GM’s VP of Global Design Ed Welburn was asked to put together his list of the top 10 Chevrolet’s ever produced as the company celebrates the 100 years since the founding of the brand. As head of the General Motors design studios, Welburn follows in the footsteps of legendary Chevy designers Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell. As such, Welburn picks are tightly focused on the heritage of style and innovation that resulted in some of the most iconic cars and trucks produced by the automaker. In his list of top 10 Chevys, two of Welburn’s picks are Corvettes.
The first Corvette on Welburn’s list is the first Corvette model produced by General Motors, the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette. Designed by Harley Earl, the small two-seater captured the hearts of American’s who saw it on display at the 1953 Motorama in New York City. Based on demand from the public, GM rushed the car into production and 6 months later, the first of 300 Corvettes would start rolling off the temporary assembly line in Flint, Michigan.
“It was the first Corvette,” says Ed of the Chevrolet that grew into an automotive legend. Created by the similarly legendary GM styling chief Harley Earl, 1953’s Corvette two-seater sports car was intended to shake up Chevrolet’s image, as well as battle the wave of sporty European imports flooding into the U.S.A. One of its more novel features was its fiberglass construction. Initially though, the car wasn’t a big hit, and it was only with the styling tweaks of a few years later that it became a true success. “It was a design for years that I didn’t care for that much,” admits Ed. “But now I absolutely love it. I’ll never forget the first one I saw. I must have been about seven, and walking down a tree-lined street. One came around the corner, rumbled along through the fallen leaves and then was gone. And I was, like, ‘Wow, that was cool!'”
As one of only two Chevrolet’s chosen by Ed from the Sixties, the 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray is a no-brainer. Designed by Bill Mitchell, the ’63 was the first Corvette to have a coupe body style and many of its design elements are visible on today’s Corvettes. Welburn has called on one of most famous design elements for the 1963 Corvette – the split rear window – to make its return on the C7 Corvette.
“What an amazing car,” says Ed of the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray, the model that took the Corvette range to new heights. Based on a show car penned by GM design chief Bill Mitchell, the angular and svelte Sting Ray was more sophisticated and civilized than previous Corvettes, yet in maturing, it didn’t forget that its main purpose in life was to be exhilarating, both in how it looked and how it drove. Distinctive features of the car – which continued to be built out of fiberglass – were the electrically-operated pop-up headlamps and, on the coupe, a split rear window that would go on to become its main motif. “I’ve lectured on this car many times,” says Ed. “Everything was new; in fact it was so new, they had to give it a new name, Sting Ray. Every Corvette since then has been influenced by it, even the current models. The dual cockpit interior is still part of the Corvette and the Chevrolet interior design today.”
Here are the the Top 10 Chevrolet designs as selected by Ed Welburn:
- 1912 Chevrolet Classic Six
- 1932 Chevrolet Deluxe Sport Coupe
- 1936 Chevrolet Suburban
- 1948 Chevrolet Pick-Up
- 1953 Chevrolet Corvette
- 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air
- 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray
- 1967 Chevrolet Pick-Up
- 1989 Chevrolet Pick-Up
- 2010 Chevrolet Camaro
Click here to read all of Welburn’s comments about the various Chevrolet cars and trucks to make his top 10 list.