By on April 5, 2011

In celebration of Chevrolet’s approaching 100th birthday, GM’s global design boss Ed Welburn took a look back at the history of the brand’s design and picked ten models that he found to be the most significant and influential. His list has quite a few of the usual suspects (’55 Bel Air, ’63 Stingray) and a few curveballs (1989 C/K Pickup?) and, in my mind anyway, some significant omissions. Welburn’s list captures the scope of Chevy’s design history well, but I’m not convinced it’s the list that I would use to define Chevy’s design direction as it enters its second century. Hit the jump for his list, and then let us know what ten Chevy designs from the last hundred years you would look to as you guided the brand into its 21st Century future.

1912 Chevrolet Classic Six
1932 Chevrolet Deluxe Sport Coupe
1936 Chevrolet Suburban
1948 Chevrolet Pick-Up
1953 Chevrolet Corvette
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray
1967 Chevrolet Pick-Up
1989 Chevrolet Pick-Up
2010 Chevrolet Camaro

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97 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: What Ten Chevy Designs Should Define Its Future?...”

  • avatar

    If it was me, I would have had to include a Chevelle and Monte Carlo in there somewhere.
    And why the 1989 C/K? For one thing, that truck debuted for 1988, and while it’s true that a lot of styling cues from that truck can still be found today, I can’t help but think that the 1973-87 version holds a lot of design hallmarks.
    But that’s just me…

    • 0 avatar

      Gotta say, I agree with your assessment 100%.  In my mind the truck selected should have been the ’73-’87 model years.  I would add, in addition to that Chevelle, the first gen Camaro.  Even if that meant knocking the Monte off the list.

    • 0 avatar

      golden2husky: In my mind the truck selected should have been the ’73-’87 model years.
      Damn straight.

  • avatar

    The Corvette sure stands out, doesn’t it

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    I’ll start with my curveball: Chevy Celebrity (footprint vs. interior room vs greenhouse and sight-lines) IMHO the ratios were just about perfect.
    1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
    1961-1964 Chevrolet Bel Air (Clean understated design)
    1970-1981 Camaro
    1967-1972 Chevrolet Pickup (don’t change the size either!)
    1969 Mako Shark concept car
    1978-1988 Monte Carlo (perfect size personal coupe)
    Honestly I can’t think of any more.  (Remember guys were only talking styling here and for one or two of my examples I like the space vs size thing)

    • 0 avatar

      Dan, I like your picks of the 70 Camaro and 67-72 Pickup.  And I’ll stifle my  laugh at the Celebrity, you make some good points about it.  I’ll add Jeffer’s pick of the 65 Corvair, beautiful car, and certainly influential on the European side of the pond.
      I can’t see how they picked the 2010 Camaro, given it’s a homage to the 67.

  • avatar

    well I’d toss the 1989 pick-up and the 2010 camaro off the list and add the 1964 Chevelle Malibu. I’m not sure what else…’65 Corvair maybe. It was beautiful and significant to me, but prehaps not so influential. First generation Monte Carlo should be on there, and the 1961 full-size Chevy was significant for it’s simple beauty.

    • 0 avatar

      I am not sure why the 2010 Camaro would be on there. If you think that the design is significant, then put the 69 Camaro on the list.
      Could not agree more with the 64 Chevelle and Corvair. Maybe 1973 Monte Carlo.

  • avatar

    If you have to throw a Chevy truck in for design why not the 1990 454 SS?
    The 1953 Corvette (the whole first-gen really) has never done anything for me.  The 1968 Stingray on the other hand…a buddy in college had a 1974 Corvette and tried unsuccessfully to get the custom plate that best described the body style…PMAGNET

  • avatar

    Just ten?  Impossible.

  • avatar

    My list:

    1. 1955 Bel Air
    2. 1957 Bel Air
    3. 1964 Impala
    4. 1965 Chevelle Malibu
    5. 1967 Chevy ll Nova
    6. 1968 Chevelle Malibu
    7. 1968 Corvette Stingray
    8. 1969 Camaro
    9. 1968 – 1972 C-10 pickup truck – short bed, stepside
    10. 1972 Chevelle Malibu “Heavy Chevy”

  • avatar

    How is the 2010 Camaro influential?  It’s a flawed rehash, not a benchmark.  It’s only significance is that it’s a bandaid over the gross mistake that GM made in abandoning the F-body in favor of the (gag) Cobalt, in the hopes of attracting young Hoonda buyers (moronic).  Half the reason it’s so popular is that it taps into the original mystique of hotrodded first gen Camaros.
    And how about the 83 Corvette?  After the disaster that was the 70’s, the ‘Vette gets it’s teeth back.  Although it may not be one of the most memorable Corvettes, it’s certainly significant and influential.  I would go as far as to say that nothing after 1973 belongs in that list, except for the 83 Vette.
    Remember those two words:  Significant, and Inspirational.  Both of which have been conspicuously absent in the GM lexicon for decades.

