Category: Chevrolet

How A Design Sketch And A Chance Meeting Made The Vega Kammback A Reality – John T. Houlihan @Hemmings

How A Design Sketch And A Chance Meeting Made The Vega Kammback A Reality – John T. Houlihan @Hemmings

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I Was There

Words and Photography courtesy of John T. Houlihan

In July of 1968, I was in my third year as an exterior designer for General Motors, working in the Styling Department at the GM Tech Center in Warren, Michigan. GM Styling was recognized as the pinnacle of American automotive design, and I somehow managed to escape the draft and land this prestigious job right out of college. My best friend and college roommate, less fortunate than I, entered the Navy upon graduation and had just been reassigned to a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam. Prior to departing, he flew in for a visit. His final night in the States found us commiserating about his fate at my kitchen table, well into both the morning and a case of Stroh’s fire-brewed beer. He had an early flight and I had to go to work. We caught a couple hours of sleep, and around five in the morning, I dropped him at the airport and headed for the studio.

This was an important day for me. I had to finish a full-size airbrush rendering that I had convinced, or so I thought, the chief designer to include in the array of proposals to be presented to GM “brass” later that afternoon. A team of senior executives were slated to tour the access-restricted Advanced Chevrolet Design Studio to review the XP 887 project, ultimately named the Vega.

GM needed another “small” car after the Corvair was derailed by Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe at Any Speed. Negative press had unfairly panned the car’s design as inherently dangerous. This new small car needed to be a “world beater,” intended to restore GM’s reputation and enhance our market share in the growing demand for smaller, more economical vehicles.

Earlier designs for the XP 887 project had been rejected by corporate management as being too “GM looking.” The new direction was to be “European” in look and feel. Large photos of the Fiat 124 were mounted all around the studio for inspiration. The engine for the XP 887, well into development for several years, was actually installed in a Fiat 124 for testing at the Milford Proving Ground. We designers were encouraged to research European cars to gain a feel for that aesthetic.

Despite all this effort to “Europeanize” the design, the real influence for the XP 887 was the current design effort for the next-generation 1970 Camaro. That design, underway in another Advanced Chevy studio under the direction of Hank Haga, was quite stunning. I had the opportunity to visit Haga’s studio and view a full-size, perspective rendering of a wagon version of this new Camaro. It was awesome, a truly breathtaking design that left a deep and lasting impression on me. From that moment, I was driven with a passion to create a wagon version for the XP 887.

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It’s time!

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After avoiding the noise for some time, the A/c pump on the S10 Xtreme has called time! If you look closely you can see the filings…

Currently getting some prices for the pump and dryer.

Using the “while you are in there” the alternator is also getting a bit noisy, so let’s get a price on that too

Watch this space!

The Automotive Mount Rushmore – Speedway Tech Team @SpeedwayMotors

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The staff here at Speedway Motors was tasked with putting our suggestions for cars that should be enshrined into the side of Mt. Rushmore like our famed Presidents carved there now. This took some thinking and a lot of crumpled paper as my list was narrowed to just four and changed several times. So, before I change my mind again, here they are in date order what I feel are the Mt. Rushmore of significant vehicles of the 20th century. -Mark Houlahan, Copywriter

1908 Ford Model T

Where it all started to click for Henry Ford. After two failed attempts at starting a car company, Henry Ford’s third attempt, Ford Motor Company, in 1903 knocked it out of the park just five years later with the launch of the Model T. The combination of Ford’s ingenious business practices (such as mandating the crates vendor parts were shipped in be built a certain way so the wood could be used to build the cars), building the car on a moving assembly line, and other economies of scale, allowed Ford to sell the Model T at a price nearly anyone could afford. This quite literally put America on wheels. Available in several body styles, the Tin Lizzie was built through 1927 and sold over 15 million copies in its production run. I don’t think anyone will argue that domestic auto manufacturing owes its life to the Model T. So iconic is the Model T, it is listed on the Historic Vehicle Association Registry, specifically the 1927 Fifteenth Million Ford Model T. Today, the Model T is enjoyed by collectors and hot rodders alike and is still very popular amongst enthusiasts.

1932 Ford Model 18

I know my esteemed colleague, Joe McCollough, has this very car on his list, and rightfully so! The ’32 Ford, the Deuce to enthusiasts, not only ushered in Ford’s then new Flathead V8, but made owning a V8 powered car something anyone could afford. The styling of the ’32 Ford, and even the subsequent ’33 and ’34 model years is a classic piece of automotive architecture that, no matter how you style it, never goes out of fashion. Whether it is a lowboy, highboy, roadster, 3-window, or 5-window; fenderless or full fenders, the ’32 Ford hands down created the hot rod movement. From dry lakes racing to cruising Bob’s on a Saturday night, the ’32 Ford certainly has earned its right to be carved into the granite façade at Mr. Rushmore!

