Would new models bolster Chevrolet’s tenuous foothold in the European automotive market?
Chevrolet’s 2005 relaunch in Europe was, to say the least, a rather understated affair, with a model range that was composed entirely of rebadged and very mildly facelifted Daewoo models from South Korea. Although the first new Chevrolet model for Europe, the Captiva crossover, had been unveiled at the Paris motor show in September 2004, it did not go on sale until early 2006. Nevertheless, European sales for 2005 came in at 211,737(2) units, representing a modest 1.87% increase over the previous year. This was respectable, but certainly not the step-change that General Motors might have hoped for following the rebranding.
Chevrolet abandoned Daewoo’s unique marketing proposition of fixed price sales and outsourced servicing. Instead, it set about establishing a traditional dealer network, often paired with existing Opel or Vauxhall dealerships. How this was viewed by the dealerships concerned is open to speculation: did it provide potential for increased sales, or simply unwanted internal competition and added complexity and confusion? Continue reading “That’ll be the, er…Chevrolet? (Part Two)”
Just one of many indignities heaped upon the storied US marque by its abusive parent, General Motors.
Chevrolet is a truly iconic automotive name. The company was founded in 1911 by Swiss-born racing car driver and motor engineer Louis Chevrolet. His partners in the new venture were his brother, Arthur, and William C. Durant. The latter had been fired by General Motors in 1910, just two years after he had co-founded GM to be a holding company for The Buick Motor Company, which he owned, and the simultaneously acquired Olds Motor Works, manufacturer of Oldsmobile cars.
The US auto industry evolved very rapidly in the second decade of the 20th Century. Chevrolet fell out with Durant in 1914 and sold his share in the fledgling but already successful company. The automaker continued to thrive, to the extent that Durant was able to buy a controlling stake in General Motors in 1918, folding Chevrolet in as another division of the rapidly growing conglomerate.
There were times when General Motors led the charge.
It is an easily overlooked fact that, despite enjoying widespread publicity and -in two cases at least- being successful additions to their existing model range, the BMW 2002 Turbo, Porsche 911 Turbo and SAAB 99 Turbo were not the first roadgoing, commercially available turbocharged passenger cars(1). The USA beat even the first amongst this European trio -the BMW- by a decade and while neither of today’s two protagonists could ever be declared a true commercial success, they still deserve their place in the spotlight.
America was no stranger to forced induction: starting in the early thirties the likes of Graham, Duesenberg and Cord employed superchargers, as did Kaiser and Studebaker around two decades later. The turbocharger, however, was thus far an unapplied technique for carmakers, although the idea had already been patented in the early twentieth century(2) and turbocharged engines had seen use in airplanes during World War Two. Continue reading “U.S. Air Force”
Guiding his Oldsmobile carefully up the driveway to the garage of his house in the suburbs of a typical midwestern American town, Scott Hewitt had something planned for the evening. It was 1968, a year that would prove to be pivotal in world history as well as a bloody one. Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy would not see the end of the year alive, and neither would Martin Luther King.
The war in Vietnam escalated with the fierce Tet offensive, and the awful My Lai massacre would change many people’s minds about why and if the USA should have ever been involved in it in the first place. Violence and unrest were not limited to Southeast Asia- witness student riots in Paris, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the ignition of ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Significant if less deadly pointers to Continue reading “1968: A Question of Choice”
Inspiration arrives in many forms. In today’s story, mystery, elements of sophistry and in this instance, anaglypta and food all play their respective parts as we peer into the entomology of a globally renowned car badge, yet one with an indeterminate history. Some believe that the badge is in fact a cross, stylised over generations, but the only genuine certainty is that Chevrolet’s badge is indeed a bow tie, although how this came to be is subject to one of four possible permutations.
The first of these suggests that company co-founder William Crapo Durant introduced the bow tie motif onto his cars in 1913, two years after the company’s inception. One simple but uncorroborated story involves the Swiss chap whose name went on to emblazon millions of vehicles over the intervening years – Louis Chevrolet. Possibly as an homage to the drapeu de la Suisse, it seems a blatantly obvious connection until one realises that Louis had left the company by 1915.
An altogether more elaborate reasoning stems from a story centred around a newspaper advertisement that Durant is said to have viewed in 1912, as related by Catherine Durant to interviewer Lawrence R. Gustin some years after her husband’s passing. On vacation in Hot Springs, Virginia, Durant noticed a bow tie emblem featured on another altogether different product – Coalettes, a refined solid fuel. Considering it to be suitable for his cars, he exclaimed to Catherine, Continue reading “Ain’t No Spin Here”
I am writing this on our flight home from Chicago after spending ten most enjoyable days exploring the city and surrounding areas. Chicago is one of the great American cities and, with so much to see and experience, it is well worth a visit. Over the past thirty-something years, I have had the opportunity to travel to the US many times for both business and pleasure. One of my abiding fascinations is the country’s automotive landscape and how it has evolved over these decades.
