Ed Cole spent an unbelievable 47 years at GM and only ten of those years were spent at Chevrolet. It was those ten years though that would prove to be the legacy of the man whose motto was, “Kick the hell out of the status quo.” He always had a huge smile on his face and the only thing that ran faster than the V-8 he helped develop was his mind as it raced thinking of new and innovative ideas.
While he didn’t invent the Corvette it was his overall vision of what Chevy should be and could be that led to the decision to make the Corvette a go under the bowtie banner. Cole liked fast and thought that all cars should be just such. At the time though Chevy was more of a conservative car company and this irked Cole somewhat. He knew that he wanted Chevy to become the flagship of GM and a pioneer in the industry, but he didn’t know how to accomplish that.
One look at the now famous Corvette clay model was all it took and Cole knew he was in the presence of greatness. That decision to go with the Vette would prove to be the smartest thing he ever did.
While he was inking the deal to make the Corvette the staple of Chevy he was also heading up an assignment that would also help him to cement his name in GM history. The assignment was to develop a light weight and low cost V-8 and he would answer the call in spades. What was developed was the now famous Chevy small block that was used for 50 years in various GM models including the Corvette.
In 1955 he permitted Zora Arkus Duntov to put the small block in the Corvette and when it disappointed in the marketplace Cole got behind the engine in racing. This is when he would allow Bill Mitchell to use the engine in his famous Sting Ray race car and would see the car and the engine simply dominate for several years. Unknowingly they would be setting the stage for the upcoming Sting Ray revolution to begin in the second year of the Corvette C2.
As proud as he was of the Corvette though, he was equally as pleased with the Corvair. The rear engine low lying car certainly kept with his motto for cars at the time. Some still say this was his greatest accomplishment.
In 1961 Cole left Chevy to become the VP of GM and in 1967 Cole found himself at the helm of GM as the president. His remaining years though had to be dedicated to an increase in emissions controls and engine size reductions thanks to new and expanding Government regulation. Though not how he wanted to go out, he still did it with great style and grace.
In 1977 the man who was known for pushing the edge passed away. In 1998 he was inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame and will forever be remembered as the man who saw the potential of what the Corvette could and would be for Chevy.