1941 Willys MB/Ford GPW

While the idea of a four-wheel drive 1/4-ton utility vehicle for military use actually started in the 1930s (to replace horses and other animals used in WWI), the vehicle didn’t gain approval and see initial production until 1941. Both Willys and Ford (Ford models are noted by its vast use of “F” script hardware and attaching parts) were contracted to build Jeeps for the military. A few Bantam models were built during prototype stages but Bantam ended up building the small trailers you often would see being pulled by these wartime Jeeps. The Willys MB and Ford GPW were loved by servicemen around the globe. Ease of service, commonality of parts, and its four-wheel-drive powered by the Willy’s Go Devil four-cylinder engine meant the Jeep was able to conquer just about any terrain and could be fixed quickly with minimal tools. Used in WWII and the Korean war, the Jeep was so loved that it would soon be offered in a civilian variant, the CJ-2A in 1945. That same basic design was used for decades up to the CJ-7 in 1986. Today, the Jeep name lives on and though the nameplate now includes SUVs, when people hear the word “Jeep” their first thought is of a rough and tough two-door open air four-wheel-drive, and rightfully so

1966 Ford GT40 Mk II

By now anyone with 10W30 running in their veins has probably seen the Ford vs. Ferrari movie, either on the big screen or streaming at home on the couch. The movie did an admirable job of telling the story of Ford’s desire to clean Enzo Ferrari’s clock at Le Mans after Enzo backed out of a sale to Ford Motor Company. Initial efforts by Ford’s engineers, both in Dearborn and in England, were frustrating to say the least. It wasn’t until Carroll Shelby was brought in, already successful with his Cobra roadster sports car and the fledgling GT350 Mustang program, that the GT40 program began to make forward momentum. Largely in part to Ken Miles, the GT40 was completely gone through and rebuilt as a world beating race car and beat the world it did! The now famous 1-2-3 photo finish of the 1966 Le Mans race was just the beginning of a multiyear onslaught on European long distance road racing, knocking Enzo’s best efforts off the podium completely from 1966 through 1969 and providing Ford with its first (of several ) international championships. The GT40 program invigorated Ford’s “race on Sunday, sell on Monday” ideals and helped put Ford on the international motorsports map where it still dances to this day. Today the real GT40s, of which barely 100 were made (including prototypes), are multi-million dollar cars, so your best bet of ever owning one is going to be a replica. Better start packing those work lunches and skipping those daily trips to Starbies if you want to build one though, as even as a replica they are quite pricey.

Mark did a great job of making a list of the cars that changed the world and the course of our industry. My list is a bit more personal. These are the cars that changed my world and made me into the enthusiast that I am. Sure, they made more than a few ripples on the pond in the larger automotive world, but they’re here because I love them, period. There are no rules here. -Joe McCollough, Marketing Content Coordinator

’32 Ford

We would have had hot rods without the Deuce, they just wouldn’t have been as cool. Don’t get me wrong, I love Model T’s, Model A’s, and ’33-‘34s. Heck, I even own a Model A. But there’s just something about a ’32. They have a presence unlike any other, and when chopped, lowered, and treated to some horsepower, they’re even better. Not to mention the introduction of the Flathead V8 that really dropped the performance aftermarket into high gear.

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Further Work on the S10 Xtreme Body Kit

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As mentioned previously, my S10 Xtreme side skirt was damaged by my negligent use of a bungee strap

The clips holding the skirt on have been a bit of a challenge to remove without damage. So I thought I’d give my recently acquired trim clip pliers which removed the clips easily, and allowed the skirt to be removed for work to continue

Once the clips were out the side skirt was easily removed by lifting out of the bracket

The surface was rubbed down and more knifing putty was applied and rubbed down once again. When the surface was acceptable the surface was primed with plastic primer.

Once the primer has cured, the task of painting will be tackled!

Body Kit Repair S10 Xtreme

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Some time ago the body kit on the S10 Xtreme got damaged by a bungee strap used to secure the cover

As you can see the fibreglass was quite damaged

After rubbing down the initial damage, a layer of of knifing putty was applied

Once the putty was rubbed down the first coat of high build primer was applied

After rubbing down the primer, some more putty was applied and again rubbed down

Looking quite good for a first effort, more to do

Fading in the black via rattle can being one!

