1. 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air:  Some 59 years after it was introduced to the American public, the 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air is often overlooked for it’s revolutionary parts and price.  The body was all-new, and is still breathtaking 59 years later.  Just on appearance, the car was (and still is!) absolutely stunning.  It looked like it could have come from Cadillac or Mercedes-Benz.  Even the lower-priced models were stunning.  The interior was equally beautiful.  Then, there was the all-new chassis that had revolutionary suspension parts borrowed from the Corvette.  The 1955 Chevrolet could keep pace with a Jaguar XK120 on a canyon road without trying hard.  Of course, Chevrolet’s all-new small-block V8 was what enthusiasts still love.  It was Chevrolet’s first all-new V8 since 1917.  It displaced 265 cubic inches (4.3 liters), and it introduced Chevrolet owners to a whole new side of performance.  I consider it to be one of the cars that kicked off the muscle car craze.  The ’55 Chevy was Chevrolet’s best-selling car up till the 1960’s, but that’s another story for another car on this list…For all of these reasons, it is my Most Significant Chevrolet ever.
  2. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro:  The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro was the last update for the legendary first-generation Camaro.  Many amazing Camaro’s came out in 1969.  The legendary COPO Camaro with the Corvette 427 cubic-inch V8 came out in 1969.  Chevrolet also introduced new, better styling for 1969.  The 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 remains one of the most legendary Camaro’s ever, thanks to it’s success on the racetrack and streets.  This, and the multitude of engine, transmission, paint, and other such options, puts the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro as the second-most influential Chevrolet ever.
  3. 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454 LS6:  The Chevelle was Chevrolet’s full-size sports coupe.  It was popular as was, but it wasn’t very fast.  The SS 396 of 1967 was fast and became a small legend, so it was no wonder that Chevrolet put their 396 cubic-inch (6.5-liter) V8 into the Chevelle to create the first of the new body-style Chevelle SS.  It was fast, but the 396 wasn’t the most powerful engine.  Enter the 454.  The 454 came in two very powerful forms – the 360-horsepower LS5 or the earth-shaking 450-horsepower LS6.  The fastest 1/4 mile time that anybody got out of a stock Chevelle SS 454 LS6 was a 13.2-second time at 106 horsepower.  That’s still fast and relevant today.   Easy tuning tricks like bigger carburetors, drag slicks, and open headers could get you into the mid-12-second range easily.  This made the 1970 Chevelle SS 454 LS6 one of the most legendary cars ever.  Enthusiasts still are in awe of it.  This is why it is my number 3.
  4. 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air:  The 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air was hardly the first car to have one horsepower per cubic inch, but it was the first one to offer it at an affordable price.  The 283-horsepower, 283 cubic-inch (4.6 liter) V8 came with Rochester fuel injection, a solid-lifter Iskendarian cam (Isky for short), and a great engine note.  A fuel-injected 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air was the car that put blistering performance in the hands of the average working Joe.  The body was perhaps the finest of the Tri Five Chevrolet’s (1955-1957), and it’s looks are some of my favorites.  It set many speed records in the day, and the fuel-injected cars are rare and desirable today.
  5. 1963 Chevrolet Corvette:  The first of the second-generation Corvette (C2) is now one of the most collectible Chevrolet’s ever.  The story behind the 1963 Corvette is an interesting one.  Here goes:  GM design chief Bill Mitchell dictated that the C2 Corvette Stingray look like the 1959 Corvette race car designed by legendary designer Peter Brock.  Also-legendary designer Larry Shinoda designed the iconic 1963 Corvette Stingray.  While the convertible version of the car was drool-worthy, the coupe was the one that still turns heads right off of their axis (including owls!).  Zora Arkus-Duntov was strongly opposed to the split rear-window design, as it greatly hampered rear vision.  Bill Mitchell won – for a year.  The 1964 Corvette came with a single piece of glass.  The fuel-injected Stingray’s were the cars to beat for 1963.  But, Chrysler’s introduction of the 426 HEMI in the Dodge Polara and Plymouth Savoy in 1964 gave the fuelie Vette a serious run for it’s money.
  6. 1962-1964 Chevrolet Impala/Biscayne:  In the early 1960’s, Chevrolet performance technology was advancing at a rate never seen before.  While Chevrolet’s legendary 409 cubic-inch V8 (6.7 liters) was a technological dead end after 1964, it was an amazing engine for drag racing.  In 1962, the 409 made 1 horsepower per cubic inch, but later in the year, the Z-11 code-name engine breathed better thanks to better heads, a bigger cam, and a cold-air intake.  Thanks to the Beach Boys using the 409 for two of their biggest hits – “Surfin’ Safari” and “409,” Chevy had all the publicity it could want.  In 1963, prospective buyers could get three 409’s – a 340-horsepower 409, a 400-horsepower 409, and a thundering 425-horsepower 409.  All three of these powerful 409’s were dwarfed by the thundering, massively-underrated 430-horsepower 427 cubic-inch (7.0 liters) Magical Mystery engine only available for drag racing and NASCAR.  The Magical Mystery 427 actually made closer to 560 horsepower!  Once Chevy pulled out of racing in 1963, the Magical Mystery engine made it’s way into the Corvette and next-generation Impala, Caprice, and Biscayne.  In 1964, much of the Impala’s street cred was gone, thanks in no small part to the Pontiac GTO.
