10 GM classics

The chances are slim to none that General Motors enthusiasts ever will agree on the company's 10 greatest classics.

If you judged by sales, the 1965 Chevrolet Impala — which rang up more than a million deliveries that year — would be here. But it's not.

If you looked at neck-snapping performance, you'd have to include the mighty Corvette ZR-1 of the early 1990s. But it's not here, either.

Our list of GM classics features cars that combined five traits: They were influential in their day, had head-turning styling, sported advanced technology, sold well and are highly collectible today.

1908 Cadillac: To demonstrate Cadillac's precision manufacturing, which meant interchangeable parts, three cars were shipped to Great Britain and taken apart under the supervision of the Royal Automobile Club. The parts were mixed, and the three cars were reassembled. Each one ran perfectly. Cadillac won the Dewar Trophy and adopted its tag line: "Standard of the World."
1912 Cadillac: Charles Kettering perfected the electric starter, the forerunner of the modern automobile ignition and lighting system. It was a revolution in engineering that catapulted the automobile into the mainstream of American life.
1930 Cadillac V-16 roadster: From 1930 to 1940, Cadillac offered a variety of V-12- and V-16 coupes, convertibles and sedans. Cadillac's engineering department was arguably the best in the industry. Smooth, quiet and powerful, the 1930 V-16 roadster was just one of the Cadillacs of the 1930s that offered custom coachwork styling, world-class refinement and outstanding quality.
1938 Cadillac Sixty Special: The streamlined Sixty Special, one of Bill Mitchell's first efforts for General Motors, lowered the roof, integrated the trunk with the rear body and eliminated running boards. Cars would never look the same again.
1953 Chevrolet Corvette: GM not only built a proper two-seat sports car to take on popular imports from Jaguar, Austin-Healey, MG and others, but it also used fiberglass for the first time on one of its production cars.
1959 Cadillac: Tailfins rose to new heights as postwar excess peaked. The 1959 Cadillac is now seen as a symbol of the styling of its era.
1963 Chevrolet Corvette: Designer Bill Mitchell made the first Corvette coupe a vehicle to remember. The split rear window and tops of the doors resembled something you might see on a fighter plane. The optional 327-cubic-inch fuel-injected V-8 gave it stellar performance.
1963 Buick Riviera: Inspired by Ferrari and Bentley designs, the first Riv injected sleek, streamlined European styling and exclusivity into GM's near-luxury brand. Real wood trim could be ordered. So could a powerful 340-hp V-8. The 1963 Riv stands today as the high point of GM's 1960s design.
1966 Oldsmobile Toronado: It was an engineering and styling tour de force and featured the work of two men who would be very important to GM. Future CEO Bob Stempel designed the V-8 front-wheel- drive powertrain — the first use of that layout in a modern car. Future GM styling chief Wayne Cherry helped give the sleek fastback Toronado its signature look.
1968 Pontiac GTO: The GTO stayed ahead of the muscle-car pack with an array of powerful engines and such features as Ram Air, hidden headlights and the first use of a body-colored front bumper made of an impact-absorbing, rubberlike material GM called Endura.
You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com

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