A few years before his death in 1988, Mitchell has this to say about the C4 Corvette, “That square box is pretty near plastic… the instrument panel – Dracula’s dressing room… it rides like a truck… it isn’t a style car, it’s an machine car… engineers are running it. Earl would never let that – I would never let that happen, and I condemn the guys for it!” Read More
The first 1963 Corvette Sting Ray, The original American Idol – I call the Corvette the “The American Automotive Horatio Alger Story.” It’s the ultimate automotive rags-to-riches story. You could also call it an automotive Cinderella story. While the C6 has taken more flack than it deserves, it’s good to look back to the very beginning to get a really clear picture of how far the Corvette has come in 60 years. Today, new designs are market researched, but in the ‘50s, it was a seat-of-the-pants approach, driven by men with strong personalities. “Father” of the Corvette, Harley Earl, was the director of GM’s “Art and Color Section.” from 1927 to 1958. His successor, William L. Mitchell picked up the mantle and drove the Corvette where Earl never imagined. Read More
I call the Corvette the “The American Automotive Horatio Alger Story.” It’s the ultimate automotive rags-to-riches story. You could also call it an automotive Cinderella story. While the C6 has taken more flack than it deserves, it’s good to look back to the very beginning to get a really clear picture of how far the Corvette has come in 60 years.
Since we’re rolling into the C6’s final year and looking forward to the new 7th generation Vette, the next several installments of my VETTE Magazine monthly column looks back at the “first” of each generation Corvette. So, let’s go back to the beginning… Read More
Wouldn’t it have been awesome if General Motors had told the AMA to “stuff it” back in 1957? Why should Ford and Chrysler get all the racing glory? Just before the GM enforced the 1957 AMA ban on racing, paperwork had been submitted to take Duntov’s Corvette SS race car to Le Mans. And what might have happened if Zora had been allowed to fully develop the ‘63 Grand Sport. Ah, the stuff of bench racing.
I thought it was very cool that in 2010 Chevrolet touted the racing-developed parts and concepts that are now part of the C6 ZR1 Corvette with a very cool-looking 2-page poster magazine advertisement depicting a ‘10 ZR1 in the foreground and the all-out, ZR1 dressed C6.R Corvette race cars. The photo of the production ZR1 Corvette has number callouts that point out the racing derived elements of the ZR1. I say, “BRAVO Chevrolet!” for finally tooting your own horn about the potent C6.R Corvette race cars. Read More
Bill Mitchell and his design team cranked out an amazing number of concept and show cars through the ‘60s. The ‘69 Manta Ray was the end of the line for Mitchell’s shark theme that started in ‘61, and was somewhat overlooked for a time. Those were heady days between the new production Corvette, Chevy and other exciting muscle cars, and tremendous advances in all kinds of race cars. The Mako Shark-II-based Manta Ray was kind of, “been there, done that” by 1969. Designers often have concept ideas that they just want to try out in full size, and it seems that the Manta Ray was such a car. Read More
Dateline: 12.8.11 Cigar salesman, to Wall Street tycoon, to bowling alley manager? (Where did William Durant’s unusual middle name come from? Check out the PS at the bottom of this post. – Ed) The name “William Crapo Durant” has been making somewhat of a comeback as of late, thanks to the 100th anniversary celebration of… Read More
In the early days of the American car industry, there were hundreds of car companies, most of which have been long forgotten. Many of the brand names that are still with us were once shabby little enterprises. Even though it wasn’t the computer age, “business is business” and a feeding frenzy was going on. Car companies were buying up other car companies that were then bought up by bigger or more aggressive car companies. There’s always a bigger fish, right?
William Crapo Durant (yes, that was his middle name) worked out a deal to buy the Ford Motor Company for $2 Million in cash, plus an additional $4 Million paid out over three years, at 5-percent interest. Billy pitched the deal to his company’s board of directors on October 26, 1909 and they approved, IF he could get the financing. But the banks said, “NO!” It probably seemed way too risky with possible cost overruns, etc. Read More
Dateline: 10.21.11 Chuck Jordan – the last of the old guard GM designers. When car designer Chuck Jordan passed on December 9, 2010, it was the end of an era in automotive design. Jordan started working for GM in 1949 as a junior engineer and retired in 1992. During that time, he worked with all… Read More
While Cole was one of the top engineers of his day, he did not start out wanting to be in the car business. When he first started attending Grand Rapids Community College as a lad, he wanted to become a lawyer! But a part-time job in an auto parts supply store hooked him into cars. He enrolled in General Motors Institute and got his engineering degree and a job at GM. Cole and Harry Barr co-headed a team to design and develop the revolutionary 1949 Cadillac V8 engine. It was the Cadillac engine project that set Cole up to be the lead man on the Chevrolet small-block engine project. Just stop and reflect on what an enormous contribution to Chevrolets and racing the all-time classic Small-Block Chevy engine is. Read More
This week Chevrolet announced that the 100-millionth Small-block Chevy engine will be built sometime in Fall 2011 and will most likely be installed in a 2012 Corvette! So three cheers to Chevrolet. Hip, hip, HOORAY! Hip, hip, HOORAY! Hip, hip, HOORAY! Although the small-block Chevy engine was designed to be an efficient passenger car engine, the design’s simplicity and durability has been providing Chevy fans with some of the fiercest engines ever. SBCs have powered just about every kind of race car from Indy and Le Mans, to drag strips and dirt tracks all over America.
The icing on the cake for this milestone is that the 100 millionth SBS is likely to be installed in a 2012 Corvette. Which SBC will be the magic 100 millionth engine has not yet been announced. Check out the REST OF THE STORY! Read More
In retrospect, ‘09 can be best summed up with a Charles Dickens quote from his classic book, A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” 2009 should have been an awesome year for Corvettes. But it turned out to be the worst sales year since ’61. Sales went from 35,310 units in ‘08 to just 13,934 for ’09 – a 60-percent drop! Read More