Showing posts with label Chevrolet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chevrolet. Show all posts

Chevrolet Corvair

Chevrolet Corvair 1960s American classic car

Sadly, the Chevrolet Corvair did not deliver on its potential. That was down to the fact that it garnered a reputation for oversteer. Pro motoring whistle-blower Ralph Nader pounced all over the Corvair's alleged defects. They lay, he said, mainly in the handling department. Nader duly detailed them in his book Unsafe At Any Speed. This was a tract devoted to automotive health and safety. His words were diligently read by American drivers - and the Corvair's fate was sealed. A '64 revamp - with revised rear suspension - was a last-ditch attempt to rid the Chevy of its wild child image. It did not work.

Certainly, though, the Corvair got a tick in the box marked technical innovation. For a start, it featured a rear-mounted flat-six engine. Also, its suspension was fully independent. Throughout the Sixties, several versions of the Corvair were released. As well as a sporty coupé and stylish convertible, there was a turbo-charged model. The latter produced 180bhp. Which gave a top speed of 105mph.

Chevrolet designed the Corvair to take the fight to cheap European cars, flooding into US showrooms, at the time. It was marketed as 'compact' - though that was more by American than European metrics. Size-wise, it was similar to the British-made Ford Zephyr. Styling-wise, though, the Corvair's restrained lines were cut from distinctly European cloth. More so than most of its American siblings, anyway. Indeed, Chevrolet went so far as to dub the coupé version, the Monza. And, the Corvair would go on to influence the Hillman Imp and NSU Prinz. Over a million Corvairs were built. It should have been more. Those misgivings about handling never quite subsided. As a result, '64's Ford Mustang galloped ahead, in sales terms. So far as American automobiles were concerned, however, the Chevrolet Corvair blazed a perfectly-formed trail for European-style sophistication.

Chevrolet Camaro

Chevrolet Camaro 1970s American classic sports car

The Chevrolet Camaro was born out of necessity. Sales of the Ford Mustang were going through the roof. GM needed a fix for that - and fast! Rolling to the rescue came the Camaro. Key to its success was its 'Coke bottle' styling - by Bill Mitchell. The Z28, especially - with its duck-tail rear spoiler - rivalled the Mustang for glamour. GM was back on track. 220,000 Camaros were shifted - in the first year alone. Buyers had a choice of V6 or V8 engine - as well as a variety of tuning options. The most uncompromising package was the SS (Super Sport). Less extreme - and more popular - was the RS (Rallye Sport). These are now the most collectible Camaros.

The Seventies ushered in an all-new Camaro. It featured monocoque construction. The new model's looks may not have been as exotic as the original - but it still stacked up as a cohesive design. Crucially, it was slimmer than the new Mustangs. Sales of '70s Camaros peaked at close to 2,000,000. GM were happy bunnies again. Though down on power compared to the '60s versions, it was clear that Stateside motorists had taken the Camaro to their hearts. When a car starts to symbolise 'the American dream', things are definitely on the up!

They say competition improves the breed. The Camaro was a case in point. Had it not had the Mustang as a rival, it is unlikely the Camaro would have soared to the heights it did. In the end, it became a car which was difficult to fault. With a top-spec speed of 125mph, performance was sorted. Design-wise, it was out of the top drawer. In short, it got just about everything right. The Mustang, not so much. It rather lost its automotive mojo, over time. While the pony car developed a paunch, the Camaro kept a solid six-pack. Ultimately, of course, both were great American automobiles. Stone-cold classics of their muscle car kind. Some say the Chevrolet Camaro got it on points. If so, it was because it had more styling stamina in its tank, as the years went by.

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

Chevrolet Corvette Stingray 1960s American classic sports car

The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray was released in '63. 'Stingray' was a fitting name. For - in careless hands - the car could indeed unleash a fearsome sting, from its sweetly-shaped fastback tail. Its avant-garde fibreglass body made the Stingray a lot lighter than it looked. Its kerb weight was just 3,362lb. Combine that with 340bhp - from a small block high compression V8 - and the result was a powertrain that required respect. Even more so for the fuel-injected 360hp version - available as a $430 optional extra.

The Stingray's free-flowing form was inspired, in part, by Chevrolet's Mako Shark 1 'dream car'. Dream cars were just that. Conceptual exercises - on display at auto shows - they were never intended to traverse highways. Rather, their brief was to work buyers up into a fever-pitch of excitement. Their acme was the '50s. During that space-obsessed decade, sci-fi was the source of many a fantasy-drenched design prototype. Another GM car key to the Stingray's development was '57's Q-Corvette - designed by Bob McLean. The Stingray Special - Bill Mitchell's racing project - was also instrumental. Those machines fed into '59's XP-720 - a GM experimental model. From that, it was a short hop to the Stingray production car.

The Stingray was dubbed the 'Coke bottle' - on account of its hour-glass shape. Andy Warhol - who knew a thing or two about coke bottles - would have loved that. Designer Larry Shinoda refined those illustrious contours into something suitable for road use. Pete Brock was an able assistant. Bill Mitchell - head stylist at GM - owned a Jaguar E-Type. And that British-made sports car, too, was a clear influence on the Stingray. The latter, though, could only have been made in the US. American to its apple-pie core, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray summed up the States. On a sunny '60s day - with the convertible version's top down - driving must have seemed like the stuff of heaven!

Chevrolet Corvette Mako Shark 1

Chevrolet Corvette Mako Shark 1 1960s classic concept car

The Chevrolet Corvette Mako Shark 1 'dream car' was one of the most stunning conceits in automotive history. An exotic blend of muscle car styling and supercharged grunt, it paved the way for one of the most spellbinding roadsters ever made. The Corvette Stingray took low-slung chic to another level. A production car had seldom - if ever - looked so good.

A marine mammal provided design inspiration. William Mitchell - GM's chief stylist - went fishing, off Florida. His luck was in. After landing the catch, Mitchell was blown away by its beauty. He had caught a mako shark - a streamlined slab of predatory power. It was graced with to-die-for blue and white hues. Immediately, his design sensibilities kicked in. He saw a way to bring to the roads what had previously been confined to the deep. That short-fin shark was about to go global!

The Stingray 'Spider' was first of the breed. A racing test-bed, it was the high-revving base upon which the Mako Shark was built. The Stingray would be the final piece in the jigsaw. Of course, many of the Stingray's styling motifs can be seen in the Mako Shark 1. Indeed, they had the same designer - Larry Shinoda. But even the Stingray had its work cut out to compete with its prototype predecessor. Its projectile-style bodywork and gradational paint took pride of place - but they were just the beginning. Not just the exterior - but the interior, too - were a futuristic time-warp of avant-garde art. It was the start of the Sixties, after all - the ideal time to get radical with form and function. With plastic now the new gold standard, the wraparound windscreen and see-through hardtop were 'classic' space-age styling touches. Topping them off was a 'periscope' rear-view mirror. Ranged along the car's flanks were two banks of exhausts - catering to the 456bhp that its V8 engine output. One thing is for sure. When that mako shark mammal gave up its life - in the waters off Florida - an automotive legend was born. Long live the Chevrolet Corvette Mako Shark 1!