When I first arrived on those shores in the late 1980s, the US car market was still dramatically different to its European equivalent, thrillingly so for a car-obsessive like me. Despite the downsizing precipitated by the 1973 fuel crisis, there were still plenty of US-manufactured ‘land yachts’ traversing the streets of the big cities and the country’s broad highways. American cars retained their highly distinctive style amongst a plethora of different marques, each with its own signature design features. Continue reading “Keeping it Real”
The old adage of racing improving the breed was taken to another level when engineer, designer and talented race car pilot Zora Arkus-Duntov took up the development of the 1959 CERV – the first Chevrolet Experimental Racing Vehicle.
A Belgian-born naturalised US citizen, Arkus-Duntov is rightly regarded as the Father of the Corvette. Beguiled by Harley Earl’s beautiful styling but disappointed by the Corvette’s indifferent performance and handling, Arkus-Duntov wrote to Chevrolet Chief Engineer Ed Cole, offering his services to Continue reading “Improving the Breed”
Recalling General Motors’ Middle Eastern misadventures.
The title of this tale is a Middle Eastern proverb, somewhat similar to our adage ‘Buyer beware’, but it expands on this in the sense that it also cautions sellers to keep an eye on proceedings at all times. On two separate occasions involving different Middle East countries, General Motors found to its cost what can happen if this advice is not heeded, dragging it into controversy and a hostile environment when the political winds changed direction.
A trade dispute between Japan and Iraq was the improbable cause of trouble for GM Canada. In 1980, Toyota was the number-one selling car in Iraq, and had been for some years. That same year, the Japanese manufacturer initiated talks with Ford about a possible joint venture. The fact that Ford operated an important assembly plant in Israel, however, did not go down well with the Iraqis, who in consequence started looking for a different supplier for the country’s official cars and taxi cabs. Continue reading “Open One Eye when you Sell, and Both Eyes when you Buy”
It was launched 1991. By 1996, GM had given up on their RWD, body-on-frame sedans, a mere five summers later. The last North American market(1) Caprice served really as a stop-gap. Underneath the deceitfully aero-looking body lurked technology dating back to the Carter era. The engine and underbody could be largely swapped between the 1977 Caprice and the 1991 model.
Apart from huge metropolises such as New York or Los Angeles, most of the United States’ land area is quite sparsely inhabited, with large areas of undeveloped land. A consequence of this abundance of space was the many salvage yards(1) where cars were simply parked at their presumed final resting place instead of being stacked on top of each other, disassembled, flattened or crushed.
While not necessarily the most environmentally-friendly storage method, salvage yards do provide an invaluable source of spare-parts for those restoring a piece of classic Detroit iron. For those with an interest in classic cars in general and who, like your author, appreciate the peculiar air of nostalgia and romance one feels while walking amongst discarded vehicles in varying stages of decay, these yards are also irresistible. In truth, I should probably use the past tense these days as the vast majority of these salvage yards have now disappeared due to ever more stringent environmental laws and policies that started to take effect, especially since the turn of the millennium. Continue reading “Ashes to Ashes (Part One)”
As the Corvette became a more serious proposition after the commercially successful but softer by the year C3 Stingray, its publicity material followed suit…
When introduced for the 1968 model year, the voluptuous Corvette Stingray did not meet with the universal praise from the press that GM had hoped for. Of course, the C3 had big shoes to fill after its much loved predecessor, but embarrassing initial quality glitches as well as a perceived of loss of focus as far as the sportscar aspect was concerned did not help its plight either.
The buying public thought otherwise however, and as the seventies unfolded sales of the C3 actually went up year-on-year culminating in its best sales performance (for this particular model) in 1979. Nevertheless, those responsible for all things Corvette within Chevrolet division decided to Continue reading “Blowing Up the Mould”
I love New York. Since my first visit over thirty years ago, the city has always entranced and beguiled me with its energy, ambition, self-confidence and irrepressible optimism. It is so much more than mere steel and stone: it is a living organism powered by human endeavour and entrepreneurship. Even though I am very familiar with the city, having visited on many occasions and worked there for a time, I am still irrationally excited on the ride in from JFK airport, waiting to catch my first glimpse of that unique and unmistakable skyline. Continue reading “New York State of Mind”
Watching television was once a simple act. As youngsters, the choice was scant, yet memory suggests programs containing both interest and drama. With modern day 24 hour, on-demand supply, choices of what and when to be entertained with often raise anomalies when one is forced to observe a production that might not be one’s first choice.