    • 0 avatar

      Actually, the presser said Welburn picked these designs as “noteworthy and iconic.” The Chevrolet brand, it says, “has been responsible for some of the most significant and groundbreaking designs in automotive history.” My bad, press releases are confusing.
      In any case, I assume Welburn would want to reflect the Chevy designs he found most “noteworthy and iconic” or “significant and groundbreaking” in his own designs. Are we seeing any references?

  • avatar

    My favorite Styled Chevrolets were…
    Corvette, 63-67, 78 bubbleback, 58
    Camaro 68 RS/SS, or White/orange Striped 2002 convertible
    59 Chevy Kingswood, BatWings!
    1973 Monte Carlo
    1966, 67 Chevelle… perfect proportions, nicely styled
    1966 Caprice
    1956 Bel Air coupe
    1986 Monte Carlo 2 +2 Aeroback
    2008 Malibu LTZ
    1961 Impala SS
    I’ll admit the 88 2.8 Celebrity we had was an honest car, that rode pretty nice, but the name was just comical… almost as bad as aspireing to a Ford Aspire. Or Excelling in a Hyundai in 1986.

  • avatar

    Ed should be looking beyond Chevy’s history for inspiration:

    Volvo 240 (wagon or sedan) – Chevy should be about basic mass transportation and this is the ultimate box on wheels.  Nothing too fancy but SOHC and fuel injected, these were simple, durable and easy to fix.  Runner-up: the Camry wagon of 1991.

    VW Beetle (not the new one) – Cheap but effective.  An update of this would be something like the Tata Nano.  No, don’t build one but consider what it would take to build a very basic and extremely inexpensive car.

    Something like the Mercedes SL Coupe from the ’70’s or Jag E-Type or even a Gullwing Mercedes from way back when – Sure, the Corvette is a great car but it’s time for an update.  What made these other vehicles iconic and/or classicallyl desirable?  What does the sportscar of the future look like?  Oh, and no more pushrods, please.  I want a modern engine.

    Prius – I can hear the sudden intake of breath from TTAC’s strong GM fan contingent.  But this is a practical effective car that delivers exactly what most people really need from a car plus amazing fuel economy, also has the magic of energy recapture and it hits a practical price point.  Highly advanced technology and capability that still hits a reasonable price point.  The Volt is not that.

    Maserati Quattroporte – Why shouldn’t my sedan be beautiful?

    Really, GM has been far too insular and there’s way too much NIH (Not Invented Here) syndrome.

    • 0 avatar

      Sure, you have good points, but what does all this gratuitous nameplate-dropping add to the exercise?

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately, this just shows that anything Chevy was good at forty years ago has been taken over by other companies since then.  The problem with the original list is it sounds like an old man’s greatest hits from a hot rod magazine, right down to the cynical inclusion of the new Camaro to try to wring a few extra bucks from the codgers.
      If we want to the play the nostalgia game, where’s the V6 Corsica?  I got my first ticket in a rental on a rural highway in Indiana; the cop was literally hiding in a barn.  Or the Lumnia MPV which took six of us to a conference in Ann Arbor in relative comfort (at least for me since I was driving).  Maybe university maintenance gets some credit, but it was pretty comfortable at 80 or so all the way up to Michigan.

    • 0 avatar

      Those V6 Corsicas were speedy little bastards. Relatively light weight, as they were made out of Soviet grade plastic and the metallic equivalent of al dente pasta. Got my lone speeding ticket in one, as well. I miss it but not so much as to include it on a list of inspirational Chevy designs.

  • avatar

    Chevrolet had many well designed vehicles.  But the 2010 Camaro?  How could they leave the original Suburban out?  The list should have been increased to 20.  Include the 59 Impala, 65 Corvair and where’s Nova?

  • avatar

    Mine are off from Zackman’s just ever so slightly, in our model year styling preferences.

  • avatar

    Am I the only one to notice that next to the paragraph describing the “significance” of the 1989 C/K pickup, is a picture of a 1989 S10!? Well done, GM Media Relations.

