Sunday, May 31, 2009

GM Cars: My Own Retrospective

Stuck inside due to wild rain storms and high wind so I thought I might put together an automotive themed post just for fun. I imagine Watchtower at least will like this entry!

GM Cars: My Own Retrospective
On the eve of the historic GM bankruptcy I thought we might take a stroll through the car makers rich history and look at some of the best and worst cars made by the company.

My criteria are as follows;
-I am picking the GM cars that I thought were the best or worst; this may be based on looks, drive ability, or really anything
-Sales numbers do not matter
That's about it.

Let start off with the worst cars GM has ever produced.

Pontiac Fiero
In theory this car may have been a real winner. A mid engined (only one in production by a US automaker), lightweight, and sharp looking two seater probably sounded great. In practice this car was terrible!

My Dad actually had one of these and so from first hand experience I can tell you:
-car was woefully underpowered
-handling was a joke as GM used common parts off the shelf to build the car, which by it's design had unique needs
-loud and as big as a small closet on the inside, taking a drive was more of a hassle than a reward.
Still this car sold fairly well and still has a fan base today. The Pontiac Fiero makes my "worst" list.

Chevrolet Celebrity
I have no idea if the dealerships were giving these cars away in the late 1980's or what but in my city almost every kid's family I knew had at least on of these things as their vehicle:

Available in the station wagon style pictured, this car makes the worst lost, maybe on looks alone! Also, these cars fell apart, which is bad.

Chevrolet Vega
This car makes the list on a purely styling basis:

I mean, this car is basically a Camaro that got shrunk in the dryer! We will call it mini camaro!

It is much harder to pick out the best cars GM has built without writing a post that is VERY long. Over the years GM has made many of the all time classics and many of the greatest muscle cars ever built. Here are my top GM cars:

1955-1957 Chevrolet Bel Air
Perhaps the icon of US cars. Classic styling and the first iterations of the small block V-8 made this thing of beauty pack a punch as well:

This car to this day is one of the most restored and modified vehicles in car enthusiast circles. Not much to add, an all time classic.

1963-1967 Chevrolet Corvette
If a you had to pick one car to epitomize "sexy" it would have to be the 1963-1967 Stingray split window Corvette:

Available engines included everything from the base 327 small block all the way up to a 427 Tri-Power big block. I have always wanted one of these cars for as long as I can remember. When I think of GM I like to think about this car.

1966-1969 Chevrolet Camaro
Perhaps no other car is steeped in history and mystery as much as the first generation Camaro. Originally built so that Chevy would have an entrant into the Trans Am racing circuit that could compete with the Ford Mustang, the first generation Camaro did that and more.

The option code Z-28 was the pure racing motor that the cars ran in the Trans Am series. A small block V-8 of 302 cubic inches (engine code DZ302), the engine had a short stroke which allowed sustained high RPM operation. The published horsepower numbers were a full 25% below what the engine made a peak RPM, a trick by GM to make the cars unwanted by the general public.

The Camaro also touched off the dark world of "special option code" models after which car collectors obsess over to this day. Called Central Office Production Orders, COPO Camaros included some exotic entries including:
-COPO 9561 denoted a solid lifter L72 big block engine that made well over 450 horsepower. Don Yenko would buy a bunch of these and make the famous "Yenko Camaro's" from the factory base model
-COPO 9560 is the most prized Camaro of all time. This option allowed the car to be equipped with the equally legendary ZL-1 all aluminum 427 big block engine. Only 69 cars were delivered with this option, and the motors were rated at over 500 horsepower:

I could get all nostalgic and include all my favorite cars from the GM line. Notable models include:
-Pontiac Firebird/Trans Am
-Buick Grand National
-Chevrolet El Camino
-Pontiac GTO (old version)

A new addition to the GM line may well the the best path forward for the troubled automaker. The seventh generation (2008-on) Chevrolet Malibu is a strong offering from GM. A couple of friends have this car, and I have to say it is as fine a product as GM has had in some time:

A nice quiet ride and a roomy interior make for a nice driving experience. Sold suspension tuning and good brakes make a nice mid size package. This car is a reasonable competitor for the Toyota Camry. GM would do well to go over how they came up with the new Malibu and then keep doing that!

On a more economic note, it seems absurd to think that the biggest bankruptcy in history will be all sorted out in as little as 90 days as I have read in some reports. The good old "Good GM, Bad GM" stand by plan seems to be option one. Let's hope this can work out in a sustainable way for the US automaker.

Have a good night.


GawainsGhost said...

Funny that you should throw up the Chevy Bel Air. That is one of my favorite cars of all time. I learned how to drive in a 56 special chrome edition owned by my grandparents. It was turquois and white with tail fins, fully loaded. Now that was a car.

I was supposed to inherit it when I turned 16, but my grandfather sold it to an investor because it had a cracked engine block. Hell, I would have bought it and fixed it up, but I didn't have any money when I was 15.

As to the Corvette, the 69 Stingray was one of the best. My father had one of those. 427 engine, dual-quad carb, factory chrome side pipes, t-top. Talk about a sports car.

I never really cared much for the Camaro, although I will say that the new model is a heartbreaker.

My mother bought a Malibu last year. It's actually a very nice car, very comfortable, smooth ride.

Too bad about GM though. Oh, well, all good things must come to an end. We're at the end of an era. What comes next will be interesting, if not traumatic, to say the least.

Anonymous said...


"Hell, I would have bought it and fixed it up, but I didn't have any money when I was 15."

LOL and then came credit 30 years later for anyone who could fog a mirror even a 15 year old. Damn it!
I Will never buy an American made car ever again even a used one and that's a promise.

getyourselfconnected said...

certainly you have been able to see up close some real classics. A friend of the family had a 1978 Corvette but that was about it. It's strange I always thought I would buy a muscle car to tinker with (I used to build race engines for stock cars) but now that I have the means to do it, I don't want to anyomre, go figure!
I was as pro american cars as you can get but my experince with my 2000 Pontiac Grand Prix was the last straw. Sub stnadrad parts, an interior that was made of cheap plastic, and a myriad of other issues forced me out. Infiniti g35x is the only was for me to go from now on!

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GawainsGhost said...

Well, as to the Corvette, the summer I turned 16 my father asked me if I wanted to drive it down to the gas station and fill it up. But he forgot that I had my own gas credit card.

(My father had taken me down to the DPS and gotten me a hardship license when I was 15, then gave me a Toyota so I could drive my brothers and sisters to school.)

So I went to the beach! And I got to tell you, driving that Corvette down the highway, t-top open, engine roaring, that was an experience. Then girls climbing all over me for a ride down South Padre Island. It was great.

I got back home about ten hours later. My father was still standing exactly where he was standing in the driveway when I left. He didn't say anything, but he did look over that car like a man on a mission, with a microscope.

Of course, I had cleaned, vaccumed and washed it, filled the tank, before I took it home. I'm not that stupid.

He never told me anything, but he never let me drive it again.

Anonymous said...


I'm sure that an American car would be just fine with me as all I want it to do is get from point a to point b without stranding me on the side of the road. Having worked in a dealership for 5 years the in the seventies, working as the city I used to live in a few moths, spending 4 years working as the only mechanic for that oil company I worked for taking care of over 200 different vehicles, and moonlighting on the side for 15 years the last thing I want to do is even look under the hood. Having typed all that the reason I will never buy another American car, new, used or even a classic is now driven by pure political backlash. Tell them with your money and for all the money our corrupt little government has thrown at this to buy votes they should be giving away cars to the same taxpayers they have ripped off, fleeced, buried under a mountain of unplayable sovereign debt, increasing taxes and raging inflation down the road.


watchtower said...

'57 Chevy = American Icon, 'nuff said.

I did get a chance about 3 years ago to drive a restored '65 Vette.
It had no power steering or power brakes and I have to admit that I would not be man enough to drive that car on a regular basis, almost plowed into the back of another vehicle when I brought it back because I wasn't used to manual brakes : )

I'm 44 years old so I have passed up a couple of cars back in the very early 80's that I'm now kicking myself over:

1. 1970 Ram Air III Trans Am (manual transmission) white with blue stripe...price $3300, in very nice shape!

2. 1969 396 Camaro SS (manual transmission) blue...price $3600 in excellent shape.

At the time I thought 3k was all the money in the world so I passed on both, hindsight is 20/20 I guess.

GYSC, I noticed the Corvair wasn't on your list, my buddys gave him and I a lot of walking exercise back in the day.
It seemed like every time we were back in the sticks fishing or plinking with our .22s that d@## car would decide not to start.
This was well before cell phones, all we had was our "Chuck Taylor" Converse tenner shoes : )

getyourselfconnected said...

great comments!
The corvair did not make the list because the concept was great, the execution was not so great. Still those cars have a stigma that is not warranted.
As far as not buying any car from a US government saved company I say that is good. I am in the process of finding another bank (mine is bank of america) so that I do not bank at a TARP recipient. We all do what we can.
Thanks to all, have a good night.

body kits said...

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Rob Dawg said...

Good: 1970 Chevelle SS 454. Red with double black stripe.
Bad: Cimmaron, Chevette.
Ugly: Aztec, Equinox.

Anonymous said...

US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner was laughed at by an audience of Chinese students after insisting that China's US assets are safe.

They're a hell of a lot smarter then Americans me thinks.


Anonymous said...

To All,

The now 60% govt ownership will make it easier to convert the lines from making POVs (or POS) into the soon to be needed APCs and WMD.


PS: Big news from me next week... so wait for it.

getyourselfconnected said...

I hope it is good news!

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vegavairbob said...

The Vega was designed from scratch in two years. The only parts it shares with a 1970 Camaro is the cigarette lighter. The grill is wider than the Camaro but the Vega is much narrower. There is a family resemblance only because they shared the same styling studio, but a shrunken Camaro? Hardly.