Hooniverse Asks- What's History's Best Chevrolet?

Whether Biscayne shoebox, Camaro or Chevelle, or America’s sports car, the Corvette, Chevy has built some damn fine automobiles. Cars like the Corvair stretched the concept of a compact family car, and even though it ended its run in controversy,  it’s still remembered fondly by the people who matter, unlike Ford’s Edsel fiasco, which was an answer to a question nobody asked.
Chevrolet has also been competitive in Trucks, their C-10 beloved by more than one Hoon here. But of all these vehicle – cars and trucks, wagons and sports cars – which is the best?
Of course, the easy answer is the Corvette, and that may very well be the one to pick. However, its limited goal set puts that plastic fantastic at a disadvantage when compared to its more accomplished brethren.
Also, why limit contenders to the post-war era? Their rugged stovebolt six – so called because of headbolts that looked like they came off a wood-burning stove – was first introduced in 1929. While vintage Fords of the era may dominate the dialog these days, Chevy built some fine cars and trucks then too.
So, out of all the Chevys that have ever plied the roads, which one, in your estimation, is the best?
Image sources: [Arboristsite.com, Corvairs.org]

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60 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- What's History's Best Chevrolet?”

  1. Feds_II Avatar

    I'm very tempted to say the Corvair, in Turbo form.
    Think about it. A small car with a turbocharged alloy engine and fully independent suspension. Go on, tell me the next time that combination of features were available in a GM car. Honestly, if I had to choose 1 chevy to own, it would be a turbo 'vair, and likely a convertible.
    Beyond that, hindsite shows just how big of a market was missed by the chevys that didn't make it:
    The '04 Nomad concept was beautiful, efficient, and probably could have saved Kappa:
    <img src="http://www.vintageairstreamer.com/otherinterests/stationwagons/images/2004nomad.jpg"&gt;
    I remember really liking the SS concept, but now, I don't know… feels a little dated. Could have been a winner priced, contented, and wagoned as a legacy competitor though.
    <"img src="http://www.vaiden.net/chevy_ss_concept_s.jpg"&gt;

    1. voodoojoo Avatar

      I'm pretty sure that's actually just a hot rodded current-gen Mazda 6 you have a picture of there.

  2. Alff Avatar

    I'll go with the one Mama Alfisted drove back in '67
    <img src="http://www.camarohighway.com/images/1stGen/67RSSS396-1.jpg"&gt;

  3. Juliet C. Avatar
    Juliet C.

    This one?
    <img src=http://thatcarguy.typepad.com/.a/6a0105355ab3fc970b01053704b745970c-pi>

    1. Tanshanomi Avatar

      (Snark Alert!)

    2. Alff Avatar

      There are many more obvious responses to this but I'm struck by the 42 mpg freeway claim.

  4. Tripl3fast Avatar

    El Camino.

  5. skay¢og Avatar

    My choice is the Corvette….no particular year.
    <img src="http://www.gregsonline.com/eshop/Html/Products/Watches/Images/corvette-logos.jpg"&gt;

  6. muthalovin Avatar

    I will go with the Vette. Sure, a halo car is limited, but the Corvette trickled down all its parts and technology to everything in GM's lineup. That, plus 9 times out of 10, when you say Chevy to someone, they think Corvette. Say Ford, and who the fuck knows.

  7. Dr_Dangerously Avatar

    I give it to the El Camino, the whole entire line of 'em.
    The El has embodied a major part of Chevy's design, starting with the first gen El Camino modified from the Impala, then redesigned based off of the Chevelle (slight slump in the mid 70's), and then ending with the Malibu and Monte Carlo base design.
    Close second…Monza Mirage
    <img src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/3e/77_monza_mirage.jpg"widh=300)

    1. Goingincirclez Avatar

      Wow, you can hear the Malaise pouring out of that front fender / door edge panel fitment.

