Category: GM Heritage Center

Mythbusting: The truth about the GM EV1 – Gary Witzenburg @Hagerty

Mythbusting: The truth about the GM EV1 – Gary Witzenburg @Hagerty

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About halfway down the long hill leading to the General Motors Proving Ground test tracks in Milford, Michigan, it hit me that the electric concept car I was driving rolled on a cobbled-up show-car suspension and was armed with barely functional brakes. Uh-oh! It would be a supremely stupid, costly, career-ending blunder to crash this incredibly significant hand-built prototype EV by plowing off the fast 90-degree corner that awaited down the hill. Though the concept was called the Impact, I had no intention of putting that name to the test.

But wait! I recalled that the Impact featured variable regenerative braking with a rheostat control between the seats. I eased on the friction brakes, cranked the rheostat up to full regen, and barely made the corner. Whew! Shaken and chastened, I continued carefully to where I—as GM EV program Vehicle Test and Development manager—was heading to give members of the Board of Directors demo rides on the “Black Lake” skidpad.

Dramatic beginnings

At the 1990 Los Angeles Auto Show, people stopped in their tracks to gawk at this sleek, silver-bullet-shaped concept that would later morph into the EV1. Engineered and developed with high-tech California contractor Aerovironment, the Impact did more than just look cool. It could sprint from zero to 60 mph in a (then-quick) eight seconds and had achieved—in one test from 100 percent to absolute zero state of charge under ideal conditions at GM’s Arizona Desert Proving Grounds—a stunning 125 miles of range. At the time, that was better performance than any other practical electric car could claim.

Many saw it as the industry’s automotive future. Idealists cheered while skeptics scoffed. Politicians plotted to force-feed it to the American public. So positive was its press and public reception that on April 22, 1990 (Earth Day) GM CEO Roger Smith announced GM’s intent to produce such a car, targeting 25,000 units a year. Ken Baker, then head of Advanced Vehicle Engineering for GM’s Chevrolet-Pontiac-Canada Group, was recruited to lead the effort.

“We recognized the obvious shortcoming of EVs,” Baker later said. “Our plan was to be battery agnostic—take the best available and focus on engineering the world’s most efficient vehicle, which would give dramatically better performance once a better battery came along. We had just come off of the success of the [race-winning solar-powered] SunRaycer and were encouraged by the sold-state electronics that had been demonstrated in that car, and [in] Impact

One key goal was to see how quickly and efficiently GM could do a completely different new car through a new Systems Engineering approach. The production target was just 36 months.

Then, by September 28, 1990, California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) mandated the seven top-selling automakers to make two percent of their California sales “zero emissions” by 1998, five percent by 2001, and 10 percent by 2003.

Myth: GM’s EV program was a reaction to the CARB mandate.

Truth: Other way around. GM was already working to produce a practical electric car, so CARB decided to force all major automakers to follow suit.

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From kiddie Corvettes to Baja-bound trucks, the GM Heritage Center’s video stash is wonderfully diverse – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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One gets the impression that the GM Heritage Center’s YouTube channel exists not so much to entertain as it does to simply provide a repository for films that the center’s staffers happen to find while excavating storage closets and other forgotten spaces spread across the corporation’s many properties. There’s some old TV commercials, like this one for a kiddie Corvette available at Chevrolet dealerships.

Undoubtedly, what’s there is just a sampling of all the film and videos GM has produced over the last century-plus. Here’s hoping the Heritage Center keeps adding more vids as they find ’em.

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The Buick Y Job, The First Concept Car

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A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit the limted access GM Heritage Collection in Sterling Heights Michigan as a Birthday present.

Trip post here

A recent edition of Jay Leno’s Garage featuring the Buick Y Job reminded of how lucky it was to have been up close to this ground breaking car.

The Buick Y-Job was the auto industry’s first concept car, produced by Buick in 1938. Designed by Harley J. Earl, the car had power-operated hidden headlamps, a “gunsight” hood ornament, electric windows, wraparound bumpers, flush door handles, and prefigured styling cues used by Buick until the 1950s and the vertical waterfall grille design still used by Buick today. It used a Buick Super chassis, indicated by the word “Super” located above the rear license plate. (read the full article here at Wikipedia)

The Y Job is one of the few cars that I have on display at home.

GM Heritage Center S10 Pickup Restoration Kit Online Documentation

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The excellent GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights Michigan,  (which I have been lucky enough to visit see previous post here), has excellent online documentation to assist with restoration or anything else you’d like to know about your GM product.

S10 Xtreme

My Chevy S10

 

Obviously my interest is around the S10 for which the documentation can be found here

GM Vehicle Information Kits

You can search the whole of the GM vehicle information kit range  here

 

We Owe Modern Automotive Design To Harley J. Earl

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I’m a great lover of the designs of Harley J Earl, having seen a number of the cars up close at the GM Heritage Centre I have even more respect for his work.These are some pictures that I took during my birthday visit

There is a great article here from Rod Authority by Jake Headlee on Earl and his impact on automotive design.

 

Visit to the GM Heritage Centre (Center:))

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My Wife arranged a birthday visit for me to the excellent GM Heritage Centre in Sterling Heights Michigan. a while back

The collection of vehicles at the centre is superb, some photos can be seen in the gallery.

All of the famous concept cars such as the Buick Y Job, Buick Le Sabre, Mako Shark, and the various Firebirds.

Most of the GM output of the last century across the various brands are well represented, in either restored or original form.

There is a great neon advertising display, along with a comprehensive engine and transmission displays.