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In honor of Chevrolet's 100th anniversary this November, Super Chevy's editors compiled a list of what we feel are the 100 most significant Chevys of all time. They agonized and argued for days and we know you'll have your own ideas.
The countdown starts with number 100 August 1 and runs every day until mid-November. What car will be number one? Will your favorite be on the list? Check back every day to find out!-Jim Campisano, Editor
Some 57 years since it was first introduced to the public, it's often overlooked how revolutionary this car was for Chevrolet. The body was completely new and the Bel Air hardtop model was a first from the low-priced three (the other two being Ford and Chrysler). On appearance alone, the car was breathtaking. It was a stunning automobile that looked like it could have been from a far more expensive brand. Even the lower-priced models had charisma and grace. The interior was equally appealing.
Then there was the all-new chassis, with longer and wider rear leaf springs located outside the framerails. Up front was a short-long arm front suspension with coil springs and ball joints. These features gave the '55 Chevy unprecedented handling ability.
Of course, what made the car legendary for many was Ed Cole's new overhead-valve V-8 under the hood. Designed from a clean sheet of paper, it was Chevy's first such V-8 since 1917. Displacing 265 cubic inches, it introduced Chevrolet's loyal customers to a whole new world of performance. Of course, once the hot-rodders got hold of it, the brand's image would change forever. The Bow Tie division went from reliable, affordable, and stodgy to powerful, durable, and desirable--without losing the "affordable" part of the formula.
The '55 went on to become the best selling Chevy ever to that point. It helped steal the youth and performance market from Ford, whose flathead V-8 was the engine to have. Without the '55, we might all be driving Fords or Dodges all these decades later. From the moment of its introducton on, the automotive world would never be the same. For this reason, it earns the title of the Most Significant Chevrolet of All Time.
The engineers and management at Chevy knew the jig was up. Between the hippies who only wanted to take their trips pharmaceutically, an insurance industry that punished anyone who bought a muscle car, and the government's press for cleaner tailpipe emissions, the days of unencumbered muscle machines were coming to a close. Chevy knew it, all of GM knew it, so they went down swinging. And swinging hard.
For 1970, gone was the edict that dictated no intermediates with engines larger than 400 cubic inches. Pontiac, Olds, and Buick answered with potent 455s, and Chevy had two answers: the SS454 LS5 with 360 horsepower and the SS454 LS6 with an earth-rotating 450 horses and 500 lb-ft of torque. This was the highest-rated engine in a Chevy since the early 427 '66 Vettes, which were also rated at 450 ponies.
The Chevelle got a new body for 1970 that was as packed with brawn as the new Rat motors under the hood. Once the magazines got a hold of the LS6 Chevelles, it was all they could do to contain their excitement. Track times were exemplary: Super Stock & Drag Illustrated ran 13.2 at 106; Hot Rod reported 13.44 at 108.17. Car and Driver got an automatic-equipped model to run 13.8 at 103.80. Headers and tuning tricks would have you in the 12s easily.
The following year, GM dropped compression ratios across the board, and performance like this was thought to be gone forever. This made the solid-lifter LS6 SS for 1970 an instant collector's item.
'70 Chevelle LS-6
Except for the '55 and '57 Chevys, and the '63 split-window Corvette, the '69 Camaro is perhaps the most recognizable vehicle ever produced by Chevrolet Motor Division. From the cheapest six-cylinder model to the fire-breathing COPOs and ZL-1s, everyone has either owned or wanted a '69 Camaro. People who know nothing about cars can tell you what it is. How many other muscle cars have been featured in an erectile dysfunction commercial on TV for heaven's sake?
The '69 Camaro's appeal is that it can be any car you want it to be, short of a station wagon: Six-banger econo-commuter? Check. Sporty convertible with a modest V-8? Sure. Sports car or drag machine? Take your pick from a number of different versions.
With an 18-month on-sale period, it's no surprise that the '69 was the best-selling of the first-gen Camaros. Its styling was reminiscent of the '67-68 models, but more sinewy and grown-up. You had your choice of two six-bangers, two base V-8s (307 and 327), three 350s and four 396s (if you count the L89 option), plus there was the 302 in the Z/28, the COPO 427/425, and the all-aluminum ZL-1 427.
This car gave Ford fits in the marketplace and had Mustang enthusiasts running for cover. It is an icon today.
The '57 Chevy with Rochester fuel injection and 283 horsepower was not the first car to have one horsepower per cubic inch. But it was the first to do so at a middle-class price. There were two fuel-injected 283 engines offered in '57, one with a hydraulic cam and 250 horsepower and one with a solid-lifter cam and 283-hp. This is the one everybody got worked up about. A fuel-injected '57 was a car that put blistering performance in the hands of the average working Joe. The rest of the line had people swooning, too. The body was perhaps the finest interpretation of the Tri-Five design.
'63 Corvette Split Window
When it came time to design the '63 Corvette, Bill Mitchell dictated that it be based on the Pete Brock-penned '59 Stingray racer. Legendary designer Larry Shinoda picked up the mantle and created one of the most enduring shapes in automotive history. While the roadster was sleek, it was the coupe's tapered roof with a split rear window that insprired uncontrolable lust. Zora Arkus-Duntov was opposed to the split window because it severely hurt rear vision, but what Mitchell wanted he got--at least at first. The '64 Corvette was converted to a single piece of glass. This made the split-window coupe an instant collector's item. Those 413s are still chasing fuel-injected Sting Rays.
'62-64 Fullsize 409
Chevy performance was advancing so rapidly in the early 1960s it was hard to keep up. In '62, the 409's horsepower made it to the magical 1-hp-per-cubic-inch level, then later in the year came the Z-11 with better heads, cam, and intake. Thanks to The Beach Boys, who had a double-sided hit with "Surfin' Safari" backed with "409" in June of '62, Chevy got the kind of free publicity it could only dream of. In '63, there were three 409s: 340-, 400-, and 425-horsepower variants--all of which were dwarfed by the 430-horse 427 Mystery Motor, which was offered for drag racing as well as NASCAR. Once Chevy pulled out of racing in '63, much of the magic was gone, and in '64 most of the street performance world was seduced by the new GTO. Still, Bow Tie enthusiasts could still get a 425-horse 409 that year.
'67 Camaro SS350
The first Camaro SS came with the 295-horse 350 as standard equipment. It not only introduced the 350 to the world (it was a Camaro exclusive then), but it was a legit performance vehicle for under $2,800. It would spank a 271-horse 289 Mustang without that car's solid-lifter tuning hassles. It could also take down many a big-block.