      1. 80monza Avatar

        Actually, those fenders were bolt-on pieces AFTER the basic white car was made and shipped to the vendor for addition of the panels and stripes. Then it got shipped from the vendor straight to the dealer.
        I had a 1980 monza, one of the last to be made, with the 2.5 Iron puke engine. Engine was dead reliable and never had to be touched, but everything that bolted to it had to be replaced multiple times save for the alternator at 165k, which died because there were NO BRUSHES LEFT. Clutch lasted 159k but when you share parts with a Corvette (Saginaw 4-sp) at double the power, a 4-cyl is a walk in the park for the part to handle! On the downside, the AC kept throwing clutches onto the ground (damn R4 compressor), water pumps spewed often through the shaft bearing, engine vibration kept breaking necks off the radiator, and the whole car shook at 65. Front control arms were bolted to a box-section of the unibody frame, which collapsed over time. Door hinge bushings came every 60k. The front nose broke each and every one of its mountings over time and eventually was held on by rope and string between the headlights and the grille. The plastic disintegrated on interior bits quickly. I lost the windshield wiper switch through the dash when the (non-sun-exposed) mountings on the backside of the plastic dash broke loose somewhere around 126k. I gave up on the car at 180k when the engine started running on 3 cylinders until warm. There wasn't much left of the car at that point.

  8. Benito Avatar

    I tried hard to come up with a better answer then the Corvette, and I couldn't, besides the Nomad. Chevy lacks the quirkyness of many of it's sibling brands. There is no Fiero, Reatta, Syclone, Turbo Trans Am for me to love in the bowtie camp. So, Nomad it is.

  9. SSurfer321 Avatar
    1. SSurfer321 Avatar

      hamsters killed my pic or interweb > me

      1. Tim Odell Avatar
        Tim Odell

        Get rid of the spaces around the equals sign.

      1. Tomsk Avatar

        We had an '84 C20 Chevy Suburban for a number of years. We have a '95 C1500 GMC Suburban now, but the GMT400s just don't exude as much PAH! as the '73-'91s. Perhaps it's due to the fact that you couldn't swing a dead cat in mid- to late-'90s SoCal without hitting a GMT400 Sub being skippered by a spraytanned MILF and wearing at least one BooRide sticker on a rear side window, whereas their predecessors conjure up images of a large hunting or fishing party on its way into the back country with the transfer case in 4LO and the 454 or 6.2L diesel shucking it over tree roots and goat-sized boulders as its woodgrain appliques became covered in mud as the occupants, with brown-tinted Aviators and sideburns down to here, puffed away on their Luckies and regaled stories of flirting with the new secretary at work.
        Someday, I shall have a '73-'91 'Burb of my own. The other stuff? Not so much…

        1. Tim Odell Avatar
          Tim Odell

          Funny, we had a '95 3/4 4×4 (K2500) Suburban that was the best vehicle my family's ever owned.
          All of our family friends had 1/2 ton suburbans, and all of them needed transmissions at 40k mile intervals. We finally did a filter/fluid when ours started shifting funny at 110k miles. It saw 4-low usage at least once a year at the Christmas tree farm, and a lot more frequently once I started driving. Most notably with 16 people inside and the beer stashed in the roof box.
          That truck made me the 3/4 ton devotee that I am today. It was only a 350, but it was backed up with a heavy-duty 4l80e trans and a bigger rearend. I'm of the opinion that if you don't need a 3/4 ton truck, you don't need a full-size truck.

          1. Tomsk Avatar

            Oh, I like the GMT400s (I wouldn't mind a C2500 with the 6.5L turbodiesel); they just lack some of the purposefulness and rustic charm of their predecessors.

  10. lilwillie Avatar

    Tough call. The Best is pretty broad. Looking? Sales? Dependability? Building the brand?
    I guess if I lumped them all together it would have to be Corvette. It is the best GM vehicle. Much of it's design, history and technology ends up eventually into every other GM vehicle. It's racing heritage is awesome.

  11. BPR Avatar

    I’m going with the shoebox Chevies. Roomy, available v8 power, and tailfins. What’s not to love?
    I knew 2 folks who used ’54 chevies as daily drivers for years. One woman bought her coupe new and ran it until the late ’70’s, another family drove their sedan until the early 80’s. Just regular 6 cylinder cars that wouldn’t quit. They looked downright majestic parked next to the modern boxes of the time.
    Anyone know why they called these things “shoeboxes”?

    1. P161911 Avatar

      The Shoeboxes were 55-57. I'm guess it is because they were sort of squared off like a shoebox compared to the earlier more rounded Chevys.

      1. BPR Avatar

        I stand corrected, the “shoebox” designation appears to start with the sheetmetal change in ’55.
        I love ’em all, ’49 to ’57.

