Artwork by Kip Wasenko, Tom Covert, and Others
This lithe concept mounted a 180-horse Wankel transversely, driving a new automatic transaxle being developed for the forthcoming X-body Citation. Designed by GM’s Experimental Studio and built on a modified Porsche 914 chassis by Pininfarina, the 2-Rotor made its debut at the 1973 Frankfurt show.
Mitchell had the car crushed.
Ron Will recalls this about the car: “Bill Mitchell absolutely hated the 2-Rotor and was very verbal about it calling it all kinds of nasty four letter words. I think he hated it because it was not his Corvette image of a big powerful sports car. Plus he had no input in the design. He also hated Porsches and thought this was in the Porsche class of Sports cars. Not long after it was shipped to the U.S. for review, I believe Mitchell had it crushed. He didn’t want anyone to get the idea that this could ever be a Corvette. That’s why you don’t see it at any of the retro show car gatherings.”
Or did he?
This is from Remarkable Corvettes: Tom Falconer now owns this little Corvette. That story began with a strange phone call from Tom’s friend, Geoff Lawson, the late Jaguar design chief, who in 1982 was head of styling at Bedford Trucks in Luton. He called to tell that the next day they were going to crush a Corvette that had a steel body. Tom instantly knew that this was no ordinary Corvette but the mythical two-rotor show car, supposedly lost in a fire in California in 1977.
Having begged Lawson not to crush the car straight away, Tom rang the head of GM styling, Chuck Jordan, who he had come to know while writing a book about the Cadillac Seville, and a meeting was arranged at the GM Tech Center in Detroit to discuss the future of the orphan prototype. Jordan soon explained the reason for the two-rotor Corvette’s death sentence: it was a shameful embarrassment, a painful reminder of the expensive Wankel interlude and an ideological dead end; no Corvette, as far as he was concerned, would ever have a steel body or a mid-mounted engine.
Tom pleaded for the car’s life and convinced Jordan that he should be allowed to take it into protective custody. Since 1997 it has been fitted with a Mazda 13B rotary unit (much more in the spirit of the original concept) matched to a Cadillac front-wheel drive automatic gearbox so that everything lines up. With a respray in its original Candy Apple red (the paint in the door shuts is original), Tom “relaunched” the two-rotor at the National Corvette Restorers’ Society Flight 2000 event six years ago. “I quite often get Americans coming in wanting to see it; they can’t believe it’s here,” he says.
American Racing Vector Wheels
I remember Tom Covert telling me that he designed the wheels for the 2-Rotor Corvette, and that American Racing Wheels copied or perhaps was involved in the tooling for the prototype wheels and decided to put them into production as the American Racing Vector. I don’t know the actual story.
Thanks to Wayne Ellwood of Corvette Articles and Photos, Kip Wasenko, and General Motors Corporation for the photos.