  • avatar

    My list, in chronological order:

    1. 1955 Nomad
    2. 1955 Cameo
    3. 1957 Bel Air
    4. 1959 El Camino
    5. 1963 Impala
    6. 1963 Corvette Stingray
    7. 1968 Nova
    8. 1968 El Camino
    9. 1969 Camaro
    10. 1971 Monte Carlo

  • avatar

    None of them.  Chevy’s hackneyed styling language is the result of too much reflecting on the past.  The quad tail light theme is played out (and shouldn’t the Impala have six, anyway?) and the truck-derived split grille has been an awkward liability for over a decade now.  And the Camaro just looks ridiculous on its bloated chassis.
    Ironically, the C6 Corvette’s attempt to break from tradition (first fixed headlights since ’62, etc) has resulted in a generic look that has only bolstered the “old man’s sports car” image.  But this car was more about pandering to Europeans than abandoning heritage.
    Look, Chevy just needs to make cars that look good, just like every brand.  It doesn’t matter if they share the same grille or C-pillar design.  Just make them attractive.  And bold.  And interesting.  The ’63 Sting Ray was a work of art.  It wasn’t defined by a past Chevrolet (save for recycling ’62’s tail), but rather a shark Bill Mitchell caught on a fishing trip and perhaps the Bugatti Type 57 Atlantic.
    Stop living in the past, unless GM truly commits to American-market rear drive cars beyond the CTS and Camaro, vintage Chevy styling doesn’t even belong on a modern Chevy car.  It just doesn’t look right.  I’m tired of all the Camry-like blobs and botched attempts at creating a corporate “face.”  It’s not that there’s a shortage of talented designers out there…they should be given the freedom to design cars they’d want to own.  That’s how we ended up with classic designs like the original Riviera, a car that Buick, Olds and Pontiac actually competed to build.

  • avatar

    GM, yank the 2010 Camaro off that list right now! A pillbox for the road is not what Chevy needs more of. I have no beef with the rest of the list but that Camaro, yecch.
    Anyhoo, my list:
    1. 1954 Chevrolet Nomad
    2. 1957 Chevrolet Bel-Air
    3. 1960 Chevrolet Corvair
    4. 1965 Chevrolet Corvair
    5. 1967 Chevrolet Camaro
    6. 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle
    7. 1970 Chevrolet El Camino
    8. 1982 Chevrolet Celebrity
    9. 2002 Chevrolet Borrego
    10. 2008 Chevrolet Lumina SS

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    My list
    55-57 Chevy, Bel-Air or pedestrian one. First small block V8
    Impalas, the winged one and I think the model year is 68 for a fastback one.
    68-72 Chevelle
    77-89 Caprice, downsizing done right
    I agree with both the 73 and 88 C/K Pick-ups. The 88 brought a modern and kind of timeless style much needed in full-size trucks.
    70-81 Camaro, the best looking one IMO.
    78-88 A and G body Malibu/Monte Carlo/El Camino. Again, downsizing done right.
    2000-2004 Impala
    What Mr. Welburn should look for is why Chevy cars were successful, find that concept and bring it if possible to 21st century.
    GM seemed really focused, and it shows on 55 Chevy, 77-78 Caprice/Malibu and with most of the trucks.
    A 21st century Chevy should be an affordable, beautiful, decently powered, well appointed and not a very luxurious vehicle.
    The modern Impala already exists (save for the ugly), it is called Toyota Camry.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      The modern Impala already exists (save for the ugly), it is called Toyota Camry

      Really I was under the impression it was the current Honda Impala (Accord.) 

    • 0 avatar

      Whoa!  Athos Nobile….nails it 1977 B Chev..Was the first downsized…. done right.

    • 0 avatar

      I debated adding the 1977 Impala coupe with the wrap-around back window. Overall design done right except for the fixed quarter window trend, which disqualified it on that point alone.

      I did want to add the 1970 Monte Carlo, but the Grand Prix kind of beat it to the punch.

    • 0 avatar

      @ Zackman….I was there, in late 1976 when they shipped the first “pilot” B Impala up from Flint. After building nothing but the massive barges from 1972, most of us younger guys, were in a word, shocked. ….This is an Impala?…Little did we know,this was the car of the future,and it set the bar for the competition.

      IMHO….The last game changer, GM ever produced.

    • 0 avatar

               In the fall of ’76 my Dad worked at the local Chev-Olds emporium. One night he brought home a shiny new ’77 Impala coupe to show his car crazy teenage son what all the fuss about the new Chevy was about. It was bright red with a white vinyl roof and white interior and had a 350 4 barrel. It was a real stunner. As he took me for a ride he explained that while the car was already sold the customer, a personal friend of his, had agreed to let it sit in the showroom for a few weeks until more new models arrived.
       A few nights later the sales manager decided to take the car, fresh out of the detail shop, home for the weekend. Apparently he had a few too many drinks at the golf course bar and slid into a bridge. The 8×8 wood railing beam rammed through the grill, right through the firewall and hit the passenger side front seatback (unoccupied thankfully) hard enough to push it into the back seat. After firing the sales manager, the dealership principal attempted to order an exact replacement and found out that special order cars were averaging about 12 weeks for delivery due to the popularity of the new Chevy. That’s how popular these cars were when they were introduced.
       I’ve never seen a sharper looking B-body and it was written off before the snow flew in ’76.
      I never did find out how Dad squared this with his buddy.

