Mosler MT900 - The C5 Zora Really Wanted

Trackside At Daytona With The Mosler MT900 And A Slew Of Privateer C5 Racers

Vemp_0106_01_z Mosler_mt900 Chevy 2/1

This, the Mosler MT900, is a real Corvette. It just happens to be built by Warren Mosler, and not GM. If you spend any time at all talking to GM engineers they'd tell you that this is the Corvette that Zora Arkus-Duntov really wanted to build. The only problem was that the financial people at GM just couldn't make the numbers work for a mid-engine exotic sports car. When your business model calls for 30,000+ units a year it's far better to head towards the Lexus end of the sports car spectrum than the exotic end of that curve.

When the C5 Corvette was being developed, Zora sent a series of letters to the Corvette engineers telling them how they were going down the wrong path. He felt the new C5 Corvette was too conventional. He firmly believed that his old team, what was left of it, wasn't pushing the envelope far enough. It always upset Duntov that the new C5 was too conventional.

I remember listening to Dave McLellan explaining how the only direction for the Corvette was a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive car. This was very early in the development of the C5. As he explained why the conventional route was going to be pursued, it was almost as if he was talking to Duntov, not the audience, as though he felt the need to explain himself to his mentor. Duntov seemed to have that sort of power on people.

While a group of us stood around looking at the brand new Mosler MT900 on a balmy winter day in Sebring Florida, an executive type from GM observed, "This is the sort of car that Duntov always had in mind for the Corvette." After watching the Corvette fans at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, I would also say that all of the Corvette owners there felt the same lure of the exotic Corvette that GM really couldn't build.

This Corvette connection becomes even more interesting when you realize that a former member of the C5 design team was responsible for the MT900. Rod Trenne was a junior member of the C5 design team. For weeks on end Trenne would hang around the office at night playing with and working on the newly purchased Unigraphics Solutions software system. It was almost as if the ghost of Zora was sitting beside him urging him to design an exotic Corvette. This spirit wanted a mid-engine Corvette and Trenne was his pupil. It all really began when the Corvette engineering group purchased a Consulier from the Mosler group in Florida. Trenne knew he had found his dream-Ferrari F50 performance with Chevrolet parts. There was only one problem-it was really ugly. Trenne was so impressed with the performance of this ZR-1 powered car that he wrote a letter to Warren Mosler proposing that Mosler hire him to design a new car. This was in 1995-two years before the new C5 would be introduced to the public.

Trenne felt that Warren Mosler built great cars-they were just too ugly. He explained to Mosler that he could design a visual package that would do justice to Mosler's engineering package. As a hardcore Corvette guy you know that Warren Mosler was also hearing the voice of Duntov.

The C5 design was benchmarked against the Lexus. Duntov, and a lot of the older engineers, wanted to benchmark it against the Ferrari. There has always been this siren call for an exotic Corvette. GM has more engineering talent in one hallway than most exotic car firms have in their whole enterprise, and Corvette engineers have driven every exotic car on this planet. They know that they could build a better car-if the beancounters would let them.

By the mid '90s it became obvious that GM was never going to create an exotic Corvette. Ron Trenne was young and still believed in the dream, and knew this dream wasn't about to happen at GM. It was time to pack up and move on.

Trenne sent Mosler a huge package of detailed styling studies for the new car. Warren Mosler is not one given to indecision. He got back to Trenne with a "Let's do it." Thus was born the Mosler/Trenne 900-or the MT900.


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