  12. engineerd Avatar

    I'm not a big fan of Chevrolet. Hell, I'm not a huge fan of GM in general. The only Chevy's I've found droolworthy were the El Camino and the Corvette. As far as "history's best" Chevy, I'd go with the 'Vette. It has staying power. It's an icon. It's as Chevrolet as anything else. When people think Chevy they think "government owned" and then they think "Corvette".

  13. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Tough call.
    In terms of what I'd like to own:
    -65-67 Chevelle Malibu SS
    -2nd gen Corvair Turbo
    -An assortment of 'Vettes
    In terms of "best", as defined by doing what it was supposed to, it's a toss-up between:
    -K2500 Truck/Suburban
    -Astro Van
    -C6 Corvette

    1. CptSevere Avatar

      Good call on the Astro Van. When I drove for City Cab in SLC, for like four and a half years, during the end of my tenure there I drove Cab 06, an Astro Van, with the 4.3 V6, and loved the damn thing. That was a good cab. It got decent mileage compared to the Caprice cop cars that populated the rest of the fleet, I could haul more paying customers, I could load more luggage in the back at the airport, and I liked (always have) the upright van driver's seat. Only problem was, I drove it during the day shift, and while drunks at night can climb into the back no problem, little old ladies who call cabs during the day to take them home from the hairdressers had to climb up into the van, with my polite help, as opposed to just falling into the back seat of a Caprice. That kind of sums up day cabdriving as opposed to night shift driving. Little old ladies who are grateful for your help, as opposed to loud drunks who tip well.

      1. Tim Odell Avatar
        Tim Odell

        I tip cabbies and bathroom attendants embarrassingly well when I'm drunk.
        I also tend to switch to Spanish, as well (despite the fact that I'm very much a corn-fed white guy). Works out well, as many of the cabbies and bathroom attendants present when I'm hammered tend to be Spanish speakers. In a way, I can think of it as paying extra for a little Spanish tutoring.

  14. P161911 Avatar

    Tough choice. The 55 Chevy which introduced the world to the now ubiquitous SBC. Pickup trucks and SUVs (Blazer/Jimmy and Suburban), especially the 73-87 versions. But it is really hard to argue with the consistency of the Corvette. Introduced in 1953, it has been world class since at least 1955 (when it got a V-8 with a manual transmission). Even the malaise era C3s were quicker than anything short of a 911 Turbo or a Lambo at the time. The Corvette has been able to offer near super car performance at an almost everyman price (or at an everyman price for used models). They have even seen a fair amount of success at the racetrack from the 1950s up to the current ALMS team.

    1. thomasmac Avatar

      What a fine choice, 1968 is my favorite year for full size Chevrolets. The front fender badge with a very special number makes it even better.

  15. Black Steelies Avatar
  16. IntendedAcceleration Avatar

    I'm 18, so I never knew the heyday of American cars/performance. During my lifetime, Chevrolet has been focused mainly on trucks and SUVs, while they just let their cars languish. My dad worked for GM in Europe in the late '80s, and he'd always tell me about how the Cavalier was built on an Opel platform that was already old when the Cavalier was new. The new Malibu is nice, and the Cobalt is a decent economy car (not to mention worlds better than the Cavalier), but they're ultimately just boring me-too mobiles. The Cobalt SS and HHR SS were truly good cars; very fast and good handling for the money, so I guess they're the best Chevrolets of late, along with the new Camaro.
    I think Chevrolet's big problem right now is not only to shed their bad image, but also to build cars that are unique from the Japanese, but won't scare people away. Even if we enthusiasts think they should go back to rear-drive sedans with V8s and column shift manuals, that's not what most car buyers want.
    My favorite Chevrolet is the Chevelle or El Camino (wasn't the Elky just a Chevelle with a pickup bed? Educate me, Chevy guys!), because they are the antithesis of politically correct, and therefore the antithesis of what cars have become.

    1. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

      Caminos were more or less Chevelle wagons with the top whacked off of the back.

  17. BrianTheHoon Avatar

    Close, it's a '69 (according to the site I <s>stole</s> borrowed the image from.

    1. Jay Avatar

      Horsehockey my friend … that's a '68.

