Monday, May 2, 2016

#CollisionWithFame: Edward Cole, The Rebel Engineer


I love problems.

Edward Cole, then-president of General Motors



Edward Cole had an outstanding career at GM, where he spent his entire adult life.  In 1949 he was co-head of the engineering team that redesigned the Cadillac V-8 engine, which was used in Cadillacs for the next 14 years. In 1952 he took over as chief engineer at Chevy, introducing the small-block V-8 that became the main powerplant for the legendary Chevys of the 1950s and early 1960s and revitalizing the Corvette.  Taking over Chevy in 1956, Cole is mainly remembered for an amazing engineering failure, the Corvair.  The sporty rear-engine coupe was aimed at the emerging market of young buyers in the early 1960s. The rear suspension was poorly designed, and the Corvair  proved to be an exceptionally dangerous vehicle that was prone to rollover accidents.  This vehicle was a featured product in consumer watchdog Ralph Nader’s book Unsafe at Any Speed.  Cole continued his career at GM as head of the car and truck group and eventually became president of the corporation before retiring in 1974.
                  Termed “the Rebel Engineer” by the New York Times, by 1977 Cole had bought a controlling interest in the Checker Cab company, producers of the classic-looking taxis that
roamed major American cities in the 20th century and also the near-luxury Marathon sedans. Cole took over Checker amidst the displacements of the American automotive industry by oil shocks and competition from superior Japanese imports. His plan for Checker was to introduce a new cab based on a stretched, expanded cab Volkswagen. 
                  What revolution Cole might have wrought in the 1970s at Checker – a lighter, roomier, more efficient cab – will never be known. On May 2 1977, Edward Cole was flying alone, operating under visual flight rules when his BEAGLE 206S2 flew into adverse weather conditions approaching Kalamazoo. The 69-year-old Cole than suffered spatial disorientation and crashed short of the airport in Mendon, Michigan.   The flight that took his life was to Kalamazoo, where Checker was headquartered. 
                  About the BEAGLE: British Executive and General Aviation Limited (BEAGLE) was formed from Auster and F. G. Miles.   Among the fixed-wing, twin-engine prop aircraft produced included the Pup, the Bassett, the Bulldog, and the 206. The 206 was a low-wing, twin engine craft powered by two 340hp Continental engines.  The main buyer of 206s was the Royal Air Force.  The 206 flown by Edward Cole was a 206 Series 2, a high-demand aircraft for commuter air services.