The History Of Louis Chevrolet

Louis Chevrolet and How Chevrolet Motors Started

Chevrolet is a household name all over the world. Automotive manufacture that has been making cars for well over 100 years. They are affordable, reliable, and have many timeless designs that helped propel them into a global leader. 

Chevrolet
Chevrolet in June of 1919, courtesy of Wikipedia

We know the Chevrolet car company started on November 3rd, 1911 in Detroit Michigan. The man behind the name was Louis Chevrolet, born on December 25th, 1878. Louis was born in Switzerland but in 1887 left Switzerland to settle in France. As a young man, he loved bicycle racing and developed his mechanical skills. 

Early Life

In his early career, Louis Chevrolet moved around and worked at various mechanic shops and engineering companies. He moved to Paris, then Canada, then down to New York City, and then up to Brooklyn. 

By 1905 he won his first race in a FIAT. As his racing career continued, he drove for Buick and quickly became friends with Buick’s founder and owner, William Durant who founded General Motors. Louis learned car design while working for Buick and designed his own engine for a new car in 1909. He built an overhead valve six-cylinder engine in his own machine shop that was in Detroit. 

Louis Chevrolet in a Buick Racer in 1909, courtesy of Wikipedia

On November 3rd, 1911 is when Louis started the Chevrolet Motor Car Company with his brother Arthur Chevrolet and William Durant along with investors William Little and Dr. Edwin R. Campbell. 

Bowtie Logo

How the famous Chevrolet bowtie came to have two different stories. One is that it’s a modified Swiss Cross to honor his home country. The other is that it’s taken from a wallpaper design of a Paris hotel room. 

Louis Chevrolet in 1911

General Motors And Chevrolet

Chevrolet had differences with Durant over the car’s design, and in 1915 sold Durant his share in the company and started McLaughlin’s Company in Canada building Chevrolets. By 1916 the trading of Chevrolet stock for GM Holding stock enabled Durant to repurchase a controlling stake in General Motors, and by 1917 the Chevrolet company that Louis had co-founded was merged as a company into General Motors after the outstanding Chevrolet stocks were purchased from McLaughlin in 1918.

The McLaughlin Car Company then merged with his Chevrolet Motor Company of Canada Ltd. to become General Motors of Canada Ltd. in 1918, prior to the incorporation of the General Motors Corporation in the U.S. when General Motors Company of New Jersey dissolved.

Let's Go Racing

Around the same time as the merger with General Motors, Louis had shifted more into the car racing industry. He created the Cornelian racing car and in that car placed 20th in the 1915 Indianapolis 500. In fact, he raced in four different Indy 500 races, with the best finish of 7th place in 1919. 

By 1927 Louis Chevrolet launched an aircraft engine company which he named Chevrolair but failed after three years due to The Great Depression. After this, he returned to Detroit and worked as a mechanic in the factories. 

Louis Chevrolet died on June 6th, 1941 at the age of 62 years old. His death was the result of a heart attack. He had suffered from atherosclerosis which had caused him to lose a leg. Today, he’s buried in the Holy Cross and Saint Joseph Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana. There’s also a Louis Chevrolet Memorial in Speedway, Indiana that’s inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. 

The story of Chevrolet is like many other automotive company stories. A passion for the automobile and racing turned into a company. Much like Ground-Up who started with a love of classic Chevrolet’s! 

If you need any help with parts for your classic Chevrolet, hop on SS396.com or give our friendly techs a call at (203) 235-1200

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