Much to the dismay of Zora Arkus-Duntov, the new '68 Corvette was essentially a rebodied '63 with a new interior and reworked suspension. He was in the minority. The general public did back-flips for the latest Corvette, which was based on Bill Mitchell's Mako Shark II concept car. Sales of the '68 exceeded any Vette from 1963-'67 and went up from there. The longest-running series in Corvette history (1968-'82), sales actually increased as performance declined. Corvette annual sales crested the 40,000 mark for the first time in 1976 (46,558) and peaked in '79 at 53,807--still the car's high-water mark. In the mid-'70s, the Vette became less of a street brawler and more of a luxury-oriented GT. Perhaps that was its ultimate appeal.
'66-67 Chevy II L-79
Pontiac may have created the midsize muscle car with the '64 GTO, but Chevy took it a step further with the 350-horse 327 Chevy II. This was the first compact muscle car, and it was a screamer. Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins made its presence known on the dragstrip when he started pounding Hemis in A/Stock with his '66 Black Arrow L-79 Nova. This Deuce was not a huge seller--5,481 in '66. After the first day orders we taken for '67, it was cancelled. Supposedly just six were built. No one knows for certain why it was killed so early in '67. Perhaps Chevy needed to concentrate on marketing the Camaro, but this is just speculation. The bottom line is these high-powered compacts are still making their presence felt on street and strip 35 years later.
As the modern musclecar era heated up with supercharged Mustangs, Hemi Chargers, and a host of other monsters, Chevrolet could only watch from the sidelines from 2003 until the spring of 2009. Sure, there were various Corvettes that could pummel these infidels, but if you needed a backseat or didn't have the green to wrap yourself in fiberglass, you were out of luck. The 2010 Camaro returned with styling that, while inspired by the '69, was not a slave to it. It has outsold the Mustang every month (save for two) since its introduction, exceeded all its internal sales goals (129,000-plus for 2010), and remains the only Chevy being sold without rebates. Most are fully optioned by customers, and with GM coming out of bankruptcy the F-body poured billions of much-needed profits into the corporate coffers. It literally helped save GM. The year 2011 saw the introduction of the convertible, and 2012 the 580-hp supercharged ZL1.
'66 Chevelle SS396
It's true that the '65 Z16 Chevelle was the first to pack Rat power, but this was the car that put that muscle in the hands of the masses. With a stylish, sleeker new body and interior, the '66 SS396 Chevelle was just what Chevy needed to slap around its internal rival from Pontiac--especially in 375-horse form. Production of the Z16 was a paltry 201, hardly enough for anyone to notice. Within a year of its introduction, there were 72,272 '66 Chevelles prowling the streets with 396s under their hoods.
Code named the Blue Devil inside GM in honor of Chairman Rick Wagoner's alma mater (Duke University), the 638-horsepower, supercharged 6.2-liter Corvette ZR1 is the most powerful, fastest car ever sold by GM. Its top speed is 205 mph, and it's packed with everything Chevy knows about building a cutting-edge automobile. Its body and chassis, while based on the current ZO6, take off where that car stops. In testing at Germany's Nurburgring, the ZR1 proved its worth by turning the fastest lap there for a production car. In 2011, Chevy engineers went back with its new tire package and cut over 7 seconds from its previous record.
'69 Yenko Camaro
Most famous of the dealer "Super Camaros" based on the factory-built COPO 9561 L72 cars, the '69 SYC cars received special graphics, gauges, and other tuning from Yenko's mechanics before they were sold from his lot in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, or sent to one of his network dealers across America. Only built in six colors (LeMans Blue, Fathom Green, Rally Green, Daytona Yellow, Hugger Orange, and Olympic Gold), today they are probably the most recognized and sought-after Camaros from the muscle-car era, easily fetching over $100K at auction.
'62 Old Reliable II
With its Bill Jenkins-built, 409-horse 409, Borg-Warner four-speed, and 4.56 gears, the Dave Strickler-driven Old Reliable II Bel Air was going to be one of the cars to beat in the '62 drag season. Jenkins added nine passenger station wagon springs to the front, stiffer springs to the rear, and relocated the frame mounts about an inch behind their stock location. All this was done in the name of improved traction. The car won the Super Stock title at the U.S. Nationals in '62, and the Winternationals the following year. Equipped later with an aluminum nose, Old Reliable II became the first B/FX Stocker to run in the 11s.
'68-70 Nova L-78
If ever there was a case of overkill in the Chevy lineup, it was the 375-horsepower 396 Nova SS. Sure, the freshly redesigned '68 Nova gained some weight over previous incarnations, however, the L78 engine made it a terrifying performer. On skinny stock tires, it was capable of low 14s at 100 mph in factory trim; with headers, slicks, and traction aids, it was an easy 12-second machine.
While the '55 Chevy line was sporty, with its Ferrari-inspired egg-crate grille, the '56 facelift was decidedly more formal. Still, the tagline in ads that year proclaimed, "The Hot One's Even Hotter." There was a Super Turbo-Fire, four-barrel 265 that produced 205 horsepower and the Corvette's 225-horse dual-quad version became optional as well. Style-wise, a four-door hardtop was added to the lineup, and perhaps the coolest feature was the gas cap hidden behind the left taillight.
'55 Cameo Carrier pickup
Not only was Chevy leading the way in styling in '55 with its passenger cars, but it took the once-lowly pickup to unprecedented heights with the new Cameo. It had a unique flush-side fiberglass bed and was full of car-like features (two-tone interior, chrome bumpers, and an available V-8). Talk about a vehicle that was some 30 years ahead of its time!
'59 Stingray racer
Chevy was out of racing by '59, but that didn't stop VP of Design Bill Mitchell from buying a leftover Corvette SS racecar chassis and draping Pete Brock's sexy Stingray racecar body over it. Mitchell then hired Dr. Dick Thompson, "The Flying Dentist," to campaign it in sports car races around the country. The pair won the SCCA's C/Modified National Championship in 1960. The car was clocked at 145 on the back straight at Road America, and top speed was believed to be about 160. The production '63 Corvette's styling would be based on this car.
'61 409 Chevy
While Motor Trend called the '61 Impala SS with a 409 "a family car that is really a racing machine," the bottom line was you didn't have to buy an upscale Impala to get the 360-horse 409 that first year. Drop it in a stripped Biscayne and you were competitive with just about any sedan on the road. The 11.25:1-compression 409 was a screamer and according to Motor Trend, a '61 Chevy with 4.56 gears would go 14.02 in the quarter-mile at 98.14.
'65 Chevelle Z16
Rounding out the top 20 is Chevy's first legit big-block/midsize muscle car. Caught completely by surprise by the '64 GTO and without a big-block with 400 cubic inches or less until mid-1965, the Chevelle Z16 was Chevy's overdue answer to the Goat. It was a limited-edition model and came with a 160-mph speedometer, 6,000-rpm dashtop-mounted tach, and a 375-horse version of the new 396. The Rat motor put its performance right on par with (or above) any stock tri-power 389 GTO.
