Woodward’s walk through GM history

General Motors cars and trucks were everywhere at this year’s Woodward Cruise; here are a few fine (and other) examples, pulled at semi-random from photos by Real Fast Fotography. We’re taking responsibility for the captions.

Let’s start with the Chevrolet Bel Air; the name was used from 1950 to (in Canada) 1981, but this second-generation car (1955-57) is probably the iconic model. A little stubby-looking, but attractive to buyers from 1955 on, it was the first Chevy since 1917 with a V8 engine — a modern (for the time) little 4.3. It wasn’t the fastest Bel Air ever to be made, but it was the first with V8 power.

Then we have the Corvette, a staple of car shows and movies; but most people are more familiar with the “aero” type 1970s and newer Corvettes. This one still had a fiberglass body, V8 engine, and just two seats.

Remember the Pontiac Fiero? Supposedly, the idea was hatched by looking at the typical pony cars; far more were sold with the smallest engines than the hottest ones, so why not make a sporty car with an economy engine? It wasn’t a terrible idea, and the Fiero was quicker than the old slant-six Dusters and four-cylinder Mustangs, but the packaging wasn’t ideal for repairs (to say the least), and many resented having the sporty looks without matching engine power.

When I was growing up, for whatever reason, nearly every Chevy, no matter what the engine was, had to have the rear jacked up with massive fat tires. I’ll spare you a dozen similar photos. This one might be fast enough to need the traction; who knows?

Hopefully, there are LED lights under those modified fenders; the factory version had the full headlights exposed, with a chrome trim ring. It’s a nicely done mod, though.

If you were thinking I was dissing GM before, hopefully this will help me regain your favor. Meet the first modern-ish front wheel drive American car, the Oldsmobile Toronado. The engineering was very clever, and inspired similar designs at other companies. It had to be, to support a V8 engine! Decades later, replacement parts for the Toronado were going into at least one automakers’ project cars, and no, I can’t talk about it.

I wonder if those wheels are big enough? The largest factory wheels in those days were usually 15-inchers. Even if you got a 454 or 426 Hemi!

Just people having a good time cruising in a fine-looking Chevy convertible, with a paint job that matches the license plate nicely.

Slammed Chevy.

The Chevy SSR was a surprisingly cool truck, though I’m not sure why it was ever greenlighted. It was created when Chrysler was at their modern-day peak, and the Plymouth Prowler had caught a lot of attention. Chrysler made the Prowler to learn how to use aluminum (Ford later hired the entire team, which helped to create the new F-150); it probably wasn’t a profit-maker. A secondary goal was to create the new face of Plymouth, though the CEO decided to end Plymouth instead, so the PT Cruiser ended up as a Chrysler.

Anyway, since we’re talking about Chevrolet here… the SSR started out with a mild truck engine, which made sense since it was based on a truck; later models had a Corvette engine. I can honestly say it was one of the most fun cars I’ve driven.

There’s always at least one, right? I like the way the headlight halos match the paint.

… and we close on a truck, mainly because we haven’t had any trucks so far. This one is modified a bit — slammed, for one thing. It seems to be a work in progress.

Coming up — more cars from Woodward.

About David Zatz 161 Articles
The author of Mopar Minivans, David Zatz has been writing about cars and trucks since the early 1990s; he also writes on organizational development and business at toolpack.info and covers Mac statistics software at macstats.org. David has been quoted by the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Detroit News, and USA Today. You can reach him by using our contact form (preferred) or by calling (313) 766-2304.

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