    • 0 avatar


      I spent some time studying the 1977 Impala coupe when it came out – I wanted one sooo badly, but preparing for marriage at the time earmarked what meager funds I had available, plus the hog of a truck I drove at the time ate up the rest.

      As for the Impala – I had planned on buying one used at a future time and doing an engineering project to make the quarter windows actually roll down! Time, kids and life took precedence, though, but I believe I had it figured out reasonably well. Man, those were beautiful cars, though!

  • avatar

    1. 1968 Corvette
    2. 1996 Impala SS
    3. 1973 Suburban
    4. 1970 Camaro
    5. 1960 Corvair
    6. 1957 Bel-Air
    7. 1983 Monte Carlo SS
    8. 1959 Impala
    9. 1970 Chevelle
    10. 1968 Nova

  • avatar

    I can’t believe that Welburn, and every TTAC commenter so far save Mazder3 missed the Corvairs. Sheesh! And I can’t believe no-one has picked the Whale (the last generation Caprice).
    Among the ‘vettes, I prefer the 60-62 style.
    In terms of sheer aesthetic appeal I like these:
    ’60-62 ‘Vette
    ’65 Corvair. This is an amazing, timeless car.
    ’64 Impala
    ’64 Chevelle
    The Whale (yes it is the ultimate cop car)
    I do agree with Welburn that the ’63 Stingray and the ’55 Bel Air were highly influential.
    I don’t know the pre-wwii cars well enough to judge them.
    I also agree wth Mazder3 about the 2010 Camaro.
    I think the ’57 is overrated, despite the fact that it’s the first car I ever drove. Or maybe partly because I’ve driven it. And it sucked. Even by contemporary standards. Although I was unaware that it sucked at the time I drove it.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I think the ’57 is overrated, despite the fact that it’s the first car I ever drove. Or maybe partly because I’ve driven it. And it sucked. Even by contemporary standards. Although I was unaware that it sucked at the time I drove it.

      I was just talking about style.  Naturally any modern car is supperior by a magnatude of 10 when it comes to longevity, NVH, ect…

    • 0 avatar

      I can’t believe that Welburn, and every TTAC commenter so far save Mazder3 missed the Corvairs. Sheesh! And I can’t believe no-one has picked the Whale (the last generation Caprice).
      I guess I should bold my #2 and #5 choice…

    • 0 avatar

      @David Holzman:
      Jeffer and Doc chose the Corvair before I did. I would have chosen the whale if it weren’t for the sweet Aussie/South African Lumina SS. *Drool*

    • 0 avatar

      Those 90’s Caprices/Impalas? The “roachmobiles”? Remove them from any and all lists. Pure garbage, and don’t give me that “RWD” stuff either!

    • 0 avatar

      Dan, I’m actually thinking about style, too. It’s somewhat baroque, like late ’50s Imperials, but the front is otherwise not outstanding, and the back is awful. (And I really have to do some distancing from my childhood to say that. We loved that car in my family. It took us twice across the country.) It does look fairly good from the side. I vastly prefer the rear of the ’58, and the ’63 and ’64 overall.

  • avatar

    Strictly in terms of which chevy should define its future, I vote for the 65 Corvair

  • avatar

    If they’d styled the Volt like a ’65 Corvair, it would sell a million copies (well, maybe 100,000) despite the price. Everyone would buy one. Even Ralph Nader.

  • avatar

    I don’t know many people who feel differently about the 2010 Camaro than I do: that it is a gruesome parody of the original; like a ’69 Camaro that drove through a puddle of Ninja Turtle ooze; like a teenage boy’s notebook doodle minus only the machine guns.
    I assume it’s only on there because he was at the helm for that design.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Everyone I know who owns a new Camaro is over 40 years of age.  I don’t know what that means but that’s a fact.  And in my 20 to 30 something peer group I don’t know anyone who wants one. 

    • 0 avatar

      +100. My family owned a 1967 and 1970 Rally Sport. The current Camaro isn’t worthy of kissing their asses.

    • 0 avatar

      PARODY. Exactly. It is absolutely preposterously over-styled. I hate the use of the phrase “on steroids,” but its applicable here as a pejorative. It looks just as ridiculous as an inflated bodybuilder with a spray on tan.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    None of the above. Looking backwards for design ideas is a tacit admission of failure, and inevitably leads to looking backwards in other aspects of automobile craft.

    • 0 avatar

      I think we’re talking fashion here, and I don’t … no, maybe you’re right that it is a tacit admission of failure. But I don’t think that inevitably leads to lookng backwards in other areas.

