The seminal American performance car, Chevrolet’s Corvette, rolls off the production line in 1953. It’s one of GM’s top ten production cars of the last 100 years.
General Motors has released its list of top ten production cars over the last 100 years. How would you have changed the list?
GM has released the list head of its centennial on September 16. Understandably, GM has released thousands of different production models in the past 100 years, and the unenviable task of sifting through this data was left to a group of GM archivists and historians.
Called the first modern electric production vehicle, EV1 was powered by batteries that could be recharged overnight. It produced zero emissions and, as it didn't use petrol at all, even did without a fuel tank or tailpipe. Just over a thousand EV1s were built by the time the programme ended in 2003. The cars were offered for lease only through certain dealerships in the US.
1964 Pontiac GTO
Before the GTO, performance cars were generally big cars powered by even bigger engines. The idea behind the GTO was to put these same engines into mid-sized cars - with devastating results. The first GTO used a 242 kW V8, had 14-inch wheels, a firmer suspension, bonnet scoops and a dual exhaust. While 5 000 GTOs were planned for 1964, 32 000 were sold in the first year and customers were placed in waiting lists. According to GM, this car paved the way for what would become the muscle car era.
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air
GM set a whole new design trend in the 50s. This car was fitted with Chev's first V8 and it soon became the most popular car in the US when 760 000 units were sold in the first year. Regarded as an icon of its era, the Bel Air added style and performance to Chev's mantra of value and reliability.
1953 Chevolet Corvette
When the first Corvette was shown at GM's 1953 Motorama, many thought it was a "dream" care that would never make it to production. Six months later, the world's first production sports car went on sale, creating a new market segment. It was the first car with a fiberglass body and featured a 112-kW six cylinder engine that allowed the lightweight to sprint to 100 km/h in around 10 seconds.
1950 Saab 92
Saab had built only aircraft before 1949, but after the Second World War decided to apply aeronautical design and engineering to cars. This culminated with the launch of this car in 1950 when it immediately became an icon of efficiency and functionality. Its drag coefficient of .35 was the lowest of any production car at that time and more than 20 000 were produced between 1949 and 1956 when it was replaced by the Saab 93.
1936 Opel Olympia
Germany's first car built with a unibody construction allowed for less weight, better aerodynamics and increased driver and passenger safety. It was also named as a tie-in to the 1936 Olympic Games and featured a four-cylinder engine with a top speed of 95 km/h.
1930 Cadillac V16
As the name implies, this was the first production car with a 16 cylinder engine. Developed in secrecy, it was unveiled a the 1930 New York Motor Show and immediately set a new benchmark for rival luxury manufacturers. Production of the V-16 declined after the first year and the car was discontinued in 1940 with just over 4 000 units built.
Harley Earl went from customising cars for Hollywood stars to creating the industry's first in-house design studio with this car. With the Cadillac LaSalle, GM for the first time used a professional designer rather than in-house draftsmen and engineers to design the vehicle from the ground up. Its low profile and curved lines immediately set it apart from other production cars.
In this year, all seven of Cadillac's models received electric starters, doing away with the cumbersome and dangerous hand crank and changing the face of motoring forever. By 1916, the electric self starter invented by Charles Kettering of the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company, was featured on 98% of all the cars built in America.
1910 Cadillac Model 30
Before this car, most did not have a windscreen or even a canvas roof, so the first mass-produced closed body car was a quantum leap in reducing discomfort and danger. Within 10 years, closed bodies were available on virtually all cars and trucks in America.