Edward Nicholas Cole, Chevrolet's Chief Engineer
The other strong personality in this tale was Edward Nicholas Cole, Chevrolet's chief engineer. He'd already earned a reputation as an engineer's engineer. Indeed, junior engineers used to compete to serve on his staff. Ed Cole was a compelling individual: tremendously gifted, constantly involved in challenging projects, a charismatic leader, and an outstanding teacher.
Cole earned his spurs by developing the 1949 Cadillac V-8. This trendsetting, lightweight, fuel-efficient, ohv engine set the standard for U.S. V-8s for decades to come, including the Chevrolet V-8, which Cole also engineered.
A few years after he'd finished the Cadillac V-8, Chevrolet asked him to take over the design of the entire 1955 Chevrolet program, including the new engine, the new passenger cars, and the new trucks. And in 1956, General Motors made Cole a vice president and Chevrolet's general manager.
Harley Earl, like everyone else at GM, held Cole in high regard, and the two got along well. Engineers and designers don't usually mix, but Earl and Cole did. That was because Cole, unlike so many of his colleagues, was vitally interested in how the 1955 Chevrolet cars and trucks would look. To Cole, appearance was just as important as getting the mechanical parts right. The two aspects were inseparable. So Cole made sure Fisher Body Division and Chevrolet Engineering never stood in the way of Styling.
"In those days," remembers Chuck Jordan, "we dealt directly with Chevrolet engineering -- with Ed Cole and Chevy's assistant chief engineer, Jim Premo. Jim was always over in our studio; very detail conscious. He'd sit with us at the board and work with us on how to get things right. He didn't dictate design at all, but he helped us make practical decisions.
"Once in a while Ed Cole would come over, and occasionally Chevy's general manager, Tom Keating, would also come in when we had a show ... when it was decision time. But Ed Cole, if he said it was okay, it was okay. So we really enjoyed the freedom of doing what we wanted, and we were helped in that regard by Jim Premo. Sometimes he'd bring in some stamping people from Chevrolet to be sure they could make these shapes we were designing. It was an ideal situation."
When asked where the Cameo Carrier idea came from, Jordan had this to say: "The basic idea came to me when I was still in the Air Force down in Florida. I was making these sketches, and I thought, boy, wouldn't it be neat if we could get some of the car style and flair into the truck? I loved that idea. Trucks were pretty austere back then. The interior door panels were sheetmetal, the floormats were rubber; there was nothing luxurious about a truck.
"So the concept of the Cameo Carrier was to combine some of the style and flair of the 1955 passenger car with the practicality of a pickup. I felt strongly that we could do it and that it would be a neat thing. I remember clearly ... we were so busy doing the normal truck program, working overtime, and then just before this big presentation to Ed Cole and the general manager, we made a 3/8-scale illustration of the Cameo Carrier and scheduled showing it at the end of the review -- sort of like dessert. Cole and Keating really bit on that; really liked it. They both encouraged us to go ahead and develop the Cameo, so we did."
See the next page for more on the 1955 Cameo Carrier.