What Is a Mid-Engine Car?
Mid-engine cars have had their periods of popularity through the years, each followed by a valley of decline. Most recently the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette sports car sparked a renewed interest in these types of cars because, after 66 years and seven generations with the engine in front of the driver and passenger, the current eighth-generation Corvette has the engine positioned behind them. In the classic mid-engine car, the engine sits between the front and rear axles, which is exactly where it is in the newest Corvette, and the driver and passengers sit ahead of the engine.
Some of the earliest cars built used that configuration, in part because it was the easiest to assemble based on the rudimentary engines and mechanical components available at that time. For example, the famous Curved Dash Oldsmobile and the original Ford Model A (1903) were mid-engine cars, although in both vehicles the driver sat above the engine, not in front of it. Later Fords, Oldsmobiles and virtually all mainstream cars of the succeeding 70 years adopted what came to be the conventional front-engine layout, most with the engine driving the rear wheels via a driveshaft and a rear differential. Another shift came about 40 years ago when most front-engine cars switched to front-wheel-drive.