36. Zora Arkus-Duntov
He was born in Belgium, raised in Russia, and schooled in Germany. He raced Porsches to class wins at Le Mans, designed tractors and lathes in Europe, and developed an overhead-valve conversion for flathead Fords that made him a legend with American hot-rodders. But Zora Arkus-Duntov finally found his niche at GM, where his fractured English, mechanical savvy, and marketing flair made him the godfather of the Corvette and the patron saint of Chevrolet's postwar racing program. His technical genius flowered in the fuel injection and the high-lift cams that eventually found their way into the small-block Chevy V-8, and he set records climbing Pikes Peak in a Chevy coupe and sedan and on the sand of Daytona Beach in a Corvette. But Zora's most enduring legacy was his ability to persuade his ever-reluctant bosses that the credibility of the Corvette was contingent on its racing heritage. He engineered the SS that raced at Sebring, the Grand Sport that humbled Shelby Cobras, and even-more-ambitious projects that were never fully realized. (Four-rotor mid-engine Corvette, anyone?) Even now, thirty-six years after his retirement and fifteen years after his death, some of his DNA survives in every Corvette on every racetrack around the world.
37. Ed Cole
Formerly the chief engineer at Cadillac (where he developed the brand's first modern V-8), Ed Cole became the chief engineer at Chevrolet in the mid-'50s. He pushed for a new OHV V-8, and with a staff that had tripled in size to 2900, he led the team that developed it and also was the lead engineer on the '55 Chevy. He became Chevrolet general manager in 1956 and stayed until 1961, eventually ascending to the presidency of General Motors. Besides the '55 Chevy, he oversaw the introduction of the Corvair and initiated the program that delivered the Chevy II for 1962.
38. Smokey Yunick
In 1955, when Chevrolet unleashed its new small-block V-8 on NASCAR, it set up shop in the best damn garage in Daytona Beach -- literally. Proprietor Smokey Yunick had established himself as stock-car racing's premier engine man thanks to his mechanical ingenuity and an ability to exploit the ambiguities of NASCAR's rule book. Although Fonty Flock scored Chevy's maiden victory on the dirt oval at Columbia, South Carolina, the first major win came at Darlington in the 1955 Southern 500, with Herb Thomas driving a Smokey special. Yunick attributed the victory to Firestone racing tires liberated from a junk yard, but he always claimed that the small-block Chevy was part of NASCAR's foundation.
39. Junior Johnson
Buck Baker gave Chevy its first Grand National championship in 1957 (40), but it was Junior Johnson -- who was out of racing at the time thanks to a prison sentence for running moonshine -- who became "The Last American Hero." Immortalized in Tom Wolfe's celebrated profile in Esquire, Johnson became a legend after his unlikely victory in a Chevrolet at the Daytona 500 in 1960. With his car a solid 20 mph slower than the leading Pontiacs, he discovered the technique now known as drafting and used it to win the race. Later, he owned the Chevys that Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip drove to Winston Cup championships in 1976, 1977, and 1985.
41. '57 Corvette
It took a few years, but by 1957 the Corvette had achieved its promise. The car had received a handsome redesign the year before, and the first available V-8, as well as a manual transmission, had come two years prior. But '57 saw the new, larger, 283-cubic-inch fuel-injected V-8, and with the four-speed, the '57 Vette could race to 60 mph in 5.7 seconds. The Corvette's legend was ensured.
42. The 12 Hours of Sebring, March 1957
The SS looked like a Corvette with Jetsons-inspired styling touches.
In fact, it was a factory hot rod built around a Mercedes-Benz 300SL-inspired spaceframe. At Sebring, Juan Manuel Fangio and Stirling Moss practiced briefly in a test mule and got within three seconds of what would be the fastest lap of the twelve-hour enduro.
But the race car failed early while John Fitch was driving, and before Arkus-Duntov could rework it for Le Mans, the Automobile Manufacturers Association racing ban prompted GM to cancel the program.
43. The Impala
Introduced for '58 as the top Chevrolet trim level and available only as a two-door hardtop or convertible, the Impala quickly expanded into its own series and became so popular that more than a million Impalas were sold in 1965, still a record for production of a single nameplate.
44. The El Camino
Chevy's car/pickup half-breed was two years behind Ford's 1957 Ranchero, but Chevrolet stuck with it longer and sold more, burning the El Camino into the public consciousness.