in 1978, when Corvette celebrated its 25th anniversary and enjoyed a mild refresh and new dash layout.
Motor Trend also forecast an engine that never saw the light of day in Corvette. A turbo V-8 engine. They did preface the prediction by saying it was merely being considered but was clear that it was more than a casual consideration.
There is one very interesting part to the story that, if true, sheds some light on some of the internal resistance to the seemingly perpetual idea of a mid-engined Corvette. Apparently a Motor Trend staff member was told by a Chevrolet engineer, “Suppose you own a company that makes one-dollar bills. The cost to print the bills is 50¢ including paper, ink, and labor. One day, one of your product planners comes to you with the idea of printing two-dollar notes. Think of it… instead of a 50 cents profit, you’d be making an easy $1.50 profit. After consulting with the accountants you see another view. It seems that after you take into account the cost of the new printing plates, and the conversion of the presses, it would cost you $1.50 to print the new two-dollar bills. That’s still only a 50 cents profit, and since there is still a great demand for the one-dollar bill, you fire the product planner, and keep on printing the ones. If you’re not an accountant, you can’t win. You can at best draw.”
A bit lengthy but very telling. The so-called bean counters were flexing their muscle and the rank-and-file knew it.
As we know, the 1977 model Corvette came and went without any noteworthy changes. No flashy new body. No turbo V-8 engine. As mentioned above, it was the 1978 model year that got the biggest changes inside and out until the 1984 C4 debuted.
One thing they almost got right was the end, or at least hiatus, of the convertible model Corvette. The article stated the word around the GM Design Center was that 1976 would mark the folding top’s last appearance. It was actually 1975 that closed out the option and started the soft-top-less 11-year run.
Nevertheless, Motor Trend’s artist prepared a drawing of what his expected Corvette would look like without a roof. Not bad. Not bad at all. (But ditch the horizontal tail lights.)
Continue below to the photo gallery which includes an image not shown above.