GM’s “Baby Cadillac” Offered Premium Looks at an Approachable Price – Mark J McCourt @Hemmings

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1932 Chevrolet BA Convertible Cabriolet

Chevrolet had finally unseated Ford as the best-selling American automaker in 1931, having done so by offering stronger performance and more upmarket style than its crosstown rival, the Model A. The dampening effect the Great Depression had on the market meant General Motors’ volume brand had to keep pushing forward, improving its cars in large and small ways to retain that advantage. Called the Series BA Confederate for 1932, Chevrolet’s Six would keep its sales crown with help from glamorous variants like the Convertible Cabriolet.

While the V-8 engine powering the new 1932 Ford made headlines, it was the tried-and-true “stovebolt” straight-six that remained more popular with those lucky enough to afford a new car. Chevrolet engineers improved that three-main-bearing unit’s power and refinement with a higher 5.2:1 compression ratio, a counterbalanced crankshaft, and isolating rubber mounts. With its 3-5⁄16-inch by 3-3⁄4-inch bore and stroke and one-barrel Carter downdraft carburetor, the engine made an additional 10 horsepower (up to 60 at 3,000 rpm) and 8 lb-ft of torque (newly 130 at 1,800 rpm). Transferring this output to the wheels was a revised three-speed manual transmission with synchromesh on second and top gears, plus freewheeling capability.

The driveline’s enhanced performance was easily handled by this division’s revised frame, now stiffened with five crossmembers, as well as a mechanical drum brake behind each 18-inch wire-spoke wheel. Atop that frame sat one of 15 (!) Chevrolet- or Fisher Body-constructed bodies. Those who wanted a blend of close-coupled sporty looks, weathertight closed-car comfort, and available open-air fun gravitated to our feature Convertible Cabriolet. This Fisher-bodied car followed traditional coachbuilding practice with sheet-steel body panels over hardwood framing, and featured a collapsible landau-bar-supported top, roll-up door windows, and a folding windshield. The two interior occupants sat on a genuine Spanish-grain leather bench, while two additional passengers could be accommodated on the imitation-leather rumble seat.

Liberty, New York, residents Allan and Pat Kehrley have owned this Chevrolet for 62 years, having begun its ground-up restoration in the late 1980s with key help from son Dan, his wife, Sandy, and many friends. The finished car –wearing its factory blend of Bangor Beige, Haverhill Brown, Cream Medium, Medium Capucine Brown, and black paints—received its third AACA Junior award in 1994, its first Junior in 2001, and its AACA Senior trophy at Hershey in 2003. Read the full story of the Kehrley family’s Chevrolet restoration in the November 2009 (#62) issue of Hemmings Classic Car.

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Chevrolet’s Air-Cooled Flat-Six Was Influenced By The Volkswagen Flat-Four And Horizontally-Opposed Aircraft And Tank Engines – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

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Are you craving a collector car with an air-cooled, flat-six engine, but feel like the Porsche 911 market is overheated? There is an excellent and affordable alternative: the “Turbo Air 6” in Chevrolet’s Corvair.

The 1960 Chevrolet Corvair made its debut powered by the rear-mounted 140-cu.in. Turbo Air 6.Photo by David LaChance

The Turbo Air 6’s design was influenced by Volkswagen’s flat four but inspired by aircooled, aircraft and tank engines that Chevrolet’s Chief Engineer Ed Cole was familiar with. The foundation for the Turbo Air 6 was a two-piece cast-aluminum crankcase with a crankshaft that rode in four main bearings. The camshaft was located below the crankshaft and driven by gears off of the crank. Hydraulic valve lifters were standard issue and activated hollow pushrods concealed inside steel tubes on the outside of the engine. The rocker arms were lightweight stamped steel like those used on Chevrolet small-block and big-block engines. Each cylinder was contained in a separate, finned, cast-iron barrel and the opposed banks of three were each capped with a cast-aluminum, overhead-valve head. The heads had cast-in cooling fins as well as integral intake manifolds and were fastened with studs through the cylinder barrels. A pair of Rochester one-barrel carburetors — one for each bank of cylinders — fed fuel and air to the engine.

By ’62, the year of this engine powering a station wagon, the Turbo Air 6 had grown to 145-cu.in.Photo by Richard Lentinello

A forced-air system cooled the Turbo Air 6, at the heart of which was an 11-inch diameter centrifugal engine blower mounted horizontally on the top center of the engine. With 24 vanes and driven by a V-belt off the crankshaft, via an idler, the blower could produce 1,850-cfm of air flow at 4,000 engine rpm. Sheetmetal shrouds encased the engine to keep the air flowing over the cooling fins and thermostatically controlled doors on the lower portions of the shroud allowed hot air to escape. Early engines with steel blowers had a tendency to throw V belts so, in ’64, Chevrolet replaced the steel unit with a lightweight magnesium blower. Something that all Corvair engines have in common with Porsche sixes? Yep, oil leaks — from the pushrod tubes and crankshaft seal are pretty common.

