If Chevrolet product planners in Detroit want to know what they are facing in trying to lure younger buyers into the Corvette, all they need to do is look some 386 miles to the west to 3700 W. Juneau Ave. in Milwaukee.
That’s where Harley-Davidson lives. The famed maker of V-twin-powered motorcycles is as much a part of the fabric of American transportation culture as Chevrolet -- both companies are more than a century old, and both are searching for younger buyers.
Harley kick-started its youth effort 15 years ago with the V-Rod, its first motorcycle powered by a water-cooled, overhead-cam engine. To add to the V-Rod’s cool factor, Harley called in Porsche to help design the new engine. The stylish V-Rod, still in production and marketed as the Night Rod, was a complete break from Harley’s past, an effort to lure younger riders who were buying Honda, Triumph and Kawasaki sport bikes.
If you’ve been paying attention to the Detroit rumor mill this summer, you know Chevrolet is contemplating a move with the Corvette every bit as radical as Harley’s V-Rod.
Word on the street here has Chevrolet tearing up the next-generation Corvette and planting the engine behind the driver, making the eighth iteration of America’s sports car midengined for the first time. It could be in production by 2019. Putting the engine behind the driver has advantages that could see the Corvette’s weight go down, its handling performance go up, its 0-to-60 time drop and its appeal to tech-savvy buyers expand.
Such a move would be as radical a transformation for the Corvette -- which was born in 1953 with its engine in the front driving the rear wheels and has stayed that way ever since -- as Harley-Davidson building a motorcycle with a water-cooled, overhead-cam engine.