Ask Cool Daddy’s Chevyennial
Dear Cool Daddy: In honor of Chevrolet’s Centennial, did you ever notice how many of its “dream cars” had names that got reused on production models? …from Bowtie Bob, in Louisville
Dear BB: As a matter of actual fact, I did. It all started with the Corvette…the Bowtie Boys were champing at the bit for a 2-seater “European” type sports car, along the lines of the 1951 Nash-Healy…a collaboration between Nash-Kelvinator (drive train) and the British niche automaker Donald Healey (chassis and body.) “Project Opel” resulted in the Corvette, which hit the show circuit in January of 1953. Public reaction was tremendous, and within 6 months, it was a production model, the first batch of 300 in Polo White.
It’s interesting to note that at the time, the name had a connotation lost on future generations…a corvette was a small, maneuverable warship, having served in WWII as a patrol boat and convoy escort. Thus, the name had both a military and nautical resonance.
In 1954, to test the waters for possible future Corvette variations, a fastback Corvair and a station wagon Nomad were produced. The Nomad of course morphed into the production 1955 Nomad, seen below in red. White technically a Corvette, the show-car was built on a 1954 sedan chassis, with seating for 6…only the front and rear clips made it a Vette.
Nothing like the snazzy Corvair was ever put into production, altho obviously the name was reused in the Fall of 1959 for Chevrolet’s entry in the compact field. I can remember thinking that name sounded familiar, and searching thru my Dad’s old copies of Popular Science Monthly, found the dark colored version below, top. More views of a white one are show below, bottom.
But while most dream cars were used to gauge public reaction to various styles and features, Chevrolet sure liked to recycle the names. One of their ugliest had to be the 1955 Biscayne, below…altho again, those tail-lights predict things to come, nez pah? The name was used for the the middle-of-the-lineup offering in 1958…headed by the Bel Air, the Biscayne (formerly the 210) and the Delray (formerly the 150). Of course, the special edition midyear Bel Air Impala was so successful that it became the flagship model in 1959, with the Bel Air bumped down to the middle, and the Biscayne relegated to entry level status.
And speaking of which…the original Impala was a 1956 dream car (below)…it looks a little better, and unbeknownst to many of us at the time, was actually Chevrolet’s take on a 4-seater Corvette…certainly a better approach than simply stretching out the 2-seater, altho the idea of a “family-size” Vette never went beyond this show car. Thru the late 1950s, other dream cars bore the names SS, Super Sport, and Sting Ray…all to appear in the 1960s on production models.
But one of the strangest recycled Chevy monikers was a near-miss. Relatively few photos seem to have survived of the lackluster Chevrolet Tornado…not Toronado, altho the 2 are confused all the time…from the 1964-65 NY World’s Fair. But since Chevrolet was stuck on C-names, the radical front-wheel drive Oldsmobile personal luxury model picked up the ball in 1966…other names Olds considered were Magnum, Raven, and Scirocco.
Top, another view of that ungainly 4-door Corvette mock-up…along with an even queerer monstrosity…a Sting Ray station wagon…or something…ay chihuahua!
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