'69 Camaro Z/28
Now in its third season, the Z/28 continued to skyrocket in popularity, reaching 19,014 in sales. The high-winding 302 with a solid-lifter cam was a thrill to row through the gears, and you could order the SCCA's racing version's dual quad induction setup, though it came in the trunk.
'67 Corvette 427 Tri-Power
This was a car that wasn't even supposed to exist, yet the 435-horse Tri-Power 427 Sting Ray become the most valuable and sought-after production Corvette of the '60s. The 1967 model year was to usher in a new body design based on the Mako Shark II show car of '65, but developmental problems kept it out of showrooms for another 12 months. Chevy freshened the Vette with new side gills, placed the backup lamp between the taillights, and gave it a new 427 engine with 10 more horsepower and two extra carburetors. The "stinger" hood told the guy in the next lane to back off. The vacuum-operated, three two-barrel setup flowed a lot of air, but was more problematic in service than a mechanical three-deuce setup. Guess what: No one cares.
'70-72 Camaro Z28
While GM Vice President of Design Bill Mitchell later chided the first-gen Camaros for being "styled by committee," he was much more enamored with the new-for-'70 second-gen, which he insisted was a much more pure design. As good as the first-gen Z/28 was, the '70 saw cubic inches increase to 350 and horsepower climb by 70. This was only 30 less than the 454 in the Corvette. You could even get one with an automatic transmission. Quarter-mile times fell by almost a full second from the year before to the 14.10/100 mph-zone with a stick. Handling was the best yet, and with the RS front end treatment, a timeless classic was created.
Fullsize '65 409 & 396
One car symbolizes the passing of an aging legend; the other ushered in a new one. The 409 was on its last legs in '65, and at midyear it was supplanted by the new Mark IV 396. Impala SS sales hit their all-time peak this year, with 243,114 units sold. The 409 could be had with either 340 or 400 horsepower, while the new 396 came in 325- or 425-horse incarnations.
Few people knew of this car's existence in 1967. It didn't even wear Z/28 badges. It was just an option code to homologate the 302-cubic-inch engine for the SCCA's Trans-Am series. With 290 horsepower, it theoretically had five less than the 350 four-barrel in the Camaro SS. In reality, it was a free-revving demon and was mated to a super chassis setup to create one of the first ponycars designed to go around corners. Only 602 were sold this first year, but it inspired competing models from Ford, Pontiac, Dodge, Plymouth, and even American Motors. Alas, the Z/28 was in a class by itself.
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'67 Smokey Yunick Chevelle
This was the vehicle that sat on the pole for the '67 Daytona 500 and it actually looked like a '66. Sure, it had numerous rules infractions that Smokey had to address, but to him they were not violations. Mere interpretations is more like it. There were actually two Chevelles, but the first one was totaled. The second one, the "15/16" Chevelle is the stuff of legend. The frame was completely custom made, which in and of itself made the car illegal. It had a Smokey-designed three-link rear suspension with a Watt's link, which was completely radical for a stock car of this vintage. Its springs were mounted behind the rear axle, and its shocks were close to the wheels and were vertically rather than diagonally mounted. The roof kicked up above the rear window, thus directing air over the small rear spoiler on the trunk lid. The car was not really 15/16 but appeared smaller because the hood and front bumper were tucked in and tight for improved aerodynamics. According to our sister publication, Circle Track magazine, the body "was hung in a shape that was not strictly according to stock dimensions." At the rear, Smokey closed in the area under the fuel tank and extended the flat surface to the rear bumper to further improve aerodynamics.
'06 Corvette ZO6
When the C6 ZO6 came out, Chevrolet advertised that it would go 198 mph. Advertised it. Put it right out there for God and the government to see, and it came at a price that was only slightly higher than a fully-optioned convertible. As soon as it was released, it was the quickest, fastest, most powerful Corvette ever. In the hands of an experienced driver, it could run the quarter-mile in 11.2-11.6 seconds at 124 mph, significantly better than the previous-generation ZO6. It had unique bodywork (some of it made from carbon-fiber) and a fixed roof. Its 427.5-inch LS7 engine used a dry-sump oiling system, pressed-in cylinder wall liners, and made an amazing 505 net horsepower, the most powerful Corvette engine in history to that point. Its handling was amazing and Chevy continues to improve it. For 2012, it gets Michelin tires and optional carbon ceramic brakes.
1968-'69 Penske-Donohue Trans-Am Camaros
From its beginning in 1966 to the late-'60s, everyone who was anyone competed in the Sports Car Club of America's Trans American Sedan Series, better known today as "Trans-Am." From Curtis Turner and David Pearson from NASCAR to Parnelli Jones and Dan Gurney, Trans-Am had the top drivers competing in racecars that were truly like their road-going counterparts. There were two classes, Under 2.0 Liters and Over 2.0 Liters, with the latter having a 5.0-liter displacement limit. It was in this area that Roger Penske and Mark Donohue competed in the new Z/28 starting in '67. Despite not getting a car until January, the pair went on to win three races that year. In '68, they won 10 of the 13 races (and eight in a row at one point) to give Chevy the manufacturer's title. In '69, the cross-ram, dual-quad-equipped Z/28 won exactly half of the series' 12 events and inspired controversy everywhere it went. It wore a vinyl top in the first part of the season, its competitors claimed, because it was left in the acid bath too long and the roof was wrinkled. Driver Ed Leslie claimed the Camaro's front bumper was made of aluminum. Regardless, it was never penalized for cheating by the SCCA, and Chevrolet had its second-consecutive Trans-Am title in '69, beating Ford's all-new Boss 302 Mustangs. After this, Penske and Donohue switched to AMC, a fatal blow to Chevy's Trans-Am efforts.
'56 Pikes Peak "Goat" Sedan
After a record-setting sales year in '55, Chevy's advertising agency came up with the idea of breaking the sedan record for the Pikes Peak hillclimb in the new, more powerful '56. In a camouflaged '56 four-door nicknamed "Goat," Zora Arkus-Duntov charged up the 12.42-mile dirt and gravel road of the mountain. By the time he reached the top, Zora and the "Goat" had broken the old record by more than two minutes (the new mark was 17 minutes, 24.05 seconds). He then returned to the base of Pikes Peak to try and better the time in a camo'd two-door model (nicknamed "McCoy"), but Duntov claimed he was utterly spent after the nerve-wracking first run and "only" managed a time of 17.41.05, which was still nearly two minutes better than the old mark of 19:25.70. Both of these car featured stock suspensions.