Andrew Miles recalls an Italian-American design highlight from the creative heyday of the Latin carrozzeiri.
The late and prolific Tom Tjaarda left behind an amazing legacy of work; take at look at Richard Herriott’s obituary to him from June 2017, but for me there is one unusual, yet standout design I knew nothing about. That is until Matteo Licatta and his Roadster-Life website introduced a conceptual one-off from the hand of Michigan born, but Italian based sculptor, the Rondine.
Pronounce it Ron-deen -ay and to these eyes, this car is as pretty as a peach, as distinctive as any Ferrari whilst offering a symphony of speed that only the Hirundinidae can deliver. For the Rondine is underneath a Chevrolet Corvette C2. And here’s an unusual twist; General Motors’ Bill Mitchell commissioning Pininfarina to give the bodywork a good scrub up and tailor a new suit which made its Paris Motor Show debut in 1963.
As if the Corvette requires any form of introduction, but the Rondine, with that sharp suit of fibreglass adds a divine lightness to the form. Whereas the Corvette might Continue reading “The Italian Swallow”
Fifty years ago, Ford and General Motors introduced their first subcompact models to challenge the rising tide of Japanese and European imports. One was underdeveloped and riddled with faults. The other would become an infamous cause célèbre for US safety campaigners.
In the late 1960’s US auto makers were becoming concerned about the growing popularity of small Japanese and European imports. These tended to be basic and unsophisticated, but were also cheap, economical and reliable, particularly when compared to the alternative of a second-hand domestic model. Ford and GM needed to fight back, so set to work developing what would become known as subcompacts.
The Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega were launched within a day of each other in September 1970. Conceptually, they were identical: conventionally engineered front-engined RWD cars that would be available in saloon, hatchback and estate versions. The Vega was slightly larger, with a 3” (75mm) longer wheelbase, although rear seat space in both was occasional at best for adult passengers.
The development of the Vega was highly unusual in that it was controlled, not by Chevrolet, but by an independent team of fifty engineers led by Lloyd Reuss, who reported directly to GM President, Ed Cole. Reuss would himself go on to Continue reading “Subcompact and Substandard (Part One)”
We seem to be having an unplanned American car theme at present. Today we take a closer look at an example of the third generation Chevrolet Camaro, in rare convertible guise.
I saw this one in what I consider to be its natural habitat, a vast suburban car park, surrounded by big box retail units and convenience food outlets. It fits right in, I think. And in so doing corresponds to my prejudices about a certain type of American-market American car.
You can’t accuse the Camaro of being over-styled or chrome-laden. This one has no brightwork and the surface treatment is extremely straightforward. If you Continue reading “Beans Under Toast”
A single black and white photo of a 1982-1992 F-body Chevrolet Camaro or Pontiac Firebird, seen in my district. But what does it portend?
I could bemoan the proportions. That´s pointless. Maybe a potted model history? No, thanks. The photo could lead us down a rabbit hole regarding General Motors’ body nomenclature. Considering the depth, breadth and sheer squiggliness of that byzantine horror, I am not sure if I can force myself to Continue reading “We Will Certainly Be At Your Wedding, Brian”
In 1981 GM went to all the trouble required to get type approval for a range of their US-market cars, on the expectation that customers might want to buy them.
GM picked a small range of cars to lure customers: two Cadillacs, one Buick and three Chevrolets. At the top of the list sat the 6 litre V8 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. The Sedan de Ville d’Elegance cost a little less for a little less length. From Buick´s list of cars, GM chose the Century Limited with a 3.8 litre V6, for just under £10,000. Upsetting the hierarchy, the Chevrolet Caprice came (as saloon and estate) with a 5.0 V8 and cost more than the Buick, a few hundred pounds. Finally, the Chevrolet Monte Carlo with the same engine as the Buick but had two fewer doors and cost a shade more. All quite baffling. Continue reading “Notes and Curiosities: GM in Britain in the early 80s.”
The contrast between the Caprice and Mini coupe caught my eye.
The Caprice is a car I’ve wanted to photograph for a long while. It’s thrillingly basic. The loadbay might be long and wide yet it’s also quite shallow. I don’t know what’s under the high floor: fuel tank and transmission I suppose. Continue reading “The Long and the Short”
The headlamps of this car never appealed to me. Gestalt theory explains why.
