In a Chevrolet-commissioned poll, nearly 125,000 Chevrolet fans cast their votes and named the 1969 Camaro the “Best Chevy of All Time.” As part of Chevrolet’s centennial celebration, which is kicking up toward an October climax, Chevrolet devotees were asked to vote for their favorite vehicle from the proud brand’s 100-year history. During the four-round elimination bracket that resulted in the final decision, the 1969 Camaro garnered 25,058 of the 124,368 votes cast, edging out the 1970 Chevelle SS in the final round.
Tom Peters, Chevrolet design director, had no quarrel with the decision. He believes the ’69 Camaro is not only one of the best vehicles in Chevrolet’s history, but also one of the best vehicles ever. He is a little biased, however, having owned the same 1969 Camaro for nearly 20 years.
“I can vividly remember seeing one for the first time as a kid,” says Peters. “The intent of the Camaro was instantly understood, even to a 14-year-old like me, because it possessed a very powerful personality and an elegant, simple design. The Camaro was so cool because it offered this great style, high performance — and yet was attainable for someone just getting out of school.”
We at Driving Today have an affinity for the 1969 and other early Camaros as well, but we also think there are other Chevrolet models of the past that could also be worthy of the title “Best Chevy of All Time,” and none of them is the 1970 Chevelle. (Let’s be serious.) Here are our picks for four other worthy contenders. With them and the Camaro, you have what are, in our opinion, the top five Chevrolets.
1916 Chevrolet 490
In the era when the Ford Model T was the dominant low-priced car, Chevrolet came to market with a middle-class six-cylinder that was more than twice as expensive as Henry Ford’s brainchild. But founder William C. Durant quickly changed Chevrolet’s course to meet the Model T head-on. The 490 got its name from its base price, $490, a figure that happened to be $5 less than that of the then-dominant Ford. The shift in strategy made the Chevy what it is today: one of the world’s most popular low-priced cars.
1936 Chevrolet Suburban Carryall
Now we see SUVs everywhere. But before the 1936 Chevrolet Suburban Carryall arrived on the scene, that vehicle type was unheard of. Of course, nobody in Depression-era America called the Suburban an SUV, but its unique blend of a station-wagon body style on a truck chassis created a new market segment. Not only that, but — except for the World War II years in which all civilian-vehicle production stopped — the Chevy Suburban has been built and sold every year since.
The Chevrolets of 1955 may well be the most beautiful series of sedans, coupes, hardtops, convertibles and station wagons ever built. Each version is simple, handsome and classic. But styling isn’t the only claim to fame the ’55 Chevy boasts. 1955 was also the year the Chevrolet brand introduced the incredibly long-lived small-block V-8 engine, which supplemented the veteran inline six. The small-block V-8 is, arguably, the best mass-produced automobile engine ever produced, while the ’55 Chevy in all its forms is still highly prized by collectors.
1963 Corvette Sting Ray
What is the best Corvette of all time? Ask 10 Corvette fans and you’ll get 10 different answers. But most will have to agree, when prompted, that the ’63 Corvette Sting Ray — especially in its split-window coupe form — deserves that honor. To the efficiency and sheer power of its small-block V-8 engine, the Sting Ray added an independent rear suspension that brought it into the realm of true supercars at a fraction of their lofty prices. It’s a formula that continues to guide Corvette today.
So do you have a favorite Chevrolet model that you feel deserves to be in the Chevy top five? Tell us about it. We might even agree with you.