Tag: general motors

9 tragically flawed GM vehicles whose heroic fixes came too late – Sajeev Mehta @Hagerty

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Decades upon decades passed when General Motors could do no wrong, and the products rolling off its assembly line were proof positive of its business model’s supremacy. But nobody’s perfect, and mistakes had to be addressed to meet stockholder’s expectations. GM’s design and engineering teams made some great cars with serious potential that were packed with tragic flaws—and received heroic fixes that came right before their curtain calls. It’s all rather tragic, so here are nine examples to prove the point.

1993 Cadillac Allanté (Northstar)

You gotta give General Motors credit, because when it aims for the stars, it grabs a firehose full of ideas and shoots skyward. Take a shortened E-body coupe and turn it into a bespoke V-body, then deliver finished shells from Italy’s Pininfarina to Hamtramck via a convoy of Boeing 747s known as the “Air Bridge.” One of the biggest keys to the Allanté’s failure was the drivetrain layout (front-wheel drive does not a Mercedes SL competitor make) and the mediocre performance of Cadillac’s High Technology V-8 engines.

The lack of power was finally addressed in 1993, the Allanté’s final year, by the rocket-like thrust of Cadillac’s all-new Northstar V-8. The added grunt was competitive, but 1993 also included a heavily revised rear suspension, active dampers, and revised power-steering. As we previously mentioned, the 1993 Allanté was “finally, the internationally competitive luxury roadster its creators had envisioned … albeit six years too late.”

1988 Pontiac Fiero

One of the big problems with the Pontiac Fiero, aside from the engine fires of the early models, was the promise of sporty performance, which wasn’t realized until the last year of production. As we previously mentioned, cost-cutting sealed the Fiero’s fate well before 1988. There was simply too much parts-bin engineering: The compact X-body (Citation) front suspension was flipped 180 degrees and dropped in the back, while the front suspension was lifted from the T-body subcompact (Chevette). It’s a shame that in the Fiero’s final year the necessary suspension upgrades (new front control arms, knuckles, and an all-new tri-link rear suspension, plus a wider front track and, on WS6 models, staggered wheels) and improved brakes (four wheel vented discs) couldn’t alter the course of history. These bits were precisely what Pontiac engineers intended for the Fiero from the get-go. At least we got one year of mid-engine Pontiac Excitement.

2020 Cadillac CT6-V (Blackwing)

Hate to say it, but the Cadillac CT6 is not unlike the Cimarron before it. That’s because the last examples of Cadillac’s J-body experiment indeed improved when a 2.8-liter V-6 and five-speed manual transmission were standard equipment. Similarly, the CT6 never set the world on fire, because a flagship luxury sedan needs more swagger under the hood than a turbocharged four-cylinder could ever provide. (Yes, the CT6’s standard engine was 0.8 liters smaller than what’s on tap for a 1987 Cimarron.)

The CT6 didn’t receive a proper V-8 until the 2020 CT6-V hit the scene with the similarly star-crossed Blackwing motor. Because there is still a market for upper-crust luxury sedans (think Mercedes S-Class), the CT6 deserved an optional V-8 from the start. What happened when the CT6 got it all? Both the engine and the car unceremoniously met their maker

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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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GM’s Fleeting Fastback Phase: The 1941-52 Streamliners — Reblog Mac’s Motor City Garage

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When the GM streamliners first made their appearance in 1941, they looked like the most advanced cars on the road. But the futuristic shape didn’t age well, lasting barely a decade.

GM’s Fleeting Fastback Phase: The 1941-52 Streamliners — Mac’s Motor City Garage

General Motors’ EV1 was far ahead of its time Bill Vance @TimesColonist

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General Motors knew the electric automotive age was coming when it showed its Impact electric concept car in 1990. It was another step in the history of trying to promote a successful electric car, a quest going back to the infancy of the automobile.

While electrics and steam did enjoy brief popularity early in the 20th century, gasoline soon took over. The electric’s short driving range limited it largely to urban driving, and range is still an electric’s limitation.

Read the rest of the article here

A GM onboard experimental alcohol and drug impairment detection device of the 1970s – Thomas A. DeMauro @Hemmings

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Considering the emphasis placed on eliminating impaired driving today, be it due to alcohol, drugs, or other distractions such as texting, it’s interesting to note that back in the 1970s (well before texting) General Motors was seeking solutions. An example is this critical tracking test (CTT) “experimental deterrent” that was developed and evaluated by GM’s Engineering Staff for 1974.

Read the rest of the article here 

Madam X 1939 Cadillac Sixty Special – A Work of Art With a Great Back Story from Chip Foose

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Madam X 1939 Cadillac Sixty Special

The Styling Section, and Art and Colour Studio at General Motors were created, and headed by Harley Earl (1893-1969). From the late 1920s, and on into the 1950s Harley Earl headed the design evolution at GM. It was under Earl’s guidance that the utilitarian design of early automobiles evolved into rolling Art of the 30s, 40s, and 50s cars we love today.

The first car done in the Art and Colour Studio under Earl’s direction was for Lawrence Fisher (Body by Fisher). Earl asked for a 1927 LaSalle chassis on which he would build his design. The car would be of advanced design in that the chassis was lowered 4”. The design was aggressive, but not loud, the posts were much thinner than usual, and the windshield was two piece and formed a slight V. There was concern that the thin posts would not be strong enough, so the entire car was made of steel rather than the wood frame construction that was typical of the time. The interior wood decor was a work of art. When the project was nearing completion Earl was asked “What will we call it”? Earl thought for a moment…. Pauline Frederick, a popular stage and film star of the day, was starring in a show called Madam X, Earl had seen the show the night before, and dined with the young Starlet after the show. He said we’ll call it the Madam X

Read the rest of the story over at Chip Foose’s site

This is a truly beautiful car from this amazing builder and designer

(All material sourced from chipfoose.com)

GM says it’s mass-producing cars without steering wheels

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Article from Aurora Biz

The company says it has filed a petition with the federal government seeking permission to put the vehicles on the road sometime next year with no human backup drivers.

DETROIT | General Motors says it is making the first mass-production autonomous car without a steering wheel or pedals.

The company says it has filed a petition with the federal government seeking permission to put the vehicles on the road sometime next year with no human backup drivers.

Read the rest of the article here

Sources Associated Press & Aurora Sentinel

The Art and Colour of GM from Hemmings Classic Car – Mark J McCourt

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The Art and Colour of GM

I think that the future of General Motors will be measured by the attractiveness that we put in the bodies from the standpoint of luxury of appointment, the degree to which they please the eye, both in contour and in color scheme, also the degree to which we are able to make them different from competition.”

 

— Alfred P. Sloan Jr., in a letter to Fisher Body Corporation president William A. Fisher, September 1927

This article from Mark J McCourt at Hemmings Classic Cars tells the story of GM’s approach to the design and attractiveness of vehicles and was the complete antithesis of Henry Ford’s approach.