– Over the past century, Chevrolet has built hundreds of different models, many of which have found places in the hearts of collectors, hot rodders’ and cruisers. Following are a few notable Chevrolets, along with tips for picking them out of the crowd.
In celebration of Chevrolet's Centennial and the Woodward Dream Cruise, GM's Dr. Jamie Meyer showcases some of Chevy's most iconic performance cars from back in the day through today. Video below.
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible
The all-new 1955 Chevy brought a renewed energy to the brand. Sleek "Motoramic" styling and a hot new 265-cid “Turbo-Fire” V-8 engine – first of the legendary small-blocks – made this Chevy an almost instant classic. Rock and roll music was just starting to shake up American culture, and the Bel Air was the perfect set of wheels for Saturday night cruising.
Look for: Rectangular egg-crate grille. Wrap-around windshield. Curved taillights styled into rounded rear fins.
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe
Even now, many a car-obsessed kid’s miniature vehicle stash includes at least one ’57 Chevy. After more than five decades, the 1957 design still has appeal. And there is more to the 1957 Chevy than good looks. Chevrolet introduced fuel Injection to American cars for 1957, and the 283-cid small-block Chevrolet ’fuelie’ produced one horsepower per cubic inch, astonishing performance in 1957. Fuel-injected ’57 Chevys thrashed competitors so soundly in NASCAR racing that the organization banned FI technology – a ban that is still in effect today.
Look for: Chromed dual "wind-split" ornaments on hood. Large, wedge-shaped metallic silver trim insert on Bel Air rear quarters. Blade-like tailfins, with rounded taillights atop the rear bumper ends.
1959 Chevrolet El Camino
Perhaps it was only coincidence that in the year tail fins were at their flashiest, the eminently practical El Camino first appeared. There had been car-pickup hybrids before, but none so appealing as the 1959 model, with its airy, hardtop-like roof and curving tailfins. Customizers and hot-rodders loved the El Camino from the start, and El Caminos still have a passionate following today.
Look for: Turn-signals above quad headlights. Full-length bright body-side moldings with accent paint fill. Wing-like curved rear fins and ‘cat’s eye’ taillights.
1962 Chevrolet Bel Air “Bubble Top” 409
Chevy’s hot 409-cid big-block V-8 became a drag-racing sensation within weeks of its 1961 limited release. Soon, the Beach Boys were singing harmonies to the dual-carbureted 1962 version. Drag racers usually ordered the torque-monster 409 in the Bel Air Sport Coupe, a model that was a tad lighter than the much more popular Impala hardtop. The 1962 Bel Air retained the smoothly rounded 1961 Chevy hardtop roofline, and is known today as the “bubble top.”
Look for: Rounded hardtop roofline with thin support pillars and large rear window. Downward-slanting character line on body-sides stretches from the headlamps to the rear bumper. Four round tail lights (Impala has six).
1963 Corvette Sting Ray "Split-Window" Coupe
Based on a one-off sports racer penned by design chief Bill Mitchell, the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray “Split-Window” Coupe was possibly the most exhilarating American production car of its time. Beneath its superbly tailored form, the Sting Ray featured a new independent rear suspension and offered potent, fuel-injected small-block V-8 power. New luxury options included air conditioning, leather seat trim, and the latest in infotainment – an AM/FM radio. The “C2” Corvette generation that would continue through 1967, but only the 1963 Coupe would have the famous "split-window” design.
Look for: Grid-patterned simulated air intakes on hood. “Split-window" divided rear glass. Gas filler cover on the rear deck has crossed flags on white background.
1969 Chevrolet Camaro
Representing the final rendition of the first generation (1967-69) Camaro, the restyled ’69s raced through a year of remarkable accomplishments. While the Z28 with its high-revving 302-cid small-block V-8 raced to a Trans Am championship, specially produced ZL-1 Camaros with aluminum-block 427s provided thunderous thrills at the drag strips. Down in Indiana, a specially detailed SS/RS big-block 396 Convertible paced the 1969 Indy 500. Many collectors consider the ’69 the best of the gen-one Camaros, and a 1969 Camaro owned by Ed Welburn, vice president of GM Global Design, served as inspiration for today’s forward-looking Camaro.
Look for: Rectangular wheel wells. Sculpted body-side “speed lines" trailing rearward from the wheel-well openings. Retractable body-color headlamp covers (RS package only).
1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 454
The muscle car era peaked in 1970, and that year’s Chevelle SS offered up to 450 horsepower, a rating not seen again for decades. Available exclusively in combination with Chevelle SS and El Camino SS packages, the 454-cid LS-6 V-8 was Chevrolet’s most powerful regular production big-block V-8 ever. In street tune, the 450-horsepower V-8 could propel the midsize Chevelle to 100 mph in about 13 seconds. Thanks to such performance, original and unmodified LS-6 powered Chevelles are avidly sought by muscle car collectors today.
Look for: Horizontally split grille with SS badge at center, flanked by quad headlamps. Rectangular taillights mounted in the rear bumper. SS badge and 454 engine designation on the front fenders (used with both 360-hp LS-5 and 450-hp LS-6 454 V-8).
1993 Chevrolet Camaro Z28
Introduced for 1993 as a coupe, the fourth-generation Camaro featured completely new styling with a low, aerodynamic look. A convertible followed for 1994. The ’93 Z28’s LT-1 small-block V-8, first seen in the 1992 Corvette, was rated at a respectable (for the era) 275 horsepower. A specially detailed Camaro Z28 paced the 1993 Indianapolis 500, marking the brand’s fourth appearance in that role. Only 645 1993 Z28s were built with the colorfully pinstriped Indy Pace Car package, so they are a rare sight today, even on Woodward.
Look for: Z28 badge above body-side molding and on rear panel. Special black roof treatment on all Z28s (and base Camaro with T-tops). 1993-only Z28 Indy 500 Pace Car Package.
2011 Chevrolet Volt
Sure to stand out among the rumble of V-8 engines and the scent of unburned hydrocarbons, the revolutionary Chevrolet Volt will be making its first appearance as a production car at this year’s Woodward Dream Cruise. With its battery fully charged, the Volt could conceivably do the entire 32 mile Dream Cruise loop without using drop of gasoline. It could then do many laps more with the help of its on-board range extender. When Cruise fans of the future look back on groundbreaking Chevrolets, the Volt is certain to make the list.
Look for: Blackout panel below side windows. Round charge port door on driver-side front fender. Black lift gate panel below the spoiler at rear, with Chevrolet bowtie badge and Volt identification.
2012 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
Expect to see many new Camaros - coupes and convertibles - on Woodward Avenue this year. However, those seeking the 2012 Camaro ZL1 will have only place to turn, the Chevy display at the Birmingham triangle, where the ZL1 will hold a place of honor. Taking to the streets next year, the 2012 Camaro ZL1 will launch Chevrolet into its second century with the sort of ground-breaking performance that runs deep in the bowtie brand’s heritage. Producing more than 550 horsepower right from the dealership, the ZL1 will be the highest-performing and most technically advanced Camaro yet, ensuring its status as a future Chevy street classic.
Look for: Aluminum hood with carbon fiber air extractor and ZL1 badges. Forged 20” aluminum wheels with Goodyear supercar tires. LED headlamp halo rings.