there was a Corvette clique in Waco, Texas when Jimmy
C. Perkins was growing up, he was not a part of it. Jim
was more into hot-rods and drag racing, not Vettes. Little
did he know he would one day hold the future of the Corvette
in the palm of his hand.
out of Baylor University, Jim got a job in 1960 sorting
parts at a Chevrolet warehouse. It launched a career that
took him to the highest levels of three famous car companies
and finds him today one of the most powerful (and popular)
car guys in America.
was (and is) the largest car division in the largest car
company in the world. For much of the '60s, one out of
every four new cars and half the light trucks sold in
America were Chevys. More than 6500 Chevy dealers serviced
the customer base and was served by the biggest and best
field sales army in the industry. Chevy sales people bled
bowtie blue and oozed with pride.
thrived in their company. His route up the ladder at Chevy
led him all over the country. He was San Diego zone manager,
Dallas zone manager, director of customer service for
the Mideast region, director of marketing policy and dealer
relations for all of General Motors, and assistant general
sales manager at Buick.
1984, Jim left Chevrolet to join Toyota. As senior vice-president
of its brand-new Lexus Division, he was instrumental in
the design, development, and introduction of Toyota's
first luxury brand.
and a half years after leaving GM, Jim did what few ex-GM
executives have ever done. He came back. Actually, he
was lured back. In May, 1989, he succeeded the retiring
Bob Burger as Chevy general manager.
first big job was to rekindle the Chevy pride of the '60s
in an organization demoralized by GM's travails of the
late '80s. His manner was pure Texas: straight talk, kid
gloves over iron fists. His style: up close and personal.
symbol was a lapel pin: a tiny replica of the Chevy bowtie
emblem and the single word -- PROUD. Card-carrying Chevy
people got their pins automatically and wore them always.
Outsiders got them for exemplary deeds on behalf of Chevy.
To a few, the pin was a joke. To the multitudes inside
Chevy, it was a constant reminder of the power of positive
did a lot in the seven years he ran Chevy. He won more
truck production. He won the respect and admiration of
dealers. He drove three Indy 500 pace cars. He supervised
a Chevy racing program that produced five NASCAR manufacturer's
championships and six Indy 500 victories. He strengthened
Chevy's role in product design and development. He helped
Chevy people come to grips with the realities of downsizing
hundreds on hand, he helped sing "Happy Birthday"
to Zora Arkus-Duntov on the occasion of Zora's 80th. His
unstinting generosity with Chevy's time and treasure kept
the National Corvette Museum viable through its early
August, 1997, Jim was named president and CEO of the Charlotte-based
Hendrick Automotive Group, one of the nation's largest
Jim spends most of his time in Charlotte, he and wife
Barbara maintain a home in Paradise Valley, Arizona. That's
where they keep his collection of vintage Chevys, including
a very quick '57 Bel Aire sport coupe, a rare '69 Camaro
RS/SS, a '55 Bel Air, a '38 street rod, and a 1993 Indy
500 Camaro pace replica with a factory-installed manual
tranny -- the only one in existence.
his life with the Vette, Jim Perkins went to bat time
and again for America's sports car as planners worried
over budgets and resources and whether the GM of the next
century had room in the stable for such a thoroughbred.
He kept the flame burning and today we have the Fifth