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.

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