September 17, 1909 – GM Executive Ed Cole is born

On this day in 1909 GM executive Ed Cole was born in Marne, Michigan. The son of a dairy farmer, Cole spent his youth designing, building and selling homemade radios before becoming a field representative for a tractor manufacturing company. His first job in the auto industry was working at an auto parts store while attending Grand Rapids Community College. He went on to be accepted to the General Motors Institute where he would pursue an education in engineering. This would lead to him co-heading a team that would develop the 1949 Cadillac V8. In 1952 Cole was assigned as chief engineer of Chevrolet. His first task was developing an engine to replace the Stovebolt Six. The answer was the famous Chevrolet small block V8, which remained in production for decades. He would then work with Zora Arkus-Duntov to retune the power-lacking early Corvettes. In 1956 he was promoted to General Manager of Chevrolet. While sales at Chevrolet were strong Cole wanted to pursue the compact car market and led the charge with the radically designed Corvair, the car that would land Cole on the cover of Time magazine’s October 5, 1959 issue. Cole was promoted to head the GM car and truck group in 1961, then to executive vice-president in 1965, and finally was elected president in 1967. Cole would play a major role in the production of the Chevy Vega as well as weaning GM cars off of leaded gasoline and preparing them for catalytic converters in 1975. Cole would retire from GM in 1974, but would then become chairman and CEO of Checker Motors Corporation and air-freight company Husky International. He died in 1977 when his personal plane he was piloting crashed during a storm near Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is a member of the Corvette hall of Fame and the Automotive Hall of Fame.

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