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This Page is a collection of information on the History of Chevrolet.

Here are a few of the people that started Chevrolet. They are the foundation to the most popular Automotive Company in the World today.


William C. "Billy" Durant

Of all the people who were instrumental in establishing the foundation of the American Automobile Industry, William Crapo "Billy" Durant was one of the more compelling and complex personalities. He was known for his William Durantdetermination, loyalty, honesty and flamboyant style. He was an entrepreneur on a grand scale who had the ability to sell anything to anyone, except the bankers. According to Walter Chrysler, "He could charm the birds right down out of the trees".

Begining with Buick, he added Oldsmobile and Cadillac and founded General Motors Corporation, in 1908. Due to his aggressive management style, the bankers removed him from control in 1911. Undaunted, he and Louis Chevrolet, a famous Buick race driver, started the Chevrolet Motor Car Company, later that same year. In september of 1915, Durant again took control of GM and brought Chevrolet into the fold.

Due to a serious recession, bad acquisitions and poor sales the bankers again removed him from control in 1920. He announced plans to form Durant Motor Co., but never again achieved the level of success he had enjoyed at Chevrolet and General Motors.


Louis Chevrolet


Louis Chevrolet had established himself as a succesful and well known race car driver with the Buick race team. William C. Durant, who had origanally organized General Motors Corp., was aware of Louis Chevrolet's interest in becoming an automobile designer. What Durant like most about Louis Chevrolet was his name. Together they incorporated the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in November 1911.

This is a rarely seen photo of Louis Chevrolet and a Model C six-cylinderLouis Chevrolet 1911 which was introduced in November, 1911. It is actually a 1912 model and was the first car to bear the name Chevrolet.

Louis Chevrolet claimed that he hadsecretly tested the car at four in the morning on a road outside of Detroit and had reached a speed of 110 m.p.h. He had been stopped by a constable and fined thirty dollors - five for speeding and twenty-five for impersonating a famous race car driver.

In 1914, Louis left the company in a dispute with Durant and disposed of all his stock. In the later years of his life, he said the greatest source of pride was the two Indy 500 winners he designed and built. He died on June 6 1941 in detroit at the age of sixty-two. He was buried in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Chevrolet BOWTIES

Chevrolet "Bow Tie" Emblem

Bowtie "RED"


Bowtie "Blue"


The famous Chevrolet "Bow Tie" emblem first appeared on the 1914 models that were introduced in lateChevrolet Bow Tie 1913. How William C. "Billy" Durant came up wth the idea for the emblem is still a source of conjecture. Heclaimed it was the motif on the wallpaper in his hotel suite that he had seen while on a visit to Paris, France.His thinking was that this would probably add a touch of class to the symbol and thereby enhance the image he wanted for Chevrolet. His widow later said he had seen it in the rotogravure section of a Sunday Newspaper.

Some advertisments in 1914 used only the "Bow Tie" emblem as an illustration with a legend above it reading, "By this sign, ye shall know it".

Bowtie "White"


Bowtie "Purple"


Bowtie "Yellow"


Bowtie "Neon Green"



More info on Louis Chevrolet and William C. Durant


Born in Switzerland on Christmas Day in 1873, Louis Chevrolet had immigrated to America at the age of 27 with the idea of selling a wine pump he had invented in his homeland. His two brothers, Arthur and Gaston, joined him later in the United States. All three brothers got involved with the infant automobile industry and became well known racing drivers. Louis Chevrolet's driving record shows that he actually outran the great Barney Oldfield to the finish line three times in 1905.

William C. "Billy" Durant had hired Louis and Arthur as drivers for the Buick race team while he was heading General Motors the first time. After his departure from General Motors, Durant hired Louis to design the engine for a new automobile which he planned to build. The European sounding name (Chevrolet), along with the family's reputation in Auto Racing, added up to a winning combination for a new car as far as Durant was concerned.

The first Chevrolet a 1912 Classic Six Touring caar, was shown on Durant & Chevrolet 1911November 3, 1911.

Louis Chevrolet circled in RED and William C. Durant circled in BLUE.

