Throughout the years, Motor Trend’s Car of the Year Award has had a mixed track record. With hindsight, some of their selections turned out to be complete duds (Vega anyone?). For 1977, however, Motor Trend’s editors really did pick one of the all-time greats when the newly downsized Chevrolet Caprice was crowned the victor.
In addition to the comprehensive write-up on the car itself, Motor Trend also offered delivered profiles of the executives who lead the monumental downsizing effort.
I think that many assumed the more efficient big cars were developed in response to the Arab Oil Embargo and government mandated fuel economy standards. In fact, GM initiated the downsizing program before the oil shock, most likely due to the realization that its cars had just gotten too big. Enormous batting ram bumpers mandated by the U.S. government to meet 5 mph impact standards made already gargantuan cars even larger and heavier. Tastes were changing, cars needed to go on a diet. GM was simply responding to market trends, though their timing was excellent.
This page highlights some of GM’s most visible leaders. As design chief since the late 1950s, Bill Mitchell had overseen some of the corporation’s most beautiful cars. His eye for design trends delivered great results with the downsized B/C-body program. Chuck Jordan, who was directly responsible for the excellent Caprice/Impala design, would later become GM’s design chief. Bob Stempel would rise to become the CEO of GM in 1990, though his tenure at the top was brief, as he was ousted in a boardroom coup in 1992.