XP-895 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette: One In A Series

XP-895 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette Prototype

In today’s blog post, we’re looking at the XP-895 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette Prototype. This prototype features a 400 cid small block V8 mounted transversely in a mid-engine position. You can read more about it here in this detailed overview. If you’re interested in learning more about this car, please read today’s blog post and share this with someone who loves Corvettes.

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The XP-895 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette was part of a series of experimental Corvettes exploring alternatives for engine placement and chassis layout.
The XP-895 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette was part of a series of experimental Corvettes exploring alternatives for engine placement and chassis layout. Photo GM Heritage Center
Two units of the experimental XP-895 were built. One had a steel body and the other an aluminum body. The aluminum-bodied unit was a joint project between GM and Reynolds Aluminum.
Two units of the experimental XP-895 were built. One had a steel body and the other an aluminum body. The aluminum-bodied unit was a joint project between GM and Reynolds Aluminum. Photo GM Heritage Center

The US has a long and rich history with the beloved Chevrolet Corvette. It’s one of America’s favorite muscle cars.

One unique Corvette from Chevy’s lineup was the XP-895 chassis. It was a sleek and attractive Corvette prototype.

Keep reading to learn more about the XP-895 Reynolds aluminum Corvette prototype.

The People Behind the XP-895 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette Prototype

XP-895 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette Prototype
XP-895 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette Prototype

Corvette has a reputation for building interesting concept cars. At one point, John Z DeLorean served as General Manager of Chevrolet. During that time, he kept his eyes open for innovations.

In 1973, management wanted to improve the XP-882 chassis prototype. Eventually, the XP-822 became the XP-895.

DeLorean gave Bill Mitchell’s design team the go-ahead to create a new body for an updated prototype. He wanted something rounder with large wheel flares. He also wanted a sugar scoop roof treatment and NACA hood ducts.

Zora Arkus Duntov

The XP-895 was one of several experimental prototypes. These prototypes were part of the Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle (CERV) program.

During that time, Zora Arkus Duntov was a staff engineer and designer for Chevy. He was also a racecar driver.

In 1959, Duntov started the development of CERV 1. GM revealed it as the first aluminum-bodied mid-engine sports car in 1960 at the Riverside International Raceway.

Harley Earl may have designed the Corvette. In fact, some fans dub him the Father of the Corvette. However, many other Corvette enthusiasts often give this title to Duntov.

Dave McLellan

Eventually, Duntov retired, and Dave McLellan took his place. In 1975, McLellan became the chief engineer of the second XP-895 Corvette.

At some point, McLellan reviewed Corvette’s past concept projects. He found out that the Reynolds aluminum XP-895 was drivable. As a result, he had it rebuilt.

A 400-cubic inch small block V-8 powered this latest iteration of the XP-895. McLellan mounted it transversely to a Turbo Hydramatic transmission using a bevel gearbox.

However, no one would have ever thought that 40 years later Corvette would mass-produce a C7 that rides on a super strong, all-aluminum chassis. They also wouldn’t have imagined that a mid-engine Corvette like the C8 would become a reality.

Reynolds Metals

Detroit-- The first all-aluminum bodied car, a Chevrolet Corvette study vehicle is being shown for the first time by the builder, Reynolds Metals Company, at the annual meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers here (Feb 25- Mar 1). The experimental car proved that an aluminum body is about 40 per cent lighter than steel while providing the same strength and saving about 400 pounds in the body alone. Photographer: Reynolds Metals Company
Detroit– The first all-aluminum bodied car, a Chevrolet Corvette study vehicle is being shown for the first time by the builder, Reynolds Metals Company, at the annual meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers here (Feb 25- Mar 1). The experimental car proved that an aluminum body is about 40 percent lighter than steel while providing the same strength and saving about 400 pounds in the body alone. Photographer: Reynolds Metals Company
XP-895 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette, all-aluminum body by Reynolds Metal Company - Press Photo
XP-895 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette, all-aluminum body by Reynolds Metal Company – Press Photo

Since 1957, Reynolds Metals had an agreement in place with GM. The company supplied aluminum alloy for Corvair engines.

It also supplied other specialty Corvette parts. These parts among other things include:

  • Bellhousings
  • Intake manifolds
  • Transmission cases
  • Water pumps

Reynolds Metals also supplied GM with 390 alloy with 17% silicone. GM used it for the ZL1 block, Vega engines, and L88 heads.

DeLorean contacted Reynolds in ‘72. He wanted the company to make a facsimile of the XP-895.

The XP-895 project was nearing completion. DeLorean wanted to see how much weight he could save by using aluminum instead of steel.

An Experiment in Aluminum Cars

The design of the XP-895 was very attractive. It strayed away from the Corvette look. It had a look closer to the Two-Rotor XP-987 GT mid-engine prototype.

However, GM made it with a steel body. It weighed close to 3,500 pounds. That was 100 pounds more than a production 1973 Corvette.

GM needed a lighter concept car. What they needed was something like the Reynolds Metals aluminum body car.

A Closer Look at the XP-895 Chassis

Reynolds Metals made the Corvette prototype using a special 2036-T4 aluminum alloy. Engineers could spot weld the alloy. They could also use an epoxy adhesive to complete the concept design.

In June 1972, Reynolds delivered the completed XP-895 chassis. Now, Chevy’s team was ready for the final assembly.

The idea was to make an exact copy of the steel version of the XP-895. Everything worked perfectly.

The Reynolds Metals aluminum Corvette prototype was nearly 45 percent lighter. In total, GM shaved a massive 450 pounds off the steel concept car by using aluminum.

The Challenges of an Aluminum Body

The final XP-895 was an incredible vehicle. However, there were two big problems with the design.

The first problem was it’s a big difference between making a handmade concept vehicle and a mass-production car. Still, the aluminum-alloy joining and forming techniques worked perfectly. This scenario played out much like the one two decades earlier when Chevy technicians figured out how to make a fiberglass body.

The other problem, however, was the massive production costs. No matter where GM produced the XP-895, it would cost more to build it compared to a steel version of the concept.

As a result, the XP-895 concept died. GM put it into storage. If you’re lucky, you might catch it on display at the Corvette Museum.

The XP-895 Reynolds Aluminum Corvette Concept

The XP-895 was a remarkable series of Corvette concept cars. It explored alternative engine placements and chassis layouts.

The final vehicle concept featured the 400-cubic inch small block V-8 mounted transversely and a mid-engine. It also kept the Turbo Hydramatic transmission and bevel gearbox.

The aluminum chassis demonstrated the feasibility of using this lightweight metal for vehicle design. In the end, however, economics closed this chapter in Corvette’s history.

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