    • 0 avatar

      If we have to keep surreptitiously steering the conversation away from Chevrolet, then is the new Mercedes SLK gull-wing a tacit admission of failure?

    • 0 avatar

      “None of the above. Looking backwards for design ideas is a tacit admission of failure, and inevitably leads to looking backwards in other aspects of automobile craft.”

      Not necessarily. Many of the older designs had real style and function, not the bloated blobs that seem to perpetuate too many designs nowadays. Of course, the manufacturing process, market realities and such preclude directly copying the older models, but cues that worked very well should not be tossed aside needlessly, as there are constants that do not change and should be respected.

  • avatar

    Yeah, I’m late coming to the party, but the first thing that comes to mind:

    Where’s the Corvair?

    Both first and second generations. It was the last time an American car manufacturer tried something different. OK, so you got burned by your accountants, it was still a hell of a lot more impressive than just about anything non-Corvette you’ve done in that last 50 years.

    Other thoughts:

    1929 Chevrolet line (the six for the price of a four, doomed the Model A to a mere four year run)
    1958 Impala (the blue-collar Cadillac)

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The 3100 series  pick ups  49-54, the 55-57  Belair , 64 Impala, 64-Chevelle  and  Nova.  The stingray.  The  52  Fleetmaster.  All  theses  are for  their cosmetics. The  small  block  engines  have  many followers, but  the  235 and 250  I 6s  were better  motors.

  • avatar

    I see this a little differently. Chevy in their glory days built a lot of great cars. They also built some real dogs. Both have shaped where Chevy is today and both hold lessons for the future. Halo models are great, but it’s the bread and butter sedans that paid the bills. My list:
    1929 Chevrolet-First of the stovebolt sixes that made Chevy’s reputation.
    1949 Chevrolet-First post war model, first “modern” Chevy. Not as iconic as a ’49 Ford but still a great car.
    1955 Chevrolet- Obvious reasons.
    1958 Impala-The first mainstream “glamour” Chevy. Also the first time Chevy had to respond to Ford (Fairlane 500), a sign of things to come. The Impala was America’s car for a long time though. Also the start of the bloated Chevy.
    1960 Corvair-The first real mis step. Great idea, poor execution.
    1963 Corvette-The ’65 was far superior but everyone loves the ’63 so here it is. The split window was a pointless affectation but that’s just my opinion.
    1965 Chevrolet-An important turning point. A beautiful design, Chevy sold these as fast as they could build them. Both Ford and Plymouth built superior cars that year but Chevy’s styling trumped them both. Build quality was noticeably down, and Powerglide was still the only automatic for most of the year. I think this is about when Chevy started thinking people would buy anything with a bowtie as long as it was pretty.
    1971 Vega-The first product of corporate rather than division design philosophy. A disaster in every way that GM should have learned from and didn’t.
    1977 Chevrolet-An important course correction if nothing else. Also the last time Chevy hit one out the park. Has it really been 34 years?
    1980 Citation-Goodbye reputation. They didn’t learn anything here either.
    I come from  a Chevrolet family, my Dad sold them for awhile, and I had a lot of good times in and around Chevy’s. But somewhere along the line they forgot who their customers were and why they bought Chevys. Part of me still really wants to like them, but unless I need a truck they just don’t have it any more. I hope they figure it out one day. Soon.

    • 0 avatar

      The ’65 Chevy was a major major turning point (maybe not quite as much of one as the ’55…) and it was a beautiful car. But there must be something wrong with it that I just don’t like it nearly as much as the ’64. I loved it when it came out, but although I respect it, and like it, I don’t love it the way I did then. The ’64, on the other hand, I loved it when it came out, but I love it more now. It’s one of my favorites.
      Even though the ’65 was and is a good-looking car, somehow, it was the first on a path that led to bad styling, in the late ’60s and the ’70s, until the advent of the box.

    • 0 avatar

      My first car was a ’65 Chevy so I do have a soft spot, even though I think the success of this model was due more to styling than being a better car than the competition. As far as the 64 goes, an SS ragtop with a 300hp 327 and a 4 speed would be my ideal “big” Chevy. White with a red interior please.

  • avatar

    1. Vega
    2. Chevette
    3. Cavalier
    4. Cobalt
    5. Cruze

    Because Chevrolet really, really needs to learn from its mistakes, which have been much more numerous than its successes in the past half century.  Chevy, and in fairness all US mfrs, tend to throw out the baby with the bathwater when their designs don’t first succeed. Corolla and Civic dominate this segment by making incremental but steady improvements towards perfecting their original vision — much the same way the Detroit 3 have treated pickups, which totally dominate THEIR segment.

