Part 7 of an eight-part series of monthly newsletters celebrating the heritage, acknowledging the achievements and looking into the future of Chevrolet
Towards and into a new millennium
A new Lumina saloon and an APV minivan derivative kicked off the 90s but a high-performance pick-up stole the limelight – the 454 SS, available only as a two-wheel drive half-ton pick-up in a choice of three colours, namely black, white and red.
The SS was powered by a 7,5-litre V8 delivering 170 kW and a massive 520 N.m of torque and featured uprated suspension and quicker steering. Nearly 17 000 units were sold during the next four years. A long-wheelbase (165 mm increase), four-door version of the Blazer was introduced. Yet another mid-engined Corvette made an appearance, this one dubbed CERV III. Chevrolet general manager Jim Perkins paced the Indy 500 in a Beretta Convertible.
In 1991 an all-new full-sized Caprice was launched and the Caprice Classic LTZ becomes Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year. The Monte Carlo reappeared as a concept built on GM’s front-wheel drive W-body platform as the year ended with nearly one million Chevrolets sold.
Corvettes dominated 1992: the black cherry Sting Ray concept is revealed at the Detroit Auto Show, the 40th Anniversary model was released and the one-millionth Corvette was produced. The following year, the Highlander concept was shown to the public to provide a glimpse of what the upcoming S-10 extended-cab pick-up was going to look like. Perkins again paced the Indy 500, this time in a Camaro Z28.
Sporty themes continued in an otherwise quiet 1994 with the introduction of the Impala SS, a performance version of the Caprice. Then in 1995, after an absence of seven years, the Monte Carlo name returned as a front-wheel drive Lumina-based coupé. Half-way through the year, an all-new Blazer appeared, based on the second-generation S-10. Two- and four-door versions were offered, four-wheel drive was an option and a driver’s side airbag is fitted. New Blazer wins Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year title. Perkins paced the Indy 500 in a Corvette convertible.
A new generation of full-sized vans arrived in 1996 and the all-new four-door Tahoe is named Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year, making Chevrolet the first manufacturer to have won the award two years in succession. John G Middlebrook became the company’s new general manager.
The fifth-generation Corvette arrived in 1997 and the Malibu name returned as a saloon in base and LS trim guises, which was good enough to win Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award. An electric version of the S-10 compact pick-up was shown to the public.
The run of Motor Trend awards continued with the Corvette taking the 1998 Car of the Year title and US racing legend Parnelli Jones paced the Indy 500 in a Corvette convertible. The Geo Prizm and Tracker were rebadged as Chevrolets as the Silverado 1500 (the trim level name became the model name) was released as a 1999 model. Through that year the classic C/K light-duty pick-ups continued in production alongside the new model whereas the heavy duty versions lasted into 2000. A re-interpretation of the 1954 Nomad Motorama show car built on the F-body platform appeared as a concept at the North American International Auto Show. At the year’s Tokyo Motor Show, the Triax compact SUV appeared, a concept that offered the flexibility of three different drivetrain options: four-wheel drive electric, four-wheel drive hybrid electric or two-wheel drive petrol. Famed talk show host Jay Leno paced the Indy 500 in a Monte Carlo.
A new millennium dawned with a revival of the Impala as a front-wheel drive saloon, and an all-new Monte Carlo was unveiled. The Camaro and Corvette were by now the only rear-wheel drive models in Chevrolet’s passenger car line-up. The SSR concept was shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit and the Traverse – a saloon/SUV crossover – débuted at the Chicago Auto Show. Kurt Ritter was appointed general manager.
On the motor sport scene, with Chevrolet backing the Pratt and Miller Racing team began racing Corvettes and in the GTS class at Le Mans the cars finished third and fourth. It was the start of a successful campaign: by 2009 the cars had recorded six GTS/GT2 class victories plus another 10 podium finishes. During the same period, in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), Corvettes scored 77 class victories and 26 driver, team and manufacturer championships.
Next month: Chevrolet returns to SA as the company faces the 21st century