Ed Cole was the Chief Engineer of Chevrolet in 1952. He was described by his colleagues as an articulate person, who always thinks ahead, and who encourages his men to do big things. In 1961, he left Chevy to become GM group vice-president. He was promoted to Executive VP in '65 and become the president in '67. Under his leadership, GM became the world leader in safety research. He retired on 1974, with a smile on his face. Ed Cole died on May, 1977 of a light plane crash.
When Ed Cole first saw Corvette, which was still a clay model at that time, he instantly see it as the ideal symbol of the coming Chevrolet marque. He got excited with the thought that a two-seats, plastic-bodied car, six months from drawing board to driveway-could come from GM's conservative car division.
He spent 10 years at Chevrolet of his 47 years at General Motors. In May of 1952, he became the Chief Engineer, his aim was to bring a light-weight low cost V8 into the Chevy engine lineup, and he did. It was called the Chevy smallblock.
As General Manager, he made Chevy Thunder the heartbeat of America. In just 15 months, he tripled the size of the engineering staff. The embarrassment that he got at Sebring in '57 when the Corvette was vastly unready made him decide to allow GM styling boss Bill Mitchell to wrap a swoopy body around an SS test "mule", and call it a Sting Ray. Together with Dick Thompson who do most of the driving, the Mitchell Sting Ray kept the high performance flame alive at Chevy in '59 and '60 and set the stage for the production Sting Ray era.
He was the architect of the Chevy's back-door stock car racing escapades of the late 1950's. When he was still at Chevy, the 348 and the 409, first big-block engines, were designed. He lead the small-car program into existence and the Corvair, which is the vehicle that he was most proud of and for which he may be best remembered. The Corvair, low, light, rear-engine, air-cooled, projects Cole's philosophy about cars.