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Find of the Day: A Restored 1966 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa Convertible with a Heartfelt Story – Tara Hurlin @Hemmings

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Perhaps the most documented seven-year Corvair restoration is now listed on Hemmings Auctions. Completing this 1966 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa Convertible was a labor of love for owner and seller Don Homuth. Now in nearly concours condition, the classic car features all era-correct parts, including its air-cooled flat-six engine and four-speed manual transmission.

It was early-1968 when Homuth set eyes on the Corvair for the first time. He purchased it a day before he had to return to Vietnam after a 30-day leave. It was love at first sight; “to my eye it was a vision of automotive perfection,” he wrote in a 2015 Hemmings article. Homuth’s honest and in-depth progress updates soon became a regular occurrence in the Hemmings Daily series until the restoration was completed in 2021.

Aside from missing his family upon his return to Vietnam, getting back home to drive the Corvair was all he dreamed about. After returning, he drove it for a year, then sold it to the woman who he eventually married to chase a 1966 Corvette Roadster. Once married, the Corvair re-entered his life and he sold the ‘Vette, but bought five other Corvairs, including the rare #042 Yenko Corvair Stinger. As time passed, life circumstances caused him to sell it and the other cars for good, or so he thought, sometime between 1977 and ‘78. Life went on, and in late-2014 Homuth began wondering what happened to his first Corvair love. Just three days after putting an ad on Craigslist, he received an email from the owner. After exchanging stories, an agreement was met. Homuth welcomed the Corvair home in August, 2015 and began the restoration soon after.

The plan was to restore the Corvair to concours condition, and a glance through the photo galleries found in the auction listing show just that.

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Buyer’s Guide: What to Consider When Shopping for a 1955, 1956, or 1957 Chevrolet – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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The so-called tri-fives don’t seem to be waning in popularity at all

It’s easy to pick on the 1955 to 1957 Chevrolet passenger cars – known to many as tri-five Chevrolets – as ubiquitous and basic collector cars. They sold in such vast quantities that, it seemed, everybody at one point owned one, knew somebody who owned one, or wanted to own one. As a result, they’ve almost lost their mystique over the years. But it’s also worth remembering two things: There was a reason the cars became popular and remained so in the first place, to the point where they’re now considered pop culture icons, and there’s always a younger generation coming along intrigued by the cars and all they represent, but not yet studied in their ways. So what should anybody new to tri-fives consider when looking to buy one?

What Makes Tri-Fives Iconic?

Even mid-Fifties Ford fans will admit that – despite the fact that Ford’s passenger cars handily outsold Chevrolet’s in 1957 – the latter has gone on to become the darling of the collector-car world and the poster child for post-war American optimism and culture.

Did Chevrolet somehow capture the chrome-and-glitz zeitgeist better than Ford? Was it the new Chevrolet small-block V-8 that captured hot-rodders’ attention and made bold horsepower claims? Or was it the fact that Chevrolet found a formula for a modern car that set the tone for its output for the next few decades?

After all, here was a thoroughly redesigned car that ditched its predecessors’ torque tube and vestiges of pre-envelope styling. It introduced to the Chevrolet lineup ball-joint independent front suspension, suspended brake and clutch pedals, 12-volt electrical systems, and tubeless tires. What’s more, it brought jet-age futuristic styling in the form of tailfins, wraparound windshields, and trim packages that evoked high-speed travel.

Ford may have presented itself as the more affordable of the two, but did that really matter in terms of legacy when America’s middle class had gobs of purchasing power at the time and a desire for futuristic, auto show-inspired cars in its driveways?

So while mid-Fifties Fords have their fan base, the tri-five Chevrolet appeals across wide swaths of the collector-car hobby. As a result, it’s a car that’s readily available no matter where you are in pretty much every configuration one can imagine, from project car to stock restored to extensively modified.

It’s easy to pick on the 1955 to 1957 Chevrolet passenger cars – known to many as tri-five Chevrolets – as ubiquitous and basic collector cars. They sold in such vast quantities that, it seemed, everybody at one point owned one, knew somebody who owned one, or wanted to own one. As a result, they’ve almost lost their mystique over the years. But it’s also worth remembering two things: There was a reason the cars became popular and remained so in the first place, to the point where they’re now considered pop culture icons, and there’s always a younger generation coming along intrigued by the cars and all they represent, but not yet studied in their ways. So what should anybody new to tri-fives consider when looking to buy one?