'55 Chevy Two-Lane Blacktop/American Graffiti
How many cars can say they've been the star of not one, but two motion pictures? The '55 from American Graffiti (left) and Two-Lane Blacktop can. The big-block-powered two-door sedan first starred alongside musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys in Blacktop as a primered street racer with a gutted interior and one-piece tilt nose. It was refinished for Graffiti, given period-correct chrome-reverse rims and an evil black paintjob. Piloted by a then-unknown Harrison Ford, it gave John Milner all he could handle before crashing in the climatic next-to-last scene. When Graffiti came out in '73, most of America was still in the throes of muscle car fever. This nasty '55 introduced the classic Tri-Five hot rod to a new generation of enthusiasts and inspired mania among old timers, many who had to get another after seeing these flicks.
The original Chevy A-body makes this list not on the basis of its prowess as a performance vehicle, but for its inherent goodness as an automobile and being the first of its kind. Hundreds of thousands of people bought these for their virtues (large interior and trunk, smaller than fullsize body, competitive base price). The Chevelle SS was just a trim package with bucket seats and a console, and it had a six-cylinder engine standard--hardly the stuff dreams are made of. Certain customers, however, did discover that the optional 283s and midyear intro 327/300-horse engine could make the Chevelle a decent performer.
427 COPO Camaro
In the late '50s and into the '60s, Chevy flirted with (and even exceeded) having 50-percent market share, incomprehensible today. GM's strict adherence to the AMA's no-racing edict after 1963, and the Ralph Nader/Corvair debacle, had a lot of unwelcome eyes staring at GM. This meant while Ford was selling 428 Mustangs and Dodge and Plymouth were producing 440-powered Darts and Barracudas, respectively, the Camaro had to make do with "only" 396 cubic inches. Through the Central Office Production Order codes (and with the help of insiders like Vince Piggins), savvy dealers found they could order 427/425-horse L72 Camaros in limited numbers. Whatever was left of the Mustang's performance reputation was immediately turned to dust by these Camaros.
Junior Johnson’s ’59 Chevy
This is the car they said would fly—literally. People believed (and continue) to think that the controversial batwing Chevys of ’59 would go airborn if the wind hit them right. Time has proven that this is nothing more than urban legend, and that the car’s aero package was actually pretty good. Junior Johnson, however, proved it in practice, winning the 1960 Daytona 500 in a ’59 with 348 power under the hood. His average speed was 124.70 and no, the tires never left the ground. More importantly, it was in this car that Johnson discovered (or invented) the art of drafting. That alone earns it a place in the top half of this list.
Jimmie Johnson's Impala SS
In the ever-competitive and xenophobic world of NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Johnson and his Impala have not gotten the recognition they deserve. Most Chevy fans still put Dale Earnhardt on a pedestal, and Dale Jr. has an army of fanatical followers despite a career that has been marginally successful at best. Twenty years down the road, however, perhaps Johnson's five consecutive Sprint Cup titles in the NASCAR Impala will earn the recognition for what it is: perhaps the greatest achievement in the history of motorsports.
'57 Corvette with fuel injection
The first major revision to the Corvette came with an all-new body in 1956, but it was the 283/283 fuel-injected engine that was the proverbial shot heard 'round the world. Suddenly the two-seater went from being a fun sportabout with decent handling to a real muscle machine. Yes, there was a 250-horse fuelie motor available, but few noticed. With the high-output engine, 4.11 gears and a competent driver, they were capable of mid-to-high 14-second quarter-mile times at 95 mph--staggering in an era when most other performance cars struggled to crack the 16-second bracket. In the early '90s, Zora Arkus-Duntov told Editor Campisano that the 283 actually made 290 horsepower (its rating in 1958), but Chevy went with 283/283--1 hp per cubic inch--for promotional purposes.
The most famous project car to ever hit the pages of a magazine, the all yellow '57 210 two-door sedan would show gearheads across America the latest and greatest speed parts the performance aftermarket had to offer, and how to install them for maximum benefit. For 50 years the car has been one of the most recognizable Tri-Fives and all-out hot rods, even gracing the silver screen in "The Hollywood Knights" and being driven by actor Tony Danza. It's had everything from small-blocks to blown big-blocks under the hood and its last makeover came from General Motors itself. That tells you what an icon its become.
For a long time, trucks were, well, trucks. Tools of utility and mechanical beasts of burden, they were usually Spartan vehicles with few options and rough riding suspensions. For those who wanted the utility of an open bed, but with a car's handling and looks, Chevy launched the El Camino in 1959, based on the full size platform. After two years it vanished from the lineup, but after seeing Ford's success with the Falcon-based Ranchero, Chevy relaunched the El Camino, but based on the new mid-size Chevelle/Malibu, and it was a sales success. Most desirable are the big-block models from 1968-'72, which have a near cult following.
'59 Chevy with fuel injection
The year 1959 would be the last that Chevy buyers could get the Rochester fuel injected small-block in anything but a Corvette and it came in two flavors: 250 horsepower with a hydraulic cam or 290 with a solid cam. But it was doomed by high cost and complexity to remain a low production option. With some of the new, bigger 348 W-series engines cranking out more horsepower for less than half the cost, the fuel injected engine was made exclusive to the Corvette, where the lightweight small-block was a more appropriate fit. Finding one of the outlandishly styled automobiles with factory fuel injection is impossibly hard, as they were incredibly rare even when new.
Dale Earnhardt Wrangler Monte Carlo
Epitomizing the new roaring success of NASCAR, the poster car of the '80s for Winston Cup was the yellow and blue Monte Carlo of "The Intimidator" Dale Earnhardt. Racing for Richard Childress, he piloted the Monte to numerous wins and his first of seven NASCAR Winston Cup Championships.
'97 Corvette LS1
GM engineers had been slaving over their computers to remake the Corvette from the ground up, and the '97 model started the new C5 series that surpassed all previous Corvettes for handling prowess. Along with a new platform, the '97 also ushered in a new generation of small block power, the Gen III LS1. Among the car's high-tech features was your choice of stick or automatic transaxle transmissions and hydroformed frame rails. With 346 cubic inches and 345 horsepower, the all aluminum engine was the perfect match for the new model, pushing performance to a level previously reserved for the C4 ZR-1.
Thanks to Chevrolet, Americans wouldn't be stuck with big, heavy, lack luster sedans that wallowed along roads like beached whales. It was small, nimble, and easily matched the handling of European competitors. Its revolutionary fiberglass body had a shape like no other car on the road and its appearance at the GM Motorama in 1953 inspired Chevy to release it just six months later, in June of that year. That first Vette was hamstrung in the marketplace by a lack of roll up windows, a leaky roof and was probably ahead of its time, but it was the original and it paved the way for all Corvettes that came after it.
'57 Black Widow
Chevy wanted to win bad on NASCAR's tracks in '57, so they directed their performance skunk works in Atlanta to take stripped down '57 Chevys, equip them with beefed up axles, front hubs and brakes, twin shocks per wheel, and the new 283 HP 283 small block to storm the Grand National series.