Louis Chevrolet left the company in 1914 over a dispute with Billy Durant. Chevrolet became part of General Motors in 1918 when Durant took control of the firm for the second time.


Detailed History of Chevrolet Motor Company

Durant/Dort Carriage Company

William C. Durant 1908
Louis Chevrolet 1911


To understand what the beginning of Chevrolet was about, one must also understand the beginning of General Motors.

Partnering with Josiah Dallas Dort in 1886, William C. Durant, future founder of Chevrolet, purchased the Coldwater Road Cart Company. This company was very successful and at its height, operated fourteen factories. By 1890, Durant-Dort Carriage Company was the nation's largest carriage company, producing approximately 150,000 vehicles a year. At left is a photo of the original facility - today a national historic landmark.

In 1904, Billy Durant was approached by James Whiting of the Buick Motor Company to promote his automobiles and on November 1, 1904 Durant took control. Between 1904 and 1908, Durant was Buick's president and established essential parts and accessory companies such as Weston-Mott and Champion Ignition, located in Flint, Michigan.

William C. Durant then founded General Motors four years later on September 16, 1908. Incorporating General Motors of New Jersey (GM) with a capital of $2,000. Within 12 days the company generated stocks that produced $12,000,000 cash. On September 29, 1908, GM bought Buick. Later, GM bought Oldsmobile (November 12, 1908) in Lansing, Oakland in Pontiac (January 20, 1909), and Cadillac in Detroit (July 29, 1909 for $5,000,000). By 1910 he had purchased 17 companies. Unfortunately financial trouble was not far off.

The superpower of several motorcar companies was not a new idea for Durant. As early as 1907, he had confided to associates that his goal was to control the entire automobile industry. As a first step toward that end he had tried to put together a conglomerate combining Buick, Ford, Maxwell, and Reo into a single corporation. But Henry Ford wanted cash for his organization, as did Ransom Olds, so the deal fell through.

Sometime in 1909 William Durant, asked Louis Chevrolet, a well-known race car driver, to help design a car for introduction to the public. He had not yet formed a company to manufacture it. Durant was interested in building a "French Type" car. Durant was aware that Chevrolet had ambitions to build a car of his own, and since the Chevrolet name was already well known in motorsport, and since Chevrolet had been born in Switzerland and knew what "French type" meant, Durant was sure he was the man for the job. Chevrolet hired a Frenchman to help him, Etienne Planche, whom he had known from his days with the Walter in Brooklyn and who had designed the Roebling-Planche (antecedent to the Mercer).

Late in 1909 bankers turn down William Durant's request for a loan to buy Ford Motor Co. for about $9.5 million.

The cause of Durant's downfall at General Motors was his ambitious expansion program. Stretching his credit to the limit he acquired numerous properties, some of them of dubious value. There was, for instance, the Welch, an automobile of superb quality, that was "as big as a freight car," according to one of Durant's associates. But at $7,000 the Welch proved nearly impossible to sell. Other firms acquired by Durant during this period included the Randolph, whose builders had great plans but apparently failed to manufacture even a single car; the Rainier, soon to be replaced by the ill-fated Marquette; the two-cycle Elmore, available with either three- or four-cylinder power; the friction-drive Carter Car; and a taxicab called the Ewing. All of them were losers, and Billy Durant should have known it; but he was stricken then - as he would be again in later years - with expansion fever.

By mid-July 1910, General Motors was seven million dollars in hock to the First National Bank of Boston, and its credit line was stopped. The creditors viewed Buick as worth saving, but recommended the liquidation of the balance of the operation. At this point Henry Leland, founder of the Cadillac (and, later, founder of Lincoln) interceded. The bankers agreed to supply GM with the needed capital -at exorbitant rates, of course-provided Durant stepped down.

In May of 1911 a Detroit newspaper leaked the news of the forthcoming Chevrolet car from Durant. Meanwhile Durant began organizing several companies: the Chevrolet Motor Company in Detroit (initially Chevrolet Motor Car but the "Car" was soon dropped), the Little Motor Car Company in Flint (to build a less expensive car called the Little to bring some quick cash into dwindling accounts), the Mason Motor Company in Flint (to build engines for these cars