What Makes Tri-Fives Iconic?

Even mid-Fifties Ford fans will admit that – despite the fact that Ford’s passenger cars handily outsold Chevrolet’s in 1957 – the latter has gone on to become the darling of the collector-car world and the poster child for post-war American optimism and culture.

Did Chevrolet somehow capture the chrome-and-glitz zeitgeist better than Ford? Was it the new Chevrolet small-block V-8 that captured hot-rodders’ attention and made bold horsepower claims? Or was it the fact that Chevrolet found a formula for a modern car that set the tone for its output for the next few decades?

After all, here was a thoroughly redesigned car that ditched its predecessors’ torque tube and vestiges of pre-envelope styling. It introduced to the Chevrolet lineup ball-joint independent front suspension, suspended brake and clutch pedals, 12-volt electrical systems, and tubeless tires. What’s more, it brought jet-age futuristic styling in the form of tailfins, wraparound windshields, and trim packages that evoked high-speed travel.

Ford may have presented itself as the more affordable of the two, but did that really matter in terms of legacy when America’s middle class had gobs of purchasing power at the time and a desire for futuristic, auto show-inspired cars in its driveways?

So while mid-Fifties Fords have their fan base, the tri-five Chevrolet appeals across wide swaths of the collector-car hobby. As a result, it’s a car that’s readily available no matter where you are in pretty much every configuration one can imagine, from project car to stock restored to extensively modified.

1955 Chevrolet 150

How to Identify a Tri-Five Chevrolet

Over its three-year run, the tri-five Chevrolet was offered in three basic trim levels, at least eight different nameplates, and at least 21 different body styles, with significant styling changes from year to year. Telling them all apart, however, isn’t too difficult.

Let’s begin with model years. The 1955 Chevrolets all had fairly square egg crate grilles flanked by semi-oval front marker lamps with triangular taillamps mounted to the tops of the rear quarter panels. The ’55s are also the only tri-fives to feature a fuel filler door mounted on the quarter panels. The following year, Chevrolet hid the fuel filler behind the left taillamp, widened the grille to encompass rectangular front marker lamps, and shrank the taillamps to small round lenses in a larger chrome decorative bezel in roughly the same location. Then for 1957, the grilles became more sculptured, with the front bumpers wrapping up at the ends to nearly encapsulate them. The hood ornament of the prior two years gave way to bombsights set into the leading edge of the hood, the headlamp bezels were opened up and fitted with mesh to permit fresh air intake, and the leading section of the fenders was scored with hashmarks. Around back, the ’57s featured pointer fins, the fuel filler door behind a piece of chrome trim on the fin, and taillamps mounted at the base of the fin.

To distinguish the three trim levels, look primarily to the chrome spears mounted to the sides of the cars. The base 150 came with no side trim in its first year, a single spear extending from just behind the headlamps to a piece dropping down from the post-B-pillar notch in 1956, and a single spear extending rearward from the same notch in 1957. The mid-level 210 had a side spear similar to the 1957 150’s, though mounted a little lower, followed by a full-length spear that swooped downward at the rear in 1956, and a branching version of the downward swooping spear in 1957. The top-of-the-line Bel Air always used some variation on the same year 210’s side trim: In 1955, it added a simple spear extending rearward from the headlamps; in 1956, it added a second horizontal piece paralleling the main one from the headlamps back to the notch; and in 1957, the Bel Air added a stainless steel panel between the two side trim branches.

Note too that certain body styles only exist in certain trim levels during the tri-five Chevrolet’s run. No two-door or four-door hardtops were ever available in the 150, convertibles could only be had as Bel Airs, and business coupes (“utility coupes,” in Chevrolet parlance) were only available as 150s.

Station wagons had their own nomenclature depending on the trim level. The 150 series had the Handyman, available only as a two-door; the 210 and the Bel Air had the Townsman, available only as a six-passenger four-door; and the Bel Air had the nine passenger three-row Beauville. And let’s not forget the Nomad, the sporty two-door station wagon from the Bel Air series that took its name and greenhouse from the Corvette Nomad Motorama show car.

While all of the above applies regardless of the number of cylinders under the hood, Chevrolet did add trim to differentiate the V-8 cars from the six-cylinder ones: a small emblem under the taillamps on 1955 models and a vee-shaped piece of trim on the hood for 1956 and 1957 models.

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