The Chevrolet 100

Optimism Abounds
Following the end of World War II, pent-up demand, rising prosperity, and booming innovation transform America -- and Chevrolet.

26. The '49 Chevy
After three years of building what were basically carryover 1942 models, the '49 Chevy was the brand's first new car of the era. It wasn't an exciting design but it was new, and with it bow-tie sales topped one million for the first time since 1927. That was enough to keep Chevy in first place against an equally new '49 Ford.

27. Thomas H. Keating
Keating, who became division chief in 1948, was asked in 1952 by GM president Charles Wilson what he needed to reinvigorate Chevrolet. He got what he wanted: Ed Cole as chief engineer, the Corvette, an overhead-valve V-8, and a dramatically redesigned '55 Chevy.

28. Powerglide
Chevrolet offered the first low-priced car with a fully automatic transmission, the two-speed Powerglide unit, which first appeared as a $159 option on 1950 models. Even after the introduction of a more sophisticated three-speed automatic (the Turbo-Hydramatic), Powerglide stuck around through 1973.

29. Power Steering
Making driving easier was a theme in the 1950s, and power steering was a major part of that effort; Chevrolet had it on its '53 models, before its low-priced competition.

30. "See the U-S-A in your Chevrolet!"
Sung by TV's Dinah Shore starting in 1951, Chevrolet's advertising theme song blended salesmanship and patriotism in a formula that would mark the brand's advertising for decades.

31. 1953 Corvette
Chevrolet in the early 1950s was an unlikely purveyor of a two-seat sports car, but division chief Tom Keating was happy to grab the '53 Corvette (which had already been designed and had been offered to other divisions) in an effort to give Chevy a new image. Styled by Harley Earl and engineered by Ed Cole, the '53 Corvette -- with its unexciting Blue Flame six, automatic transmission, and minuscule production numbers -- is important not for what it was but for what it would become.

32. The '55 Chevy
The '55 Chevy transformed the brand's image overnight. The styling by Clare MacKichan (33), with long and low proportions, was a sensation, and the car marked the debut of the seminal small-block V-8. Although the finned '57 ended up being the 1950s icon, the blockbuster '55 was the most important Chevy of the era. We fire up Gerald Nagy's four-door in the parking lot of his alma mater, Flint Central High School, take in the throaty burble from the two-barrel, single-carb V-8, and put the two-speed Powerglide transmission into Drive. Grasping the huge, thin-rimmed steering wheel and sinking into the squishy, flat bench seat with Nagy riding shotgun, we ease out onto the streets of this once-proud Michigan city and quickly adjust to the lack of power assist for both the steering and the brakes. Nagy points to the freeway entrance ramp. The two-tone Bel Air surges forward onto I-475 and reaches 65 mph effortlessly. Visibility through the curved windshield is superb, and as the car settles into a 70-mph rhythm, bias-ply tires humming along the concrete and sunlight streaming into the airy cabin, it's easy to imagine how good life must have seemed to the millions of Americans who drove Chevys in that era of limitless opportunity. People like Nagy's parents, who had a Bel Air identical to this one, right down to the turquoise-and-cream color scheme. "I went 95 mph in my parents' car," Nagy recalls, then says that he was born in the back seat of a new 1940 Chevrolet Master Deluxe just a few blocks short of Flint's Hurley Hospital. This man has Chevy in his blood. Treating himself to a '55 Chevy convertible when he graduated from Flint Central in June 1958, he clearly cut a wide swath through town. "Oh, I loved that car!" he says, wistfully. "I miss it." This '55 sedan is not a bad consolation prize. -- Joe DeMatio

34. The small-block V-8
The result of a crash program, the seminal '55 small-block V-8 engine was designed and built in only fifteen weeks. The small-block was not the first Chevy V-8 (a V-8 was offered for one year, in 1918), but the 265-cubic-inch unit was the first modern one. It was originally rated at 162 hp -- or 180 hp with the $59 power pack, which added a four-barrel carburetor, a revised air cleaner and intake manifold, and dual exhaust. The next year, the top-spec version was up to 225 hp. Displacement grew to 283 cubic inches in 1957, and with the new fuel-injection option, the engine achieved 1 hp per cubic inch. An engineering home run, the small-block Chevy V-8 would prove so versatile that its basic design continues to this day.

35. La Carrera Panamericana, November 1953
Driving a humdrum Chevy 210 sedan with a Powerglide transmission in the small-bore stock-car class of the notoriously dangerous Mexican road race, fifty-four-year-old C. D. Evans scored Chevrolet's first victory in international competition.

Then the 2.8 V6 upgraded to the 140hp 3.1 V6. Then the High Ouput Twin Cam 2.4 liter pushed a 150HP in the 1996 Z24 and did 0-60 in 7.7 sec.You said high sticker prices :The 1982 Chevrolet Cavalier prices were around $6,278-$8,452 and were cheaper than a Honda Accord.You said the Cavalier was a sales disappointment:Sales in 1982 was 195,057Sales in 1983 was 218,587Sales in 1984 was 462,611Sales in 1985 was 383,752 Sales in 1986 was 432,091 1984: Cavalier the new number-one seller not only at Chevrolet but in the entire United States.1985: Cavalier was the most popular Chevrolet but also the most popular car in America.1986: The number one selling cars.So where did you get your facts about a sales disappointment?You said only one major redesign: Yes that's true but they were many changes of styling. 1982-1987, 1988-1990, 1991-1994, 1995-1999, 2000-2002, 2003-2005.
I am very disappointed the way you described the Chevrolet Cavalier for number 77. I am not sure where you got your information or you were not in the best of moods that day and decided to write a bad article on the Chevrolet Cavalier. Your facts are so wrong.This is supposed to be a celebration for Chevrolet for its 100 years of manufacturing not dissing each car and giving them a bad name.You said Lousy Economy: Remember this was in the early eighties. Every car manufacturers downsized their vehicles due to strick emissions law and also don't forget the gas shortage that we had in that era. Most cars out there in the 80's weren't very fast and the performance was poor.Poor Performance: Yep the performance was poor at the beginning with the 88hp 1.8 4 cyl in 1982 and then in 1983 they change the engine to a 90hp 2.0 TBI 4 cylinder. But in 1985 there was a new mini muscle car which was the Chevrolet Cavalier Z24 with a High Output 2.8 V6 pushrod engine producing 130HP.

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