Dan Fletcher's "Checkmate" Super Stock '69 Camaro holds the distinct honor of having more wins than any NHRA drag car in history. Dan, a regular columnist for Super Chevy Magazine, has amassed a whopping 37 NHRA national event titles, over 20 NHRA divisional titles, (not to mention some IHRA wins), and two NHRA Super Stock World Championships--all in this car. Dan's Chevrolet was purchased new by his late father, Tom, in the fall of '69, however, few know it is an original Z/28 that has been raced since his dad drove it home from the now-defunct Taylor Chevrolet in Rochester, New York. Tom raced the car weekly in E/Modified Production with the 302 and later in C/MP with a 350. It was then converted it to a Super Stocker, and over the last decade has been powered by big-block and small-block engines. Dan estimates that he has earned over $1,500,000 behind the wheel of the classic Chevy!
'66 Black Arrow Nova
After GM decided to strictly adhere to the AMA's racing ban in 1963 (thus killing all factory sponsorship), Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins and driver Dave Strickler switched to Dodge in '64. Bill moved to a Hemi Plymouth in '65, where he earned his first national event win as a driver, but he couldn't secure a factory deal from Chrysler, he switched back to Chevrolet for '66. Not only that, but he chose to run a small-block-powered 350-horse Nova. The car's power-to-weight ratio put it in the NHRA's A/Stock class with the 426 race Hemi cars, but Jenkins gave them fits in "Grumpy's Toy I" despite giving up 100 cubic inches under the hood. He took runner-up in A/Stock at the NHRA Spring Nationals, then second place in Top Stock Eliminator at the NHRA Nationals and the World Finals. The car ran mid 11s and ultimately shared the national record with Jere Stahl's Hemi Plymouth at 11.66.
'69 Camaro Indy Pace Car
In only its third year of production, the Camaro was selected to pace the world's most famous race, this time in convertible form. In '67 only a handful of cars were built for Indy, but in '69 anyone walking through the doors of a Chevy dealership could order a replica of the Indy pace cars, with either small-block or big-block power. A total of 3,675 were built, and today they're among the most collectible Camaros.
'62 Z-11 full size
The factories were in an all-out street fight at dragstrips across America, vying to have the fastest and most dominant cars in the quarter-mile. Despite its "we not racing" proclamations, engineers took the normally bloated Impala, stripped it of all non-essentials including sound deadener material, added a special intake, larger port heads, and unique cam to the 409, and shaved hundreds of pounds off the car's weight with an aluminum front end. These 20 factory lightweights were eligible for competition in the NHRA's new Factory Experimental category.
'65 Mako Shark II show car
The designs and concepts tested with the Mako Shark II concept car helped steer engineers to designing the look of the C3 Corvette, which debuted in the fall of 1967, and become the longest-running series of Corvettes in the car's history. Had VP of Design Bill Mitchell and has band of stylists had their way, the production '68 Vette would have been as radical as the show car, but the tall arching fenders made it impossible to see out of and its aerodynamics were even worse than the '63-67 cars--which is to say atrocious. Besides the basic shape, one feature to make production was the trap door at the base of the windshield that hid the wipers.
'63 Z-11 full size
- To gain a competitive edge in FX racing, Chevy pulled out all the stops with the '63 Z-11. The 409 was increased to 427 cubic inches (the NHRA limit at the time), had special heads with intake manifold, an air filter that pulled cold air in from the cowl. The cut weight, the cars it got an aluminum front end, plus alloy front and rear bumpers. In the hands of a tuner like Jenkins, the 427s could make in the neighborhood of 540 horsepower. Just 57 were built, and only seven are still known to exist, making the '63s among the rarest Chevys ever built.
Baldwin Motion Phase III Camaro
In 1967, Joel Rosen's Motion Performance formed a high-performance bond with neighboring Baldwin Chevrolet on Long Island. The idea was to sell cars modified by Rosen's shop at Baldwin Chevrolet. The result was the Fantastic Five: SS427 Camaros, full-size Chevys, Corvettes, Chevelles and Novas. By 1968, Rosen claimed to be the second largest producer of specialty performance vehicles in the U.S. behind Shelby' Mustang GT program. In '68, he added the Phase III option, which gave you a dyno-proven 500-horsepower 427 under your hood. It was the first supercar to offer a guarantee: run 11.50 at 120 on a sanctioned strip with a Motion driver or your money back. Even Yenko wouldn't go that far. For '69, the Phase III cars returned, as did the guarantee, and despite the introduction of COPO 427 Camaros, Rosen claims these had no impact on his SS427 and Phase III 427 program.
'63 Impala 50 Millionth Built
Chevrolet and GM were riding high in the '60s, dominating the car business with an iron fist--so much so the federal government was considering anti-trust action against GM that would have forced it to spin Chevrolet off as its own company! To celebrate the 50 millionth car produced, Chevrolet celebrated with a special series of gold Impalas that were the showcase piece of that year's Autorama tour. This particular car--labeled as the 50 millionth--was driven off the New York assembly line by then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller.
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'68-69 Chevelle SS396
With a new fast back body style and chassis, the '68 and '69 SS396 Chevelles were the options of choice for buyers who wanted Camaro performance in a roomier, more family friendly car. Considered by many to be the best-looking and most muscular Chevelle to that point, the SS396 exploded in popularity. By 1969, it was finally able to surpass the Pontiac GTO as GM's best selling muscle car.
'62 Dyno Don Nicholson 409 Bel Air
"Dyno" Don Nicholson was one of Chevys top racers in the '60s, driving the new 409s (and later Z-11s) against the best Ford and Chrysler could muster in the wildly popular Super Stock classes in NHRA competition. He was always one of the toughest racers to beat and at the '62 Winternational, Nicholson won the Mr. Stock Eliminator title, defeating Dave Strickler in the semifinals. He even won the Daytona Speedweek Drags held on the back stretch of Daytona Super Speedway. His '62 409 was a legend then and now.
1970 COPO/Yenko Deuce
With insurance companies cracking down on high-powered big-block muscle cars with nose-bleed inducing rates, performance guru Don Yenko came up with a solution, using a little known COPO option in 1970 to get the new 360-horse LT-1 350 installed in the lightweight Nova. With similar performance to an L78 SS396, but small-block insurance rates, it meant horsepower-crazed adrenaline junkies could still get their tire shredding fix.
’69 Camaro ZL-1
The ultimate Camaro from the ’60s. Period. Built to dominate quarter-mile racing, it was twice the price of a normal big-block Camaro, and only 69 were built—just enough to gain legality with the NHRA. It was the ultimate Camaro ever built, and wouldn’t see a rival until Chevy announced the revival of the nameplate in 2012 for the new ultimate Camaro.