  7. 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS350:  The first-generation Camaro SS came with a 295-horsepower 350 cubic-inch V8 (5.7 liters).  This engine would power many Chevrolet’s until around 2000.  The 350 was standard, and a 396 cubic-inch V8 (6.5 liters) was optional with the RS/SS package.  The 350 was a Camaro exclusive at the time, and it was a legitimate performance vehicle for under $2,800.  It would send a 271-horsepower, 289-cubic-inch V8 (4.7 liters) Mustang running for cover in a straight line.  The same went for the legendary Mustang Shelby GT350.  It would also take down quite a few big-block Fords, Chevys, Pontiacs, and Buicks.
  8. 1968 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray:  Much to the dismay of Zora Arkus-Duntov, the new 1968 Corvette was little more than a rebodied 1963 Corvette with a new interior, the relatively new 350 cubic-inch V8 (5.7 liters), and a reworked suspension.  He was in the minority.  The public literally went bananas over the new Corvette, which was based off of Bill Mitchell’s Mako Shark II concept car of 1966.  Sales of the 1968 Corvette exceeded any sales of the Corvette from 1963-1967, and only went up from there.  It was the longest-running series of Corvette ever (1968-1972), and sales increased as performance decreased.  Corvette annual sales peaked in 1979 at 53,807, which is still a Corvette sales record to this day.  In the mid-1970’s, the Corvette went from a street brawler to more of a luxury Grand Touring car.
  9. 1967 Chevrolet II L-79/Nova:  Pontiac may have created the midsize muscle car with the GTO in 1964, but Chevrolet took it a very large step further with the 1967 Chevy II with the L-79 350 cubic-inch V8 (5.7 liters).  It was a compact muscle car, with a screaming engine and attitude.  It didn’t look like much, so it was a sleeper.  Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins became well-known with the car on the drag strip after a few years of embarrassing Dodge/Plymouth 426 HEMI-engine cars in the A/Stock NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) class with his 1966 “Black Arrow” L-79 Nova.  This car, surprisingly, was not a big seller.  Only 5,481 were built in 1966.  In 1967, it is believed that only 6 were built, as Chevrolet stopped taking orders for the car after the first day of orders from dealers were taken.  Nobody knows for sure what Chevrolet’s reason was to cancel the car.  Maybe they needed the extra people to market the Camaro.  The bottom line is that this car still makes it’s presence known on the street and drag strip 47 years later.
  10. 2010-Present Chevrolet Camaro:  As the modern muscle car era started to heat up with supercharged Mustangs, Hemi-powered Chargers and Challengers, and a host of other monsters, Chevy only watched from 2003-2009 on the sidelines.  Sure, there were plenty of Corvettes that could pummel any one of those given muscle cars, but some people needed the backseat, or didn’t want to have a fiberglass car.  The 2010 Camaro returned with styling that looked similar to that of the 1969 Camaro, yet didn’t look exactly like it.  It has outsold the Mustang every month (save two) since it’s 2010 reintroduction.  It has exceeded all of it’s internal sales goals (129,000+ in 2010), and remains the only Chevrolet sold without rebates.  Many Camaro’s are fully optioned by customers, and the sales revenue generated by the Camaro helped GM claw it’s way out of bankruptcy.  It literally helped save GM.  2011 saw the reintroduction of the Camaro convertible, 2012 saw the return of the snorting ZL1, and 2014 saw the return of the hallowed Z/28.
  11. 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396:  While it is true that the 1965 Z16 Chevelle was the first Chevelle to pack Chevrolet big-block “rat motor” V8 power in the form of the 396 cubic-inch V8 (6.5 liters), the 1966 Chevelle put the power in the hands of the people.  With a stylish, sleeker new body and interior, the 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 was just the car that Chevrolet had ordered up to embarrass their internal rival, Pontiac.  It especially embarrassed any Pontiac in it’s 375-horsepower 396 cubic-inch V8 version.  While production of the Z16 Chevelle was a tiny 201, the 1966 Chevelle SS396 sold 72,272 of them.
  12. 2009-2013 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1:  Code-named the “Blue Devil” inside of GM in honor of ex-GM Chairman Rick Wagoner’s alma mater (Duke University), the 638-horsepower, supercharged, 6.2-liter (378 cubic inch) V8-powered Corvette is the fastest, most powerful car ever sold by GM.  Ever.  It’s top speed is 205 mph, and Chevrolet poured everything that they knew about going fast into this car.  Having gone for a ride (in the passenger seat!) in a 2013 ZR1, I can attest to the fact that this car is a monster!  In testing at the Nurburgring in Germany in 2009, the ZR1 set a lap record for a production car that was soon eclipsed by the Cadillac CTS-V.  In 2011, Chevrolet engineers went back with the new tire/wheel package and shaved well over 7 seconds from it’s previous lap time, nearly making a new lap record!