For a quick resume, Gestalt Theory is about how the mind is disposed to try to make sense of visual data. Your mind is inclined to fill in gaps to make whole outlines, and turn collections of individuals into groups and to pick exceptions from ordered arrays. The mind wants to sort out moving objects from a stable background. In short, it’s the equipment a mind would need to distinguish a moving thing in a complex background. Continue reading “Some More Gestalt Theory: 2008 Chevrolet Cruze”
The 1965 Chevrolet Impala shown here waits outside Frederiksborg castle, Hillerød, Denmark. From a distance the style suggested an Opel Admiral.
As I got closer the florid Chevrolet script corrected my misapprehension. The driver filled me in on the year. This is another GM car to add to the network of influences cross-crissing and cut-jumping between Germany and the US. Up to now my idea has been to compare Opels and Buicks.
This brief article, written for the short-lived “Sports Driver & Road Monthly”, is what looks like a transcription of Archie Vicar’s impressions of the 1977-and-a-half Chevrolet Camaro Z-28.
During the late 1970s the motoring correspondent Archie Vicar was in demand on both sides of the Atlantic. He would fly from Heathrow to New York on Concorde, do a test drive and fly back to his next assignment in the Midlands, six times a month. Photos by Karl Olsensen. Due the poor quality of the original images stock photos have been used.
What is this then? A sporty Camaro? It sounds like a contradiction in terms but somehow Chevrolet have decided to have a go at making a Camaro that can negotiate bends in the road. It still looks brash and crudely assembled in the American style. There is nothing here to scare even the most careless assembly-line workers at British Leyland. The nose cone evidently comes from a different car and the rear bumper is made of a plastic as convincing as an amputee’s orthosis. Is it a kind of American XJ-S? Continue reading “1977 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28 roadtest”
We return to our countdown of the all-time best cars ever. We’re now in the Top Ten so we’ll slow the pace and increase the tension! In at number nine, a car everyone rented, drove, saw, bought or sold in the 80s…
Throughout the 70s more and more Americans noticed the allure of European cars like the sharply-styled BMW 5-series and peerless Mercedes W-123 series. GM fought back with the Chevrolet Celebrity. And it worked. Using the flexible architecture of the renowned GM A-body (made in this case by Fisher Bodies), the Celebrity provided a compact but spacious vehicle which turned heads and won customers. The Celebrity was an important car for Chevrolet as it had to at least draw more customers than the outgoing Malibu. It is important to Continue reading “Driven to Write’s Best Cars Ever Top 50: Number 9”
Car and Driver published a spy shot of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt. It has a zany C-pillar.
It’s hard to tell if this is one of the good ones. Plainly, to my eyes, this feature has become a cliché very quickly. You can view the full spy shot image at the Car and Driver website and we recommend you do because it’s a good magazine.
Was GM’s EV ever a contender? And is it a Parallel Hybrid? This is a revised version of a post published last October following the Opel Ampera’s withdrawal from sale.
We laugh at giants at our peril. General Motors has made many mistakes in its existence, but it has scored lots of hits, and it’s still around. So, when they started taking EVs seriously, for the second time around after the controversial EV1 of the mid 90s, we needed to take GM seriously.
However giants take the small people for granted at their peril. GM’s very size means that it has little affection or goodwill going for it, so it will often be harshly judged. When the Chevrolet Volt, whose technology underlies the Ampera, first appeared critics were quick to accuse it of not being a pure EV, claiming that it was no more that a smoke-and-mirrors version of a Prius. Continue reading “Theme : Hybrids – GM Pushes The Definition”
An evening walk in central Copenhagen led to the discovery of this: a Chevrolet Impala.
I missed it as I walked within 5 metres of it but caught it as I walked back on the opposite side of the road. Chevrolet launched this version of the Impala in 2006 and it is still in production. It is based on the W-body which dates to 1986 though that platform has been revised a few times since then. It’s made in Canada and features a 3.5 litre V6 driving the front wheels. The grille is determinedly Continue reading “Sightings: 2006 Chevrolet Impala”
Between 1999 and 2002 GM sold the Oldsmobile Alero as the Chevrolet Alero in Europe. Not many found customers: 18 are advertised for sale in Europe compared to 119 Aston Martin DB9s and 261 Lamborghini Gallardos. From €450 you can share in the American dream.
Various things have recently caused me to think of things electric, though I admit that none of them involves me saving this or other planets. I had a mail the other week announcing a blanket 20mph limit in much of the area where I live, a process that is happening in many boroughs of London. Much of my driving in London is carried out in an old Audi S6, that burns both rubber and fuel with abandon, but gets me there no faster than anyone else. I dislike tube journeys. I can’t ride a pedal bike long distances without hurting my back. If I ride my motorcycle in wet weather I drip over people’s floors. I like silence. I want a new motoring experience. All these and more reasons make me think it would be nice to drive an electric car, or at least a part electric car.