’69 Camaro SS396
For the masses, this was the top dog Camaro in ’69. The COPO 427 cars were hard to come by, and in the case of the ZL-1 financially out of reach for most. Some 13,970 SS396 Camaros were built in ’69, including 311 L89 aluminum-head 396 cars. It ruled the streets and dragstrips, and today is one of the most sought after and popular ’69 models for collectors.
’67 Camaro SS/RS396
The Camaro hit Chevy showrooms to an eager public ready for something that had more muscle than any Mustang available. With the L78 396 big block between the fenders, the new Camaro with its optional RS package and hidden headlights could clean the clock of Ford’s 390-powered pony car, and still have plenty left over for the Chrysler crowd.
’66 427 Biscayne
With the SS396 hitting the Chevelle lineup, and the L79 Novas storming the streets, the sun was setting on high performance full size cars. One of the last gasps was the 427/425-hp-equipped ’66 Biscayne. Devoid of all the glitz, chrome, and heft of the Impala and Caprice, it was still a car to be reckoned with.
Aside from being one of the most questioned Chevys stylewise (with the ’57 Chevy setting new standards for looks the year before, many were puzzled with the direction Chevy took in ’58), the ’58 Impala was the first of the breed that would be in production for over 30 years, then reappear in the mid ‘90s to start another 10-plus year run in the Chevy lineup. One car we’d love to find today would be Bill Jenkins’ personal fuel-injected ’58 Impala, which he purchased new. What do you think that car would be worth?
427 Mystery Motor stock car
Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday. This mantra drove Chevy through the performance years. The Mystery Motor stock car hit the banks of Daytona in February of ’63 as the sneak preview to Chevy's newest high performance engine that would replace the venerable 348-409 series. It dominated qualifying at Daytona that year, setting a record pace at 164 mph. With a lack of development, however, it couldn’t stay together for all 500 miles. Then Chevy got out of racing and as a race engine, the 427 Mark II powerplant was stillborn. With changes for production, it became the Mark IV production big-block in ’65.
Rod Saboury's '63 Pro Street Corvette
What makes Rod split-window coupe so notable is the fact it was the first honest-to-goodness street car to dip into the 6-second range. The radical C2 is powered by a twin-turbo Moran Racing Engine big-block surrounded by a super clean show car. Power windows, a stereo, cupholders and air conditioning are all present and accounted for. Not only has the car run 6.95 at 210 mph at the strip, Rod has driven it everywhere--he's even done the Woodward Dream Cruise slow crawl without overheating.
First-Gen Monte Carlo SS454
Fitted with a 360-horse big-block, the SS454 Monte was a land yacht with the heart of a flat bottom speedboat. Since the car was a blend of the Chevelle and the Cadillac Eldorado, it could cruise with the best of them and still allow you to be a deviant when you romped on the gas.
Dave Strickler's "Old Reliable" '68 Camaro
Dave Strickler won 16 national class championships, set 41 national and world records, and a captured an NHRA world championship title in the Jenkin's-prepared Z/28 Camaro. Back in '68 the car was tripping the lights at 11.70s at 116 mph. Most recently, the car was restored and raced by noted Camaro expert Jerry Macneish.
First-Gen Monte Carlo NASCAR Stocker
After GM pulled the plug on all its racing activities in 1963, the Bow Tie brand became a non-entity in NASCAR's top-tier Grand National series. Then came the 1970-'72 Monte Carlo. Conceived as a luxury car, it became a force on the stock car circuit in the hands of legendary drivers like Benny Parsons (pictured).
In the spring on 1983, Chevy unveiled the first all-new Corvette in 20 years and the first major redesign since '68. The car retained the L83 Cross-Fire Injected small-block from '82, but received upgrades to everything else. Called the "most advanced production sports car on the planet," it had a high-tech suspension with front and rear fiberglass transverse leaf springs and forged aluminum suspension pieces. It took its place among the best handling cars in the world and production exploded to 51,547--the second-highest total in Corvette history.
Back in '67, Nickey Chevrolet of Chicago was the one of the premier Chevrolet dealers in the country. Beginning late in '66 Nickey decided to stuff the 427 from the Corvette under the Camaro's hood, which took an already potent car to the next level. Thinly veiled as street cars ,these were basically drag cars built by the dealer that anyone in the area could purchase on Friday and race on Saturday.
Bill Jenkins' "Grumpy's Toy IV" Vega was the first tube chassis vehicle to run the Pro Stock class. The first time the car ran was at the '72 Winternationals and after tweaking on the suspension a bit he was able to win the event. In '74 Jenkins built another Vega, "Grumpy's Toy XI," that featured several firsts like the use of a dry sump oiling system and a MacPherson strut front-suspension configuration.
'69 COPO 427 Chevelle
The Central Office Production Order system, or COPO normally filled special-equipment fleet orders. Somewhere along the line someone figured out they could use this system to get the L72 installed into cars that weren't offered with it. Unlike the Yenkos that screamed high performance, most of the COPO Chevelles looked deceptively docile yet still ran 13-second quarter-mile times.
'12 Camaro ZL1
Way back in '69 Chevrolet released (in limited numbers) the ZL1 Camaro, which was a plain jane car powered by an all-aluminum 427 big-block. To regain some of the bragging rights from Ford's blown Shelby GT500, Chevy is now applying that moniker to the fifth-gen Camaro. The car will have the supercharged LSA V-8 borrowed from the Cadillac CTS-V and should be able to run a mid 12 second quarter-mile time. Not too shabby for a car with air bags, anti lock brakes and A/C.
The so-called C6 or sixth-generation of the Vette rolled off the line in '05. At the time it featured the most powerful small block Chevy had, the new 6.0L LS2 (400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque) and the most aerodynamic body, which put the Corvette on par with supercars costing a lot more. The C6 was 5-inches shorter and 1-inch narrower than its predecessor and was way more potent. Top speed was 186 mph and it could run easy mid-12-second e.t.s.
The C4 ZR-1 was built to run with the world's fastest production cars. Chevy teamed up with Lotus to develop the LT5 all-aluminum small block, which featured dual-overhead cams, 32 valves and 16 fuel injectors. The ZR-1 also had expanded rear quarter panels to fit the 11-inch wide rear tires. The car could go from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, run 12.8 in the quarter-mile and had a top speed above 180 mph--staggering for the time. Unfortunately the high sticker price put the car out of reach of a lot of Chevy fans, but nontheless the car was and still is a milestone vehicle.
Hayden Profitt '62 409
Hayden Proffitt was a big man out of West Texas and a giant among early '60s Chevy drag racers. He had one of the early 409-horse 409 Bel Airs in 1962 and made a mint drag racing it. Among his biggest victories was at the '62 U.S. Nationals at Indy, where he beat the fabled 413-powered Dodge Ramchargers factory team in the SS/S Eliminator final. The Ramchargers team was comprised mostly of Chrysler engineers, which made the victory by the 409 that much sweeter.