  13. 1969 Yenko Camaro:  The legendary SYC Yenko-tuned 1969 Chevrolet COPO Code 9561 Camaro received special graphics, gauges, and many go-fast goodies from Don Yenko’s mechanics before they were sold to buyers from his dealer lot in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, or sent to one of his other dealers across America.  They came with a tuned L-72 427 cubic-inch V8 (7.0 liters) that made well over 600 horsepower at the crank.  They were available in only six colors:  LeMans Blue, Rally Green, Fathom Green, Daytona Yellow, Hugger Orange, and Olympic Gold.  Today, they are likely some of the most recognized and sought-after cars of the muscle car era in America’s fastest decade.  They easily fetch well over $100,000 at auctions.
  14. 1962 Chevrolet Bel Air “Old Reliable II”:  It had a Bill Jenkins-built 409-horsepower 409 cubic-inch V8 (6.7 liters), a Borg-Warner four-speed manual transmission, and 4.56:1 gears in the rear end.  Dave Strickler drove Old Reliable II to many a victory in the 1962 NHRA drag racing season.  Bill Jenkins added 9 station wagon springs to the front, stiffer springs to the rear, and relocated the frame mounts about an inch behind the stock location.  All of this was done in the name of improved traction.  The car won the Super Stock title at the 1962 U.S. Nationals, and won the Pomona, CA Winternationals the following year.  It was later equipped with an aluminum nose for lighter weight.  Old Reliable II became the first B/FX Stocker to run 11-second quarter mile times.
  15. 1968-1970 Chevrolet Nova L-78:  If there was any such thing as overkill in the Chevrolet lineup at the time, the 1968-1970 Nova L-78 would have fit the bill.  It had a 375-horsepower, 396 cubic-inch V8 (6.5 liters), a Borg-Warner four-speed overdrive manual transmission, and menacing, sleek looks.  While the freshly-redesigned 1968 Nova may have gained some weight over the previous generation, the L-78 engine made it downright terrifying.  On the skinny stock tires, the car ran low 14-second quarter mile times at 100 mph, but with open headers, drag slicks, and other traction aids, the car easily went into the 12-second quarter mile club.
  16. 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air:  While the 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air line was sporty, especially with it’s Ferrari-inspired egg-crate grille, the 1956 Chevy was more formal-looking.  Still, the tagline in advertisements for the car read, “The Hot One’s Even Hotter.”  The base engine was the Super Turbo-Fire (NOT turbocharged) 265 cubic-inch (4.3 liter) V8 that produced 205 horsepower.  The optional engine was the Corvette’s 225-horsepower dual-quad-version of the same engine.   Style-wise, a four-door sedan was added to the lineup, and perhaps, the coolest feature was the gas cap hidden behind the left taillight.
  17. 1955 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier Pickup:  Not only was Chevrolet leading the way in styling for 1955 with it’s passenger cars, but it took their once-lowly pickup to new, unprecedented heights.  It had a unique flush-side fiberglass bed, and was full of car-like features (a two-tone interior, chrome bumpers, air conditioning, and an optional V8).  This was a truck that was at least 30 years ahead of it’s time.
  18. 1959 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Race Car:  While Chevrolet may have been out of racing in 1959, that didn’t stop GM design chief Bill Mitchell from buying a leftover Corvette SS race car chassis and putting Peter Brock’s stunning Stingray race car body over it.  Mitchell then hired Dr. Dick Thompson, “The Flying Dentist” to campaign it in sports car events across the country.  Thompson won the SCCA’s C/Modified National Championship in 1960.  The car was clocked at 145 mph on the back straight of Road America, and the top speed was believed to be about 160+ mph.  The production 1963 Stingray’s styling was based on this car’s.
  19. 1961 409 Biscayne:  While Motor Trend called the 1961 Impala SS409 “A family car that is really a racing machine,” the bottom line was that you didn’t have to buy an upscale Impala to get the 360-horsepower 409 cubic-inch V8 (6.7 liters).  You could get it in a Biscayne without any options, and you could shame just about any sedan out there.  The 11.25:1 compression-ratio 409 was a screaming engine, and according to Motor Trend, could run the 1/4 mile in just 14.02 seconds at 98.14 mph.  How’s that for fast in 1961?
  20. 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle Z16:  Rounding out the top 20 most influential and significant Chevrolet’s is the 1965 Chevelle Z16.  Chevy was blindsided by Pontiac and the GTO in 1964, and they didn’t have an engine over 400 cubic inches, so the Chevelle Z16 was Chevy’s very overdue answer to the Goat.  It was essentially a limited-edition car because 201 cars were only ever sold.  It came with a 160-mph speedometer, a 6,000 RPM tachometer mounted on the dashboard, and a 375-horsepower version of the new 396 cubic-inch V8 (6.5 liters).  This engine put the Chevelle Z16’s performance right on par with any stock GTO.

That’s all for part 1!  Look for part 2 soon!

8 thoughts on “The 100 Most Significant and Influential Chevrolet’s of All Time Part 1!

  1. I would have left a comment earlier but i just got thru reading this post.
    Part 2??….hurry, i don’t have a lot of road ahead of me and i need time to read part 2…now that my head has stopped spinning from part 1.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s