Good for the Chevy Volt, ah, not so good for GM’s halo Corvette
When the Chevy Volt concept car came out at the North American International Auto Show in 2007 it was a genuine attention grabber. Even a died-in-wool Corvette fan like me said, “Hey, pretty cool!” Between the big diameter wheels, the chopped and channeled look, and the promise of 50-plus mpg, it looked like Detroit was serious about taking the lead away from the Toyota Prius.
But when the production Volt came out, enthusiasts said, “Ahh… Excuse us, but what happened?” Of course, fans of the Prius “larva school of styling” cheered, but were not electrified buy the Volt. And why would they? At over $40,000, the car cost $12,00 to $10,000 more than the Prius. It looks like a Malibu variant. The Malibu is a nice car, but it’s just a “nice” car. Even the Motor Trend Car of the year didn’t help the Volt. But by October 2011, the Volt was getting many buyers charged up with sales, as only 3,895 Volts had been shipped. GM had projected 10,000 Volts for ‘11.
In 2009 when GM was getting negative publicity because of its financial troubles, I received a few emails with images of the 1954 GM Motorama Concept Pontiac Bonneville Special, Buick Wildcat II, and Oldsmobile F-88. For 1954, these are very cool-looking cars and you can’t miss the Corvette connection. The basic message in the email was, “Look at what the Corvette could have been if GM hadn’t let Chevy have the design. These cars had bigger engines and were nicer cars. GM got it wrong.” To which I say, “Ah, no.”
To begin with, the Corvette came first. Harley Earl started his small sports car design in 1951. By the end of ‘52 the hand made XP-112 Corvette was ready for its debut at the ‘53 Motorama Show on January 17, 1953. The concept was a completely unproven and much to Earl’s delight, was very enthusiastically received. So the car was rushed into production with almost zero development. By June ‘53 the first of only 300 Corvettes was released. Compared to the 332,497 Chevy 210 Deluxe 4-door sedans sold in ‘53, 300 Corvettes almost doesn’t qualify as “production.”
But before the numbers came in, Pontiac, Buick, and Olds wanted to take their shots at the 2-seater sports car concept. But unlike the spartan Corvette, the other divisions went in the direction of the ‘50s – big and bold. All three cars were typical concept cars – over festooned, and not produceable at a reasonable cost. The Corvette, also a concept car, was much more realistic for production. Continue reading “1954 GM Motorama Concept Cars – Corvette Wannabees”→