"There was no time for experimentation or doodling around with new ideas from either the engineers or from us in design," recalled Chevy designer Claire MacKichan about creating the Chevrolet Chevy II. "And it had to be a basic-type car."
"I think that was the quickest program we ever did at any time," she continued. "We worked night and day on that car, and it didn't take very long to run it through our shop because we had a deadline."
And that's what made the Chevy II one of the fastest new-car development programs in GM history -- just 18 months after the designers got the green light, the first production Chevy II rolled off the Willow Run, Michigan, assembly line in August 1961, in time for its September 29 introduction.
Unlike the Corvair, the 1962 Chevy II was deliberately never intended to be revolutionary in concept or execution; its mission was to give Chevy buyers a simple, back-to-the-basics compact car. When he announced the Chevy II to the press, Chevrolet General Manager Ed Cole described the car as offering "maximum functionalism with thrift."
There was a lot of debate within the Chevrolet organization over just what to call this new car, and the decision to go with "Chevy II" was a very late one. Among the finalists was Nova. It lost out because it didn't start with a "C," but was selected as the name for the top-of-the-line series. Ultimately, of course, the Nova badge would replace Chevy II -- but that wouldn't happen until the turn of the decade.
In almost every way, the creators of the Chevy II used Falcon as a benchmark. The 1962 model range included sedans and wagons, just like Falcon, as well as a two-door hardtop and a convertible, which Falcon didn't yet have.
Wheelbase was 110 inches, overall length 183 inches, and overall width 70.8 inches, all just fractionally larger than Falcon dimensions. As expected, interior measurements more than equalled Falcon, with seating for up to six. Trunk space, an area where the Corvair really suffered, was an impressive 25.5 cubic feet in the Chevy II.
Styling was crisp and attractive, with a functional three-box shape that contributed to space efficiency. The pleasing lines generally followed the pattern of the full-size Chevrolet, and in fact predicted the overall theme of the 1963 Impala.
Continue to the next page for more details on the 1962 Chevrolet Chevy II.
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