Q&Auto: Tom Peters, Corvette designer

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Brawny, bold, and brash, the Corvette is the iconic American sports car. When Chevy debuts a new design, the car has the presence of a rock star. Men's knees buckle. Women swoon. Yet its lead designer, Tom Peters, is an unassuming, soft-spoken man who you would probably walk past at a fancy cafe as if he were any other patron.

Which is how I first encountered Peters, 59, in Palm Springs, Calif., this winter at the unveiling of Corvette's new convertible. Thin and bespectacled, with a chin of grizzled whiskers that matches his balding pate, Peters sat alone studying a menu. Just a week into my new gig as Detroit News auto critic, I had to aska table-full of colleagues to identify him.

Peters (officially Chevy's director of full-size truck and performance car exterior design) is as modest in demeanor as he is in appearance. There is no braggadocio. No bling. No hiding behind dark sunglasses. But when he talks cars, he is passionate and precise. I interviewed him about his latest prodigy, the 2014 Corvette C7.

HP: Let me start with the question that every motorhead asks every time we get a Corvette redo. Why stick with the front engine architecture as opposed to going mid-engine?

Peters: In addition to the balanced platform from a performance standpoint, there is usability: Where the passenger sits, the ability of getting in and out, and the usable storage space in the rear. I think it has become a kind of a brand key and a level of expectation for the Corvette customer. There’s something about a V-8 with a front location with the proportional fenders, that I like to refer to as a fire canopy on a fuselage. It's part of Corvette's DNA.

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