C5 ZO6 The spiritual successor to the C4 ZR-1 the Z06 bested the ZR-1 in every respect except for top speed. It was quicker, lighter and ushered in a multitude of new technologies. Fitted with an LS6 that produced 405 horsepower and a six-speed trans, the ZO6 could run an 11.9 quarter and still pull 1.03 G's on the skid pad, making it not just a straight-line runner. As a matter of fact the ZO6 could get to 60 faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo.
One of the most dominant cars in the GT racing category has been the C5R and C6R Corvettes. These were built by GM and Pratt & Miller specifically for this type of racing. Since the R series inception, American muscle has been a major player in racing events around the world and they rank as the most successful racecars in Corvette history. Thanks to the R series, any country with a race track knows the name Corvette!
'61 Impala SS
The third Impala was the first car to wear the now-famous SS moniker. That alone makes it one of the best Chevy's produced. The car could be optioned with the 360-horse 409 (single four-barrel) and eventually won the hearts of The Beach Boys, who immortalized the car in a song in 1963.
1963 Corvette Grand Sports
When Shelby unleashed its new Cobra, Chevy was caught flat-footed. Its new '63 Corvette was a thousand pounds too heavy to be competitive on the race track so it engineered the now-famous Grand Sports. Initially proposed as a run of 125 cars to homologate it for competition against the Cobra, they carried everything Chevy knew about building a race car: four-wheel disc brakes, all-aluminum 377-inch engines, ultra-thin fiberglass and a race weight of between 1,900-2,100 lbs. Unfortunately, the Grand Sports were the victim of GM's decision to strictly adhere to the AMA's racing ban in 1963 and the program was cancelled after only five cars were built.
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'98-'02 Camaro SS
Not that the fourth-generation Camaro isn't a well known muscle car, but what make the '98 version such a milestone was return of the SS moniker. Built by SLP for Chevrolet, the car produced 320 horsepower, 15 more than the base Z28. More than just engine mods, it had 17-inch wheels, a unique rear spoiler, composite cold-air hood and other goodies. If you were lucky enough to test drive one of the these Camaros when they were new, you would know why its on our list.
Whether you like the Corvair or not, without it we might not have the Camaro. Its influence on the first-gen F-body can be seen in the Corvair's interior and exterior design. For '65, the Corvair was thoroughly re-engineered with a completely revised suspension (featuring an independent rear), dynamic new styling and a clean, revamped interior. In '65 GM offered four power levels from the flat six-cylinder engine: 95-, 110-, 140- and 180-horsepower (the latter with a turbocharger).
'75 Caprice Classic Convertible What makes the '75 Caprice Classic such a notable ride? It was the last year you could get a full-size Chevy convertible. With a handsome new grille design and seating for six, the last full-size ragtop was the ultimate cruiser for the Bow Tie enthusiast with a large family. They rode like Cadillacs, were stylish and look good to this day.
Offered in '85 was the IROC-Z, which was named for the International Race Of Champions. It was an add on option to the Z28 that netted you a lowered stance, better suspension, better tires, and a Tuned Port Injection system from the Vette. The only way you could get a stick was with a 305 TPI engine; the 350 TPI version was automatic transmission-only. The IROC-Z Camaro racecar was driven by the likes of Al Unser Jr., Geoffrey Bodine, and Terry Labonte.
The most expensive, and typically luxurious, cars of the Tri Five era, the Nomads weren't just two door station wagons. With their special roof and sloped down tailgate design, the Nomad was a family hauler with style and panache, the first of a breed to blend the best design attributes of a station wagon and hardtop coupe. Harley Earl spurred the Nomad's development and production on the full size car line. Today Nomad's bring top dollar at any collector car auction, and are some of the rarest Tri Fives to be had.
From the ground up it was an all new car, sharing nothing except its optional V-8 engine with the first and second generation Camaros. It was smaller, lighter, and more nimble. The third generation used a torque arm design rear suspension and its MacPherson-strut front suspension design that gave the car superb handling and sports car like feel. The third gen cars' rear hatch glass was also the largest single piece of glass installed in a car in their era. The car's basic design would remain until the Camaro's retirement in 2002.
'77 Z28 Camaro:
After being absent from the Camaro lineup for two years, the Z28 made its triumphant return mid-year in '77, signaling that the concept of performance and driving excitement was dead yet in malaise era mired Detroit. While it didn't have the most power out of its cousins, the '77 Z28 boasted impressive handling and driving feel, and was the only other performance car in the Chevy lineup besides the Corvette.
'62 Chevy II/Nova:
To fight Ford's new Falcon, Chevrolet designers and engineers came up with an all new, no-nonsense traditional layout small car. 18-months of development time later the first car of what would be 17 years of production rolled off the assembly line. Intended as an economy car only, the Chevy II wouldn't see a factory V-8 option until 1964, but its cheap cost and light weight made it a popular V-8 swap recipient for enthusiast and racers. The Nova was one of Chevrolet's top selling vehicles through most of its production run, until it was replaced in 1980 by the abominable front wheel drive Citation.
On paper, the first fourth-gen F-body was a slam-dunk. With 260-horsepower, a six-speed transmission and four-wheel disc brakes, the Z/28 should have been a slam dunk in the marketplace. It was priced reasonably, but it never caught on like Chevy hoped it would. Sales were disappointing from the very start. The interior was full of odd shapes and it was hard to see out of. The styling was also very controversial. While it took most of its cues from the previous generation Camaro, many derided it as a "Geo Storm on steroids." Ultimately, its failures caused the F-body to go out of production for seven years. That alone makes it significant.
Briggs-Allen Chevelle LS6 Convertible:
The former Super Stock/E Automatic racecar sold for a staggering $1,150,000 at a 2006 Barrett-Jackson auction, a record at the time that shocked the musclecar-buying public. A genuine LS6 convertible, this car went on to win the NHRA Super Stock world championship. The car won The US Nationals, The Super Nationals, The World Finals and most of the division races it entered. Before it went to auction, it got a frame-off restoration, but the luster somehow wore off. When it went back to auction a couple of years later, it pulled a mere fraction of its previous price: $264,000.
1978 Corvette Indy Pace Car:
Thanks to Smokey & The Bandit, the Pontiac Trans Am became the car to have starting in 1977. The Corvette, riding the same platform since 1963 and the same essential body since '68 was getting long in the tooth. It celebrated its 25th anniversary in '78 and to hype the car Chevy got it selected as the 1978 Indy Pace Car, a first for the sports car and the first Chevy since 1969. Even though it was mostly emblems and black over silver paint, people went crazy for the Pace Car replicas. Only 300 were scheduled for production, but demand dictated 6,502 be built. The MSRP for a Pace Car was $13,653, $4,302 more than a base Vette. Despite this premium, they were many sold for way above sticker price and the publicity put the Corvette squarely back on the radar of car guys everywhere.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. GM Goodwrench Lumina:
Ahead of Jeff Gordon's Lumina was the black No. 3 of The Intimidator, Dale Earnhardt Sr. His four championships, '90, '91, '93, and '94, had the Lumina at the front of NASCAR until the Monte Carlo replaced it as the body of choice for the 1995 season.