    I agree with these choices:

    6. ’55 Bel Air (exactly right-sized)
    7. ’77 Impala (the best ’55 Chevy ever built)
    8. ’88 C/K (the first modern pickups–Ford and Dodge were still building utter crap at this point)

    Technological leadership:

    9. C4 Corvette. Execution may have been a bit flawed, but these were enormously capable cars in their era, a night-and-day departure from any previous Corvette. Chevrolet showed that they could run with anyone, and do it at a much lower cost.

    10. Volt.  The technological paradigm is going to change profoundly over the course of this decade, and Chevy has indicated with this car that they intend to not only be in the conversation, but also to furnish the talking points.

    Summary: within the lifetimes of the folks running Chevrolet these days, there are precious few successes to point to, much less draw inspiration from. They really, really need to be looking ahead rather than behind.

    • 0 avatar

      I always felt the Vega was a great design in concept, but in typical GM fashion, terribly executed.  Poorly built and not well tested (if tested at all) before unleashing on the public.

  • avatar

    I’m amazed to see the Celebrity on some people’s lists. I thought I was the only one who liked them (I drove one for 11 years). It was honest mainstream value, not a dream car. In that vein I offer:

    Any Nova pre-1980
    1977 Impala
    1989 C/K
    1964 El Camino
    1992 K5 Blazer (perfect SUV proportions, never equaled)

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      I wished the 2.5ltr Iron Duke in mine was more technologically advanced and more refined, I wished for better build quailty… but it had good interior room for the size of the vehicle, it got good MPG, the trunk was HUGE, and the while the engine did need to be rebuilt at 100,000 miles the 3 speed auto went 250,000 miles without even having the fluid changed.  Oh and I LIKE 5 mph bumpers (which mine had) because they let an idiot kid like me hit something occasionally and not hurt his first car.  My cousin bough the sucker off my dad and destroyed it in a demo derby. 

  • avatar

    The original 1982 Celebrity. I drove one from Minneapolis to Newport Beach, CA in summer 1985 via Amarillo and Albuquerque. I don’t remember whether it was the 4 or the 6, but it seemed exactly the right size, was easy to see out of (mine was a coupe), and had unpretentious styling – pre-facelift. Wagon versions of the Celebrity and its siblings were the only useful FWD wagon choice until the Taurus wagon showed up four years later.
    1955-57 Nomad.
    1977 Caprice (coupe or sedan).
    1970 Malibu convertible.
    1968 El Camino.
    1969-70 Kingswood full-size wagon.

  • avatar

    I think you have to look at each of the vehicles on Welburn’s list and compare it to what was being offered by the competition at the moment it debuted. Taken in that context, vehicles like the 1989 C/K pickup and the 2010 Camaro are much more significant.

    Compare the 1989 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra to the vehicles they replaced and then compare them to the Ford F150 and Dodge Ram. The new models were light years ahead in terms of interior comfort, ride quality, etc. They sparked a “design war” for lack of a better term, that led to the 1994 Ram, which was another huge leap forward in pickup evolution and then to the Toyota T100 before that generation of GM pickups was replaced in 1999.

    The 1989 C/K’s basic architecture also underpinned the redesigned Suburban, Tahoe, Yukon, and first generation Escalade. Ford was forced to respond with the first generation of Expeditions, the Navigator, and finally the Excursion. Think about that for a second. GM had been marketing the Suburban since the ’30’s and Ford hadn’t bothered to come up with a competitor until they introduced the Excursion (right at the end of the full- size SUV party, to be sure.) The work put into the design and upgrades in the 1989 C/K pickups led directly to that. 

    I think that the same can be said of the 2010 Camaro. Compared to the Dodge Challenger and the 2005- 2009 Mustang, it was a huge step forward.  

    • 0 avatar

      As an owner of a ’96 C/K, I can attest to what you say about comfort and ride quality. At the time the GMT400 came out in ’88, Ford was still on its twin I-Beam platform dating back to ’80, and the less said about the Dodge 150, the better. Tough truck, but a 1972 vintage.

      Shhh!  Don’t tell Sajeev, but I sometimes take the truck out on highway trips instead of the Vic.  141.5 inch wheelbase, what can I say.

      The 88-98 GM half-tons are still everywhere in rural Canada, and I’m sure it’s the same in the States.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. I have a ’95 C1500 (GMC Sierra) with 167K on the clock. Other than some minor rust issues it cleans up well and runs great.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Hmmm…. I’m surprised there has been no mention of the Fiero. Even though it wasn’t commercially successful, the Fiero did represent GM’s first genuine opportunity in decades to pursue a distinctive design in the market place.

    One other vehicle that IS representative of GM’s design success is the Chevy Suburban. Although I would bunch that one up with it’s GMT400 brethren. A lot of folks would be disgusted to say it. But the GMT400 was the most successful design of the 1990’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Steve, it’s not a Chevy.  If were gonna play that game I’ll come up with a list of 5 Oldsmobiles and 5 Pontiacs that GM ought to emulate.   (Heck Cadillac should emulate it’s entire 1960s lineup if it wants glory again.) 

