Chevrolet: A History Over 100 Years Strong

July 18th, 2013 by

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The company that would go on to become the fourth largest automobile brand in the world got its start in November of 1911 in Detroit. Chevrolet was founded by two characters who seem impossibly incompatible. Louis Chevrolet, an retired Buick racecar driver who broke the land-speed record in 1905 at an impressive 111 mph and William C. Durant a businessman and overthrown founder of the General Motors Company.

The Legacy of Louis Chevrolet

Chevrolet was a company founded on giving the public the most for its money – a sentiment still echoed today. According to Chevrolet .com, “From the very start, Chevrolet brought technology and features typically reserved for more expensive cars to its lineup of affordable cars and trucks. The first Chevrolet — the Series C Classic Six — offered an electric starter and electric headlamps at a time when both were rarities among even luxury cars.”

According to the website, howstuffworks.com, Chevrolet’s first car personifies the difference in personality between the company’s founders. “Large and well-constructed,” reads the article titled ‘1911, 1912, 1913 Chevrolet Series C Classic Six’, “ the first Chevrolet was just what Louis wanted: a precision-quality motorcar. Durant was less enthralled, preferring a low-priced model. To grab that end of the market, Durant also produced the Little — sized as its name suggests and selling for just $650, it was intended as a rival to Ford’s Model T.” The differences between the two founders were inconsolable and in 1915 Louis sold his share in the company and left to return to racing. Louis Chevrolet left the company two valuable assets, the Chevrolet name and a commitment to making high quality cars with affordable price tags.

A Lasting Rivalry

In 1917 Chevrolet was folded into General Motors, making the only six year old company part of one of the largest automobile companies in the United States. This was done in a surprising way. According to Todd Lassa, writer for motortrend.com and the author of The Secret History of Chevrolet, Chevrolet bought up so much of GM’s stock that it was able to integrate right into the company.

“Chevrolet bought GM,” Lassa wrote, “It wasn’t the other way around.”

Almost immediately a deep rivalry developed between Chevrolet and the Ford Motors Company. In 1922 William S. Knudsen, the former head of manufacturing for the Ford Motors company left Ford for Chevrolet and vowed to give Ford a run for their money.

With the introduction of the Chevrolet Camaro in the 1960s as a competitor to the Ford Mustang the Chevrolet-Ford rivalry only worsened. According to Lindsey Fisher, writer for LSX TV the Chevrolet-Ford battle is the most vicious in automobile history. In her 2011 article she explains, “no battle of the wits goes as far as those between automotive manufacturers, and consequently, the people who vow by one company over another. These rivalries are so intense, that Jalopnik asked their followers which rivalries were the most vicious. With no surprise to us, the battle between Chevrolet and Ford topped the list.”
chevrolet-logo

The Classic Bowtie

The creation of the iconic Chevrolet “bowtie” logo is to this day some what of a mystery. There are multiple theories on its creation but all of them have one thing in common: what is now considered one of the most globally recognized logos in history was introduced by William C. Durant in late 1913.

According to Chevrolet.com a 1961 official company publication celebrating the company’s then fifty year anniversary claimed that the logo was inspired by Durant’s 1908 trip to France and the image he saw on the wallpaper of his hotel room.

Another theory is that the iconic look was inspired by the flag of Switzerland. This theory seems to make sense since the company’s namesake, Louis Chevrolet, was born in Switzerland.

Regardless of its origin the Chevrolet bowtie is one of the most recognizable logos in the world and is worn not only on the front of Chevrolet’s vehicle’s but also as jewelry, tattoos and clothing for Chevy fans world wide.

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