General Motors-109 Years of Automotive Innovations

a carGeneral Motors was founded in 1908 by Billy Durant. In these soon to be 11 decades  of production GM has created thousands of individual models.Here are 10 to be proud of.

The 1912 Cadillac put women behind the wheel. With early automobiles starting the engine was both difficult and dangerous It was almost unanimously a man’s job, In 1911 the electric self starter was invented, The inventor was Charles Kettering known to many as “Boss’ Kettering. Kettering owned and operated (DELCO) Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company. Negotiations between Kettering and GM’s Cadillac division were  successful and in 1912 all seven Cadillac models were introduced to the public with self starters. Cadillac won a Dewar trophy for the most important contribution to the field of automotives for the year. By 1916 only 2% of American cars were being built  without self starters. In 1915 Kettering sold DELCO to GM and in 1918 he went to work for them as a full time employee.

The model 30 1910 Cadillac  put an end to being covered with mud when it rained and hit in the head and chest with flying rocks and gravel. It was the first mass produced closed body automobile. Before the GM  innovation most cars had neither windshields nor tops.  Going for a ride in the rain, sleet, snow or hail was not a comfortable experience. The model 30 1910 Cadillac offered a 30 horsepower, 4 cylinder engine at a cost under $2000. Like most other cars of the era it came equipped with a tire repair kit, side oil lamps, 1 tail light and its own tool kit. By 1920 the closed body feature was available on almost every vehicle produced by American manufacturers.

The 1936 Opel Olympia introduced a unitized assembly, giving its passengers an extra smooth ride.  Opel originated as a German automobile manufacturer and was purchased by GM in 1929. The 1936 Opel Olympia  was named after the 1936 Olympic games and was the first car built as one unit. The new process was call unibody. Both frame and body were created as one uniform piece.  This Opel came equipped with a 4 cylinder engine and offered 24 horsepower. It could reach the speed of 60 miles per hour. Unitized assembly is used extensively today.

The 1950 Saab 92 was the most aerodynamic drag co-efficient car of its time. Few cars built today could compare to its efficiency. Saab was originally a Swedish airplane and jet fighter manufacturer. After world War II there was little demand for their product. They made the decision to develop an automobile from an aerodynamic approach. In 1949 they presented the Saab 02 with a 2 cylinder engine offering 25 horsepower. Using their old aircraft plant as their production site, they could only produce and assemble 4 cars a day, all painted what came to be called Saab green. In 1950 they upgraded the model and the name calling the new version the Saab 92  Again in 1956 additional upgrades were made and the name became Saab 93, GM owned Saab from 1989 until 2010 at which time it was sold to Spyker a Dutch supercar producer.

In 1927  the LaSalle began the era of custom designed production cars. The wealthy had always paid professional designers to create their personal “one of a kind” customized cars. In 1937 the Cadillac division of GM hired Harley Earl an outside custom designer to create a new design exclusively for them. Harley created the “LaSalle” which came equipped with a V-8 engine and reached speeds of 95 miles per hour and cost under $3000. The project was such a success that Harley joined GM as a full time employee. He created the first “inside” design studio which came to be called the GM Art and Color Section.  Cadillac produced  and marketed the LaSalle until 1940. The move from in-house draftsman design to professional designer changed the industry  drastically.  The full effects of this change were not fully realized until after the depression.

GM developed the Chevrolet brand name in 1917 . With the introduction of the 1955 Chevy Bel Air the automobile industry went beyond custom design. The Chevy Bel Air brought in the “Bling” The Bel Air  could be purchased complete with fins and curves at about $1800. The Bel Air presented a 265 cubic inch V-8 engine. It could be purchased with dual exhaust and offered 280 horsepower  GM sold 760,000 bel Airs the first year. The Bel Air promotion slogan was, “Try this for sighs.”

The 1964 Pontiac GTO was America’s first high performance “muscle car.” The goal at GM was to produce a mid-size body capable of handling the largest displacement engine available. GM took a Pontiac Tempest and added a standard 389 cubic inch V-8 engine which provided 325 horsepower and with this combination the GTO was born.  It came complete with 14 inch wheels, dual exhaust, a firm suspension, sporty trim and hood swoops. GM had planned to produce 5000 units the first year, but sold 32,000 with customers across the country on waiting lists. Understanding that Ronnie and the Daytona’s song “little GTO” sold over one million copies tells the rest of that story sufficiently. GM sold their Pontiac division in 2010.

GM purchased Cadillac in 1909 and in 1930 unveiled the Cadillac V-16 at the New York auto show. GM gave no advance notice of their new model which took the United States automotive market by storm. It was the first V-16 cylinder car to be mass produced and offered more power than any other luxury car on the market. Only 4000 were ever produced and the project was discontinued in 1940 due to the economic effects of the Great Depression. The 1930 Cadillac V-16 was the automobile that defined Cadillac as the luxury car leader of the world. Anyone owning a Cadillac V-16 today truly owns a classic.

The 1953 Chevy Corvette made owning a sports car affordable. It was the first car ever produced with a fiberglass body. Unlike steel fiberglass is so flexible that it allowed GM engineers to design sporty contour lines for mass production. The Corvette provided 150 horsepower in a 6 cylinder engine that went from zero to 60 miles per hour in only 11 seconds. The first year 300 white with red interior Corvettes were built. The second year 3640 Corvettes were produced and new colors were introduced.

The 1996 EV1 was the reintroduction of the electric car. It was powered by rechargeable batteries. It did not require gasoline which meant no fuel tank and no harmful emissions. This GM production was not offered for sale. It was distributed on a lease program through the GM Saturn division at dealerships in California and Arizona. GM produced 1000 electric models. The program was discontinued in 2003 because production costs were too high and there was little demand. Today a single EV1 model is on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

Today after the GM  bankruptcy has settled and they have reorganized their holdings include the GM products plus Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and several international brands. On April 20, 2017 GM announced that their plant in Valencia, Venezuela had been seized by the Venezuelan government.  One of GM’s latest innovative ventures has been partnering with Vail Resorts to provide guests with the automotive necessities to achieve unbelievable retreats from Lake Tahoe to Australia.