Jeff Gordon's NASCAR Lumina:
The mid-1990's saw the rise of a new group of young drivers who would eventually take the reins from the senior drivers who had helped dive NASCAR to its global prominence. At the top of that list was Jeff Gordon. Dubbed "The Rainbow Warriors" because of their Dupont sponsored Chevy Lumina's paint scheme, Gordon and his team (led by crew chief Ray Evernham) would win the Winston Cup Championship in 1995 driving a Lumina, then again in '97 and '98 driving the Lumina's replacement, the Monte Carlo.
Route 66 Corvette:
There were actually a few Corvettes that appeared in the TV show Route 66. What made this car important was that it introduced a weak-selling fiberglass sports car to an entire nation and hooked a generation of young people on Corvettes. Who didn't want to be Martin Milner or George Miharis bombing around the country in a cool set of wheels, finding adventure and romance at every stop along the way?
Jungle Jim Lieberman, Chevy Funny Cars:
Many regard the late Russell James Liberman, aka. "Jungle Jim" as the "John Force" of his era, and John Force even admits to "JJ" as being one of his all time heroes. From 1966 to 1970, Liberman campaigned a series of Chevrolet-powered Nova-bodied funny cars (Jungle is shown here racing another Chevy FC proponent, Randy Walls "Super Nova" at OCIR on the way to winning the Manufacturer's Funny Car Team Championships,) and in fact was one of the first funny car drivers to field a two-car team in '69. Jungle's other Nova, driven by Clare Sanders won the very first Funny Car eliminator NHRA ever had at the '69 NHRA Winternationals. Both cars routinely ran low 7s at 197.00. In 1970, Liberman would switch to Chrysler power in order to remain competitive, and would go on to become one drag racing's all time funny car legends.--Bob McClurg
Bernie Agaman's Bayonne Missile Corvette:
While Corvette's aren't exactly known for being drag cars, this racer from North Jersey found a favorable combination in Super Stock/C Automatic and ended up winning the '75 NHRA Super Stock world championship. The Truppi-Kling-powered 454-powered '71 was a dominant force in Super Stock that year, running mid-10s.
It was the first of what would become a long line of great cars. After GM founder William C. Durant was ousted from that company, he partnered with Buick race car driver Louis Chevrolet to found the Chevrolet Motor Car Company. Before the decade ended, Chevrolet had become strong enough to allow Durant to buy back control of General Motors and make Chevrolet its mainstay brand. Louis Chevrolet had left the company in 1915, but his name remained. The 1911 Chevrolet featured a 299-cubic inch "T Head" six cylinder engine with dual camshafts and rated at 40 horsepower.
1994-'96 Impala SS:
Fans of big-car performance rejoiced when Chevy unleashed the LT1-powered Impala SS. With a 260-horse V-8, Police Package suspension, reworked Caprice body and gorgeous five-spoke wheels, it inspired mania from day one. A center console-mounter shifter and analog tach were added in '96. Sixty mph came up in 7.1-seconds, with quarter-mile times in the 15.1-15.4 range at about 91 mph. It's a cult classic today.
This was the modern era's first muscle truck. The throttle-body injected 454 made a stump-pulling 385 lb-ft of torque and 230 horsepower. Thanks to its prodigious torque and 3.73:1 rear gears, punching the loud pedal was enough to throw your head into the pickup bed. It could also empty the fuel tank in short order (no overdrive was available). High 15-second quarter-mile times were the norm and it inspired Ford's Special Vehicle Team to create the F-150 Lightning in '93.
The most technologically advanced Chevy ever is perhaps its most important. Only on the market for a few months, it is stealing customers from Toyota and Nissan. It's also showing GM has the know-how to not only lead the auto industry into an uncertain 21st century, but to meet the government's daunting, near-term fuel economy standards.
First Gen Corvair/Monza/Spyder:
The Corvair hit Chevy showrooms in the fall of 1959, a time when seemingly all cars were growing bigger and had fins that would make a shark jealous. The only American made, rear engined car ever produced, its all aluminum, air cooled flat-six engine was another first for an American car. With the debut of the Monza edition in early 1960, the Corvair was also a legit performance car, nicknamed "a poor man's Porsche" by many. Chevrolet sold over 200,000 Corvairs for every model year of the first generation, and held its own against Chevrolet's other small car offering that debuted in 1962, the Nova/Chevy II.
Race on Sunday/Sell in Monday was still in effect during the '70s, and the NASCAR inspired Laguna was a direct result. Designed to be more aerodynamic and give Chevrolet an edge at Daytona, these cars were the symbol of a time when NASCAR teams were building on the previous work done by Smokey Yunick and really beginning to understand the importance of aerodynamics, along with the ever increasing speeds of the Cup cars.
1986-'87 Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe:
Along with its cousin, the Pontiac Grand Prix 2+2, the Aerocoupe was the last production car built to homologate a special body for use in NASCAR's Winston Cup series. Back before NASCAR essentially became a spec series, the introduction of Ford's slippery new '83 Thunderbird gave the Blue Oval teams a decided advantage on the track. It also sent the Chevy race teams scrambling. The result was 200 production cars in '86 and 6,052 in '87; more importantly, it kept the Chevys competitive in NASCAR against the aero Thunderbirds, winning the Winston Cup championship in '86 and '87.
Buoyed by the success of the Chrysler PT Cruiser and VW's New Beetle, Chevrolet brought its own retro-inspired hot rod, the SSR. With its trick retractable hardtop, 5.7-liter LS engine and styling that was a nod to Chevy trucks from 1947-'53, the SSR answered critics who claimed the folks at modern GM lacked guts. In 2005, it received a 6.0-liter, 390-horse V-8 and available six-speed manual trans. As different as it was, it was doomed by its high price tag and near useless carrying capacity. Only about 25,000 were made.
1975-'76 Cosworth Vega:
This was supposedly John DeLorean's attempt to create a modern version of the GTO. The ingredients were there--dual overhead cam EFI engine, a robust suspension and a decent power-to-weight ratio. It was the first Chevy with electronic fuel injection, a five-speed transmission, and aluminum wheels as standard equipment. Unfortunately, by the time it came out the Vega's reputation was that of an unreliable rust-bucket and the Cosworth cost almost as much as a Corvette. That doomed it in the marketplace. Still, it had more modern technology in it than a Vette of the same vintage and proved there were still people at Chevy in the mid-'70s who cared about performance.