The latest batch of Chevrolet small cars – notably the 2012 Sonic and the recently re-confirmed 2013 Sonic – were developed in partnership with General Motors’s Korean operations, but they were far from the first. Nor was the Chevrolet Aveo, for that matter, or the European-market Matiz.
No, that honor likely goes instead to the Chevrolet 1700, which actually dates back to 1972.
After Toyota abandoned a joint venture with South Korea’s Shinjin Motors, the company partnered with General Motors to create the first GM Korea venture. The very first product of a series of GM-derived products was this Chevy.
Though the car wore the famous blue bow-tie emblem and was marketed as a Chevrolet, the car was anything but. In actuality, the 1700 was little more than a rebadged Holden LJ Torana. Instead of importing cars from Australia or assembling completely knocked down kits (CKD) Korea, Shinjin tooled up its facilities in Incheon to build the vehicles entirely on its own. Shinjin also eschewed Holden’s standard four- and six-cylinder powertrains in favor of a unique 1.7-liter I-4 offering.
Unfortunately, the venture wasn’t entirely successful. Between 1972 and 1976, it’s estimated that roughly 8000 vehicles were sold. When GM Korea changed its name to Saehan in 1976, the 1700 was facelifted, given a smaller 1.4-liter I-4 to address fuel economy complaints, and dubbed the Camina. Despite GM’s best efforts, roughly 1000 cars were sold over the course of two years.
Saehan would replace the car with a rebadged version of the Isuzu Gemini in 1977 – itself riding upon GM’s global T-car platform, which also underpinned the Chevrolet Chevette and Pontiac T1000 in the U.S. That car was more successful, but Shinjin’s stake in the venture was taken over by a different industrial group in 1983, prompting the name to change once more to Daewoo Motor.
Photo source: AutoNavigator