by Stan Mott

“Robert (Cumberford) and I produced it for Road & Track in 1958. But John Bond wouldn’t buy because he thought we were making fun of his Road Test scratch board illustrations. (He was right.)  So Motor Trend published it sometime in 1958. Big rumors were floating around about Chevrolet’s super, secret, small car under development (the Corvair). So we decided, as expert ex-GM stylists, to lend a hand as to what might be up.  Robert did the one with the elbows sticking the sides. I did the beetle-inspired ’58 Chev.

GM was so uninspired by it—they didn’t know it was satire—they tightened security. Whew!”


The Motor Trend text:

By Robert Cumberford

Rumors have abounded in recent months to the effect that there would soon be a new small Chevrolet offered for public sale. We are now in a position to confirm these rumors. We have actually tested two prototype examples!

How did we accomplish this almost impossible feat? It was simple. Driving up outside the famous General Motors Proving Grounds at Milford, Mich., we waited until the gate guards were busily engaged in keeping out a group of GM development engineers, then marched purposely to the experimental garage. Nothing to it.


Double Click for a larger view


Looking at the two experimental small Chevrolets we found there, we were immediately impressed with the degree to which their design had been influenced by the more popular foreign small cars. One Chevrolet was little more than an American adaptation of the Volkswagen, complete to the walnut-shell body shape. It did have a wrap-around windshield and lavish trim in common with its full-sized counterpart, and there was a bit more interior room than the Teutonic product can boast. Visibility, too, was much better. However, the real superiority is most apparent when you fire up the powerful V8 engine. The quiet exhaust note has a competent, authoritive sound. This is more than justified when the car is put throuhg its paces out on the track. Just a bit better than the general run of economy car, acceleration averaged 5.3 seconds for 0–60 mph. Track conditions were a bit crowded, so we did not attempt any high speed runs. Top speed should be about 147 mph, adequate for this class of car. In fact, except of fuel economy (around 3.2 mpg), this is a most satisfactory car.

The other small Chevrolet was specifically developed to eliminate this problem. It gets over 75 mpg, albeit with slightly reduced performance and carrying capacity. In appearance it is very much like a 1958 Chevrolet Impala scaled down…and down…and down. It has that big car look, but only one of us was easily able to occupy it. Once we had made the trip down to the track (40 minutes), we were able to determine that the acceleration was only slightly inferior to an economy-tuned Citroen 2-CV, and that the top speed was a startling 26 mph.

After taking a few choice shots with our unobtrusive Speed Graphic, we left the Proving Grounds without incident. The guards were still arguing with the engineers and did not notice our departure.

Summing up, we would venture the option that Chevrolet is well justified in the decision not to market either of these cars for 1959. But if they are able to combine the virtues of both cars, watch out for them in 1960!

Thanks, Stan

  1. Hey, that’s cool. I like both illustrations.

  2. Larry Crane

    The masters of parody — for decades now.

  3. Tony Miller

    Great to see something unfamiliar from Stan Mott!

  4. Java Junky

    ‘Great to see anything Mott!

  5. Rogerio Machado

    I can imagine the people at Warren. They surelly laugh a lot !!!

  6. Brian Baker

    Terrific, whitty, and telling of the short sightedness of GM at that time. I’d like to know if the small car story was inspired by the ill fated small two seater rear engined car (Perhaps known as the cadet?) developed in 1957 at Styling This was the sporty micro car that was developed to a full seating buck and was famously dismissed by GM Leadership at a “Dome ” show with the comment ” Why would anyone want a small car”?
    Regardless I love this story.

  7. Syd Mead

    These guys were brilliant. Their drawing/cartoon style was (then) the equvalent of the Dilbert cartoons of today, with wry, sardonic comment on automobilia.

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