    • 0 avatar

      I wouldn’t be disgusted to say it.  The design is clean, handsome and timeless.
      Oh, and the Fiero was a Pontiac.  Thanks for playing, though.  :P

      Edit: Sonofabitch, Zackman can’t beat Dan to the punch, and neither can I. I salute you, Speedy Gonzales.

      ***Check out that time stamp, Dan.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      You da man. 

  • avatar

    The GMT-400 trucks is an obvious winner. It was the first pickup on the market that had universal appeal and was ‘roadable’ to any driver, not just ‘truck owners.’

    That’s why you see innumerable examples on the road today in far greater quantities than Fords and WAY more than Dodges of the same era.

    I’ll nominated the Celebrity as well as its fellow A-bodies for signifying a simple, honest car that was still built the American way – tough as nails. Take a similar-vintage Camry down a mottled trail. Or forget to change fluids for thousands of miles. And what’s a timing belt?

  • avatar

    The 1977 B-Body Impala/ Caprice, “The New Chevrolet” has to be there. A true game changer and a stunning for its incredibly clean, crisp design.
    GM took a huge chance with this and it was significant in that it caught Ford and Chrysler totally off guard and sent them back to the drawing board.
    Amazing that these were the best selling cars in America for years.

  • avatar

    The ’08 Malibu and the ’68 Corvette both deserve a place; the ‘vette for setting the design language and proportions for all Corvettes since, and the Malibu for being the first mainstream Chevy sedan in 30+ years that doesn’t look as though its styling was sent down directly from Avis corporate HQ.
    I don’t get all the Celebrity love either.  The design was dated when it came out and it’s not like they were particularly well built or fun to drive.  If you want a no-frills, simple, tough car on the list, the Nova (in either X-body or NUMMI varieties) would be a far better choice.

  • avatar

    We bought a ’99 Prizm new and sold it last year to a friend who’d had a good experience years earlier with a ’90 Prizm, and they are indeed great cars (at least in 5-speed form). But it didn’t occur to me to include a NUMMI car in my entry above, despite its front and rear bowties – nor would I include in such a list any car that says ‘Toyota’ in the engine compartment.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Not a huge GM fan, but the ’67 Corvette, ’77 Impala, and ’03 CTS are all remarkable designs.  WTF with the ’89 S10?

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    I am aghast that, with the Obama/Reid/Pelosi CAFE standards rolling toward us like the automotive equivalent of the recent tsunami, that GM is not looking to it’s only iconic small car designs…the early 60’s Chevy II and the Corvair.  The Chevy II, which begat the Nova, was a compact, tight, clean and efficient design.  The wagon form (yes, they made them) would yield perfect lines for a CUV.

  • avatar


  • avatar

    All of Ed Welburn’s suggestions amount to nothing more than a nostalgia trip.  Someone once said nostalgia is looking at the past wearing blinders and rose colored glasses, and if gasoline hits $4.00 a gallon, we will need fresh ideas, not a rehash of old cliches from the 50’s.  If he wants to look to vehicles for inspiration, I’d suggest:  1968 BMW 2001, Toyota Prius, Honda Ridgeline, and the first generation Datsun 240Z.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll spot you the other vehicles you mentioned, including the puposefully- hateful- to- driving- enthusiasts Prius, but the Honda Ridgeline? Seriously? I’m a big Honda fan (wife has an Odyssey) but the Ridgeline has been a sales clunker from day one. It’s priced too high and it’s short bed severely limits its appeal.  Not to mention that it’s design is basically just a scaled down Chevy Avalanche. I mean, who was inspiring who? Who was ripping off who’s designs? 

  • avatar

    Being a blue oval guy, not many Chevys make me stop and stare.  A few exceptions:
    1955 Chevy 210
    1965 Corvair
    any midyear Corvette
    1966 Nova
    1969 Kingswood Estate
    1970 Camaro
    The Cosworth Vegas would be on my list if they didn’t have those big, honkin’ government mandated bumpers hanging off of the ends.  Lovely shape otherwise.

    • 0 avatar

      Personally I always thought the wedge-shaped front end the Vega got in ’74 looked better than the bluff original.  Same for the F-bodies and Corvette; GM styling did a much better job than most other manufacturers in integrating the new bumpers.

