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Pontiac - Due to the 40-day UAW strike, production of the much-anticipated mid-engine Corvette C8 will be delayed from December until late February, General Motors confirmed Wednesday. That means customer deliveries likely will start in early March.

Patient buyers will get the most capable Corvette ever, with a long list of firsts.

Chevrolet says the made-in-the-USA $59,999 supercar will rocket from 0-60 mph in just 2.9 seconds when equipped with the $5,000 Z51 performance package. That makes it the first sub-3-second entry-level Corvette in history.

That number is quicker than the last-generation front-engine, $80,000 Z06 performance model that boasted 650 horsepower, even though the C8 Z51 is rated at only 495 horses. (The base 490-horse C8 with no Z51 trimmings will hit 60 in 3 seconds flat.) Chevy says both C8 versions will trip the quarter-mile in just 11.2 seconds.

Passersby will get an eyeful of the all-new 6.2-liter V-8 LT2 engine responsible for these jaw-dropping numbers: It will be the first Corvette to ever show its engine under glass. Corvette's design team was deeply involved in designing the engine cover, valve covers and exhaust heat shields because — like a mid-engine, $250,000 Ferrari — the top of the engine will be on full display amidships.

"The engine is a showpiece," said assistant LT2 chief engineer Mike Kociba at a deep dive into the Corvette’s oily bits at GM Performance and Racing Center. "It's the jewel in the ring setting. When the design team came to us, we were flattered that they wanted to show it off."

The mid-engine layout gives the Corvette fundamental handling and package advantages over the traditional front-engine layout, leading to numerous Corvette firsts.

The LT2 powerplant, which succeeds the LT1 used in the front-engine 'Vette, is the first base Corvette mill to use a so-called dry sump lubrication system. That system is common on race cars to avoid oil starvation when the car is at high side G-loads. The technology was driven by the mid-engine car's handling capabilities that can exceed 1 G. Kociba says the engine is capable of 1.25-G loads in every direction.

“We designed this engine so that you could do full loops with it without losing oil pressure,” said LT2 chief engineer Jordan Lee.

With the engine behind the driver – unencumbered by demands that the driver be able to see over it – engineers designed taller intake manifolds for better air flow. The added height also allowed Tom Peters' exterior design team to dress up the engine with a Stingray logo, ribbed engine cover and bright-red valve covers that can be admired from outside the car.

The engine cover — black on the entry model — can be optioned in red and silver as well. Look for after-market companies to show off variations for enthusiasts.

Powering the rear-wheel drive C8 to 0-60 mph times commonly associated with all-wheel drive 700-horse Lamborghinis required another Corvette first: a quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic transmission common to European exotics.

The dual-clutch transmission is the first mid-engine transaxle effort from veteran Chevy transmission supplier Tremec, and is built in Wixom.

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The versatile gearbox includes useful features like launch control and double-paddle declutch, which allows the driver to mimic a manual clutch pedal by holding down both steering-mounted shift paddles at once (useful for revving the engine for spectators while coasting down the Woodward Dream Cruise, for example).

Unlike the previous LT1, the LT2 has proved near bulletproof in GM’s development. The team blew only one engine as it pushed to meet the car’s performance benchmarks. To honor the engine’s achievements, GM President Mark Reuss asked that every engine feature a “pride badge” sticker on the valve cover to honor its production facility in Tonawanda, New York.

The sticker, too, can be seen through the rear deck glass.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at hpayne@detroitnews.com or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-2 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.

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