These past two days, we’ve looked into Chevy and the Chevy small block’s past and present, and between these time periods and products is a singular emotion. What joins the creation of the small block, the history of General Motors, and events like the Woodward Dream cruise is passion.
Passion is not merely performance numbers, fuel economy, or just design alone. It’s the melding of the three parts by groups of people to create great products that they are proud of. On top of that, it then appears with the customer and how they interact and love the product. You can’t engineer or design a passionate car on purpose, just like you can’t create a perfect spouse. It’s all about the process. A car that elicits response from owners and passerbys is one that was created with a genuine care for the result. It is the result of this continual effort that creates the story of these cars and makes them more than just pieces of metal.
You see this passion in the creation process when you visit GM’s Heritage Center. Surrounded by the significant cars of the past, you see the thoughts and dreams of car designers that ended up in the final process. From a design and engineering standpoint, you can feel what their creators and teams were thinking when they created these pieces. You see a visionary mindset that is not stuck in the past, but it always pushing through to the future.
These designers and engineers were not only looking for performance, but also at fuel economy and evocative design as well. For instance, the 1953 Firebird concept used turbines in an attempt to get both performance and fuel economy. Plus, it was stylized like a jet. It was not a dowdy economical box to suffer in while you squeezed out every drop of gas. Fuel economy, to the designers and engineers, was just another boundary to push the envelope like performance, and it was another tool to capture the buyer’s attention.
You can see this today in concepts such as the Stingray, but also in products like the Volt and the Camaro. For the Volt, maximum fuel economy and cutting edge technology was key. Crating a new driving experience with the use of new technology was the purpose of the vehicle. For the Camaro, designers and engineers had to bring the feeling of old muscle cars with the expectations of today’s marketplace in terms of fuel economy and stirring performance.
The results of all this hard work are seen during events like the Woodward Dream Cruise. At events like this, you can view the legacy of cars that were made with a clear mission and care. This is seen by the people who line the streets with boundless enthusiasm for hours on end to get a glimpse of their favorite cars. It also materializes in the people who bring their own cars to the event.
Take for instance the 1968 Chevy Camaro convertible in the photo gallery. The owner of the car had a Camaro when he was younger and bought this one to restore as soon as he could. The car has gone through a full frame up rebuild, two engines, and a few additional touches as well (like the Pace Car graphics). What’s most astounding is that this transformation took 13 years. To put that in perspective, the average marriage in the U.S. lasts about 8 years. And every single car has a story like that. The search, the purchase, the project, the stress, the memories, and the fun after the build all are captured in 7 feet of metal attached to an engine with four wheels, regardless of the badge on the hood.
This same affect can be seen in cars built today, like the Volt and the Camaro. Everywhere I drove this car, people responded. For instance, a simple lunch break turned into an experience as guys and girls of all kinds talked about how their parents had one, how they love how it looks, how they want to buy one when the money is right, etc. And then you see a kid who wants to sit in it and hear it start. At that moment, you see a spark that will hopefully create another car enthusiast. Regardless of what some people want to tell you, cars are not appliances.
From the drawing board, to the showroom floor, to the owner’s garage and beyond, cars are products of passion. Men and women dedicate time, energy, and money because at the heart of it, cars speak to you in some way or another. It could be the Woodward Dream Cruise or Pebble Beach, but every car has this passion attached to it from the people who built it, buy it, and go to events to see it. What is important going forward is harnessing this energy and creating unique cars that speak to people that were turned off from cars before. To really find that visionary mindset to create cars that can both be fun and fuel efficient. Because without new, great cars, we’ll have nothing to cruise down Woodward 50 years from now.