  18. skitter Avatar

    <img src="http://i615.photobucket.com/albums/tt237/jskitter/hooniverse/ChevroletCorvetteGT1.jpg&quot; border="0" alt="Photobucket">
    There are no claims of being competitive on the world stage.
    Because that goes without saying.
    It has been driven and improved by fierce competition.
    It has succeeded thanks to reliability and efficiency.
    And just watching it is incredibly exciting.

  19. PFG Avatar

    Obviously, the Top Gear Lacetti.

  20. BrianTheHoon Avatar

    Well, it's not the first time the Intertoobs helped me look like an idiot. And I usually don't even need help for that!

  21. Texan_Idiot25 Avatar

    "Chevrolet has also been competitive in Trucks, their C-10 beloved by more than one Hoon here."
    Honestly their classic trucks are dominant to Ford's. GM had modern brakes, suspension, and frames well before Ford even attempted to move away from their swing-arm front suspension. Not to mention the ahead-of-it's-time coil sprung rear end. GM also made the push to make trucks much more livable with A/C and various luxury options. Key word: Options.

    1. Impalamino Avatar

      I'm on board with this. Chevrolet/GMC 1/2 & 3/4 ton trucks, early 60s until the present. Sure, I still see plenty of GM cars from the 60s on the streets, but they're all garage queens—not that I don't drool anyway. But I still see 60s pickups on the road around which no one has ever uttered the word "restoration" within earshot of the bare spot on the driver's window sill. Not pleasure trucks, not boat-towin' trucks…work trucks, still running, hauling and helping their owners make a living.
      Some might call it complacency, but GM must have been doing something right to get away with building essentially the exact same truck from '73-'87. Then they blew minds in '88 with the re-design…..which lasted another ten years. I worry that GM trucks are getting too gimmicky re: electronics (trying a little too hard to please the poseurs), but then again, I thought that in '88, too.
      So yeah, anyway, GM trucks, 60s-present. If I had to narrow it down to a single model, '68 GMC 1/2 ton. Just looks right.

      1. Texan_Idiot25 Avatar

        I'm still impressed with the number of original 67-72 C/Ks I see on the road.

    2. P161911 Avatar

      I still believe that people wouldn't be going on and on about how great and tough the old Toyota Hilux trucks are if Chevy had exported the C/K-10 line of trucks to the third world.

  22. Tanshanomi Avatar

    The '57 Cameo is the ultimate expression of Chevy-osity.
    <img src="http://photos.ebizautos.com/used-1957-chevrolet-pickup-cameo-5384-2079344-8-640.jpg"&gt;

    1. NefariouKunk Avatar

      Love that style. I cannot remember the nifty marketing name they gave that wrap around rear window and it is bugging me like having a song stuck in my head.

      1. Tanshanomi Avatar

        I know the wraparound windshields were called "Sweep Sight," but I always knew the big back windows as just "big window."

  23. Goingincirclez Avatar

    When I think of "Chevy" I think of the "everyman's" vehicle – GM's gateway brand to the rest of the portfolio. As such the Corvette is no more a Chevy than is its own brand conveniently sold at Chevy dealerships – in much the same way a Shelby is not purely a Ford. So the Corvette is held aside. If GM does go down for good, mark my words the Corvette will live on through some other means – could you say the same about the rest of Chevrolet / GM?
    So I'm going to have to give this one to the Cavalier, or the Caprice/Impala.
    As much as Cavaliers suck and are the deserving butt of jokes, there's no denying that they serve their intended market very well, are subjected to abuses that far superior cars never see, and yet millions of these things just keep plucking along. It's an unsung soldier-bearer of the Chevrolet flag, the only one that ever should have been built on the J-platform, and arguably the one car that fulfills Chevrolet's mission of being the affordable introduction to the General – for better or worse.
    The Caprice set the standard for downsized full-sizers 35 years ago. It was the choice backbone of severe-service Taxi and PD fleets nationwide. Thousands of survivors enjoy a cult following – however misplaced – and only the LS1-Impala could command the famous ad line about Lord Vader.
    Chevy has certainly built/sold superior cars – they've definitely built better looking ones, as well as performance cars and niche fillers for every whim and fad. You're not going to find many Cavalier fanclubs, and indeed the Caprice it's an unsung nameplate compared to its heralded Impala platform-mate. But they did their jobs, and did them reasonably well. You can't say the same of too many other GM products of my lifetime.
    All that said, I wouldn't want a Cavalier, ever. And I'd rather have a Vic than a Caprice. But if I had to own a Chevy, I'd probably take a Chevelle SS Wagon. THERE'S a car that defies its own existence.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      I wouldn't hand it to the Cavalier, because it was one of the cars that set Generations X, Y and so on off of domestics. The Bel Air/Caprice/Impala, up through '96, all jointly deserve this award, but I'd give it to the downsized-right-on-time '77 – not a great car, sure, but a step in the right direction, alongside the '78 Monte Carlo and its platform-mates.
      …only the LS1-Impala could command the famous ad line about Lord Vader.
      I forgot that was run for the Impala! Wasn't a similar campaign used for the Grand National, or is that false hindsight?

