1997 GM EV and Honda EV-1

A few months ago I showed some grainy, blurry images of the 1997 GM EV and its Honda competitor. In the meantime I had the film converted to digital form.


Here are those photos.

What I did was to get the film (Kodak) converted to JPEG format. I also printed a select a few of the photographs to see how the new prints compared with the ones from 1997.


As you can see, my photography skills were not that advanced. In the photo above I have photographed the cars with the light behind them.


The photo above puzzles me because I simply can’t remember setting up this shot. I remember going for a drive with the salesman in the GM but I don’t recall how the Honda drive was arranged. Did I park the cars like this somewhere? Is it the dealer? It was 20 years ago, so I can’t say.


Another duff Honda photo. From this angle you notice the raised roof height and maybe the same kind of wheelarches used on the Honda JWJ concept car of 1998. They seem to have no problem with the grille. There isn’t one. It is not apparent. The same goes for GM’s contender.


The light was bluer and clearer. These Kodaks tend to have muddy, brown cast to them. I stopped using Kodak around this time and switched to Ilford when I was going through my pretentious black and white phase. I have a lot of very gloomy photos from around then. Nobody looks good in black and white unless the camera and photographer are first rate.


From some angles the GM car looks quite acceptable: futuristic and sleek. This image (above) makes it look boss-eyed. The lamps need to be extend further outboard. Note the floating roof and the quarter light at the A-pillar. In some ways there is a lot of concept car about this. In others, careless productionising has led to unhappy solutions. The lamps, for example.


Above is the Honda EV interior. It’s utterly unlike the GM’s interior. This gets at the companies’ different approaches. GM went for a futuristic car that would be adored by early adopters. Honda made a car that looked as conventional as possible. Two decades later, that is the approach taken by Tesla (until recently).


The rear view shows a neatly styled car. Inasmuch one ever likes this kind of reserved, professional and fault-free design, it’s a good bit of work. I respect it. Who would not take the GM car though if given the choice?


And compare Honda’s today with 1997. From the side the flanks are flamboyantly plain. The main feature is the bodyside split, above and below the mid-section. Fiat’s Punto did something similar with the rear lamps in 1993.


Above and below, the GM’s best view. It’s really Citroen due to the fared-in wheels and the narrower track at the back. This view also shows a lot of inspiration from the Oldsmobile Aerotech cars.


The lip on the boot lid is to aid air-flow separation. Normally the boot lid has an upward-curving lip. This one is inclined downwards. Is that the best solution? If so, why do other cars not have this?


This is typical GM design detailing (above). The nose cone doesn’t join smoothly to the metal work and the panel gap has an obtrusive path.


GM went for a radical interior though as memory serves it didn’t feel that nice or have obviously plush materials. It is what you’d expect from a Chevy Cavalier. The typeface on the buttons was the standard GM font and it’s simply horrible. Someone in GM decreed a standard typeface and it was used on everything from Chevrolet’s to Cadillacs. I suppose it’s a proprietary typeface. The EV’s ergonomics lacked a little: from the driver´s seat you can’t read the buttons on the central console.


We round off with another bad photo with bad lighting. The Honda fits right into the suburban setting.


I had one shot left and I fired it at this scene which might be taken along Mulholland Drive. I might be wrong. It’s sunny California though.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

4 thoughts on “1997 GM EV and Honda EV-1”

  1. And I am sure there must have been a Panhard 24 CT brochure left lying somewhere around the GM design studio . It also solves the problem of whatever happened to all those Lancia Gamma saloon tail lights that were left over after production ended ……

    1. There’s a hint of the fourth gen Honda Prelude via the Jaguar XJ-S about the tail to my eyes too. The CT was an influential design. The boys at Toyota had a jolly good look at it as well.

  2. These are wonderfully evocative photos, thanks. Thinking on it, the Honda Insight (the wonderful first version), owes a lot to the car, or is it the other way? The aero effect is very Citroen, as you say, especially from the rear.

  3. Hi:
    Thanks. The thing leading me to reprint them related to the colours of the 1997 prints. I haven’t put the 97 and 16 prints side by side.
    It’s Christmas eve so I am having an Americano to celebrate: Vermouth, soda and a twist of lime. Skol!

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