  • avatar

    Generic Motors venerated the humble Chevrolet brothers product into ‘the poor man’s Cadillac’. Once upon an arrogance, one of the suits in Detroit said ‘the car buying public is gonna buy what we’re gonna build period.’ this mind set eventually brought about the inevitable and long over due crash. 10 designs? feh. the kids at the sketch tables can retro face all of them. it’s the only originality left now that everything looks like everything else. the SINGULAR design Shibberlay [remember Junior Johnson?] at the forefront of the boardroom should be the original design of the Chevrolet brothers : a vehicle(s) that is affordable and reliable. par example ; Volkswagen. who else has CONSISTANTLY and PROFITABLY expanded from a single model ?

  • avatar

    I’m with Syke, the 1958 Impala should be on the list.  And yes, all Impalas should have three taillamps.

  • avatar

    Are we talking best or most influential?
    Because if it’s the latter, than virtually every Chevy that’s come out in recent years borrows its nose from the ’88 pickups.

    In terms of both beauty and significance, I would have to keep the original Suburban and the first postwar pickups. The ’67 pickup too.

    1955 full-size
    1961 full-size
    1960 Corvair
    1965 Corvair
    1970 Camaro
    1970 Chevelle
    1975 Monza
    1977 full-size
    1982 Camaro
    1984 Corvette
    2008 Malibu

    Note the gap between 1984 and 2008. Chevys have historically been sharply styled even in the cheapest models. Made you unashamed to drive them even if you could afford something more expensive. The latest Malibu brings some of that back, but that’s where Chevy needs to be. The trucks never really lost that.

  • avatar

    Really disspointed

    NOBODY loved my fav 1963 car (plus Corvette) car?!!!

    1963 Impala SS

    • 0 avatar

      My yellow 1964 Chevy Impala SS convertible had much more class. The pointed ends on the 1963’s made no sense.

    • 0 avatar

      I think people tend to group the 1961-64 cars together despite significant sheet-metal changes year-to-year. Mechanically, they’re identical and can trace their roots back to ’58. I always liked the ’64 because our family had an Impala wagon, but the ’63 may have been the sharpest design. Compared to the ’63, the ’64 looks like the ends were filed down just to make it look different.

      The ’65-’70 models were a new generation altogether. Only the small-block drivetrains carried over, the Mark IV big-block replacing the 409. The differences reflect the changes in society from the early ’60’s to the late ’60’s. Other makes were similar.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I see a few others also agree that the ’70 Camaro needs to be in the list. Any 63 to 67 Vette is a given.

  • avatar

    Why the 1989 pickup and 2010 Camaro are on this list is puzzling. When asked what Chevy cars most people remember as great designs 1960’s and early 70’s Chevelles and Monte Carlos come to mind. So does the 1967-69 Camaro which the new car is just a fat bloated squinty windowed re-hash of. The G-body SS from 1983-1988 was another fondly remembered and design that was not only popular on the street but with nascar also for it’s wind cheating aero design. It amazes me how narrow thinking many are today and how quickly the 70’s and 80’s designs are dismissed as all crap from Detroit. Growing up in the 70’s – 90’s revealed a very high percentage of youth lusting after Chevy Monte Carlos, El-Caminos, Camaros and Chevelles. I never once heard anybody say I love the new Honda Civic hatch and am dying to drive one. It was the Chevy performance coupes, muscle cars and luxury coupes that many desired along with the Pontiac cousins back in the day. That is why I take what todays youth say with a grain of salt because we live in drastically different times with everything is foreign or imported mentality. After the mid 90’s everything changed over night litterally in the wrong direction. Just look at Chevys current car lineup. They could all pass as foreign bland designs. The new Global Cruze looks a lot like a Sentra from the side and it’s window beltline and c-pilar are un-original. The Malibu is also bland and it would be very easy to remove the Chevy grille and badge and call it a Toyota. The Impala could pass as a former generation Accord etc. The new upcoming Malibu looks a tad more promising out back with retro round Camaro like taillights. Hopefully the rest of the car doesn’t look like a melted bland bar of soap.

  • avatar

    I’d just go with the 1955 Impala, 1965 Impala, and 1977 Impala, and ask why Chevy stopped making spacious, RWD, full size, four door family sedans.

  • avatar

    Chevrolets usually look very nice. Ugly is actually the exception.

    Chevrolet needs to look honest. It works best when their car line looks simple and clean. I believe the sales figures also show this to be true.

    So no bat wings, no fins, no wrap around split rear windows, no goth opera windows, no plastic rear ends. The Chevrolet designs that work best display a solid looking metal body which is appropriately shaped, a bit of chrome, an eggcrate grille, and a conservative shape.

    It is the simplicity and economy of design which made Chevrolets look so perfect.

    My list –
    1939 Chevrolet Truck
    1949 Chevrolet
    1955 Bel Air
    1962 Malibu
    1977 Impala
    1984 Cavalier
    1987 Corsica
    1987 S10
    2003 SSR
    2011 Volt

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