      1. Goingincirclez Avatar

        Oh definitely the Cavalier was not always all roses – hence my "for better or worse" disclaimer. Yet for all their faults, there are far too many that just won't die. That has to be worth something. A Ferrari would implode before the first tire rotation if they were treated to the same disdain and neglect as a typical Cavalier. Credit where due, is all.

        1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

          True. I have plenty of respect for Timex cars – vehicles that take a licking and keep on ticking.

    2. Tanshanomi Avatar

      For a classic Chevy "everyman's car," my mind goes instantly to a '71-'72 Malibu.
      <img src="http://www.tanshanomi.com/temp/72malibu.jpg"&gt;

      1. goingincirclez Avatar

        I always forget those ever existed then, which means I've doubtlessly mistaken some for a Chevelles over the years. But yeah, I'll agree, they do look nice. Better than the next-gen Malibus that followed *recoils at the thought*

        1. Tanshanomi Avatar

          Well, it was a "Chevelle Malibu" at the time. So yea, Chevelle.

  24. Guest Avatar

    I vote for my old '73 Chevelle wagon w/ the plastic nosecone. The short-block 350 sounded like a sewing machine, but that baby could move! Junked it when the master cylinder went, still regret sending it to the crusher.

  25. Lonzo Avatar

    I’ve gotta say the Corvair is my favorite all-time Chevy… and by that I mean the Corvair vans (Greenbrier), trucks (Rampside), station wagons (Lakewood), 4 door sedans (500, 700 & Monza), coupes and convertibles, as well as those hopped up by John Fitch (Fitch Sprint) and Don Yenko (Yenko Stinger)… I’ve had at least one daily driver Corvair for the last 20 years, and I’ve had more “trouble-free miles” out of them than anything else I’ve ever owned.
    I now drive a 1964 Corvair 4 door sedan daily, and get about 28 MPG… not bad for a car that’s a few years older than I am.

  26. Tomsk Avatar

    Say what you will, but it was powered by an SBC, and was at least shaped like a Chevy, and oh by the way, was driven by one bad hoon.
    <img src="http://www.houstonboatshows.com/images_2006_houston_boat_shows/dale_earnhardt2.jpg&quot; width="580" height="387" />

  27. CptSevere Avatar

    I drive a Ford truck nowadays, but I have had enough Chevies and other GM cars and trucks that they are like oxygen to me, I hardly ever notice them until I am deprived of their presence. A Chevy is to me just another car or truck or a cab or a motorhome (I lived in one for two years, look at my avatar), or something I drive at work, so Chevrolets are just something I live with. I'm not really a Chevy fanboy, but, thinking about it, they're a part of my life. What's History's Best Chevrolet? I don't know. Like my collection of motley tools, whatever one I'm using at the time. A Chevy has never failed me yet (unless you count the 283 that spun a bearing in my motorhome, but that was my fault), and if one did, I promise you I could fix what borike.

  28. Phil Avatar

    IMHO the greatest of all Chevys has to be the Corvair. There was more innovation in the ‘Vair than Chevy (or any other car company) has shown since. Remember that a “late model” Corvair (’65-’69) completely showroom stock, any body style, will (as long as brute power is not a prerequisite) out-corner any car ever mass-produced in this country up until the 1985 C-4 Corvette. Yes, you read that right – it took the ‘Vette 20 years to catch up!
    Lonzo is absolutely correct! The Corvair, in all its various variations, was not only unique in American automotive history, it included some of the best ideas ever used let alone all in one car. Even today, they’re still great cars. The Corvair was and is truly a classic.

  29. UnlimitedGB Avatar

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