1999 GM (Specialty Vehicles) EV1
As it preps for its 100th anniversary celebration in a few weeks, General Motors has been digging through its archives to name its top 10 production cars built in its history.
There are some familiar names on the list--maybe you've heard of the Corvette or the Chevy Bel Air? Other choices are a little more esoteric, like the 1927 LaSalle, and some seem like kudos thrown to various parts of the General Motors empire for political reasons--we're talking about the influential-but-maybe-not-earth-shattering Saab 92 here.
It's one way to kick off an anniversary celebration--and another way to trigger endless rounds of bar trivia and free drinks, which sounds like the highest purpose we can think of. Disagree with any of these choices? Tell us in a comment below while we try to shoehorn in an 11th nod on the list (what, you're going to diss the Fiero, guys?):
1996 EV1 (shown above): GM bills this one as the industry's first production electric vehicle. Powered by battery and charged overnight at home, the EV1 gave GM an image headache in later years after it pulled the plug--and enraged environmentalists.
1964 Pontiac GTO:
1964 Pontiac GTO
They call this one the first musclecar, and they may be right--it's a lot clearer than, say, the "first rock-n-roll record" or the "first person to predict Amy Winehouse's current state of deshabillement." The "Goat" started life as a Tempest, and stirred a tempest in a teapot that still reverbs at GM today in the form of the 2010 Camaro and the '09 Corvette ZR1.
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air:
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air
Does anything say "fabulous" more than a pink-and-white (or turquoise-and-white) Bel Air with three ladies turning heads from the front seat? You can smell the burgers at the drive-in and practically feel the onset of Eisenhower's first heart attack when you come within 50 feet of one of these ultimate styling statements. We're not exactly sure what it's saying, but it's not saying anything about "change we can believe in," that's for damn sure.
1953 Chevrolet Corvette:
1953 Chevrolet Corvette
What started so simple and has evolved into a 205-mph maniac came from GM's Motorama drawing boards, and immediately drew gasps, sighs, and a return volley from Ford in the shape of the Thunderbird. The first Corvette was no race champion, but it set the Chevrolet bar higher than any car before it.
1950 Saab 92:
1950 Saab 92
The peace dividend in ur-form? Saab engineers leaned on aircraft influences to pen the first Saab 92 and painted all of them green. Both catchy themes are still in evidence today at the Swedish automaker, though things like seat belts and safety glass have brightened the picture measurably for drivers and passengers alike.
1936 Opel Olympia:
1936 Opel Olympia
Creepy allusions to the Olympics of the same year aside, this Opel's on the list, GM says, because it pioneered unibody construction. It led to lightweight cars with better safety, GM says--and one-upped the more uppity German brands on their home turf. Kind of like Jesse Owens did, right?
1930 Cadillac V-16:
1930 Cadillac V-16
If you couldn't count to 16 in 1930, you might have been totally left out of the magic of the Cadillac of that year. Thank goodness for GEDs and friends with higher math skills--nothing like the V-16 Caddy had ever existed and, with CAFE changing the market as much as the housing crisis, you'll never see anything like it again from GM. Unless our kit-car project of welding four Fieros together, comes together. (What is it with the Fiero? Pure, unadulterated passion.)
It's all about the look, GM says. The LaSalle was the first vehicle to have emerged from the hand of star designer--in this case, the inimitable Harley Earl. The attention lavished on this sub-Cadillac birthed the era of real automotive style, something that even GM's Aztek couldn't kill.
The semi-lascivious headline notwithstanding, this ad speaks of the revolution under the hood in cars of the early 20th century. Not having to stand in front of a car and crank its engine to life--potentially breaking an arm in the process--was a heady advancement of the day. Note to salesmen everywhere: Less injury is totally a USP.
1910 Cadillac Model 30:
1910 Cadillac Model 30
Rival Ford might have jumped its guns with the mass-produced Model T, but GM says this Caddy was the first closed-in car to be built in mass quantities. This made it better than the more plebeian cars that subject their owners to dirt, dust, rain, and...well, the masses. Highfalutin' features like a single taillight were apparently the bees' knees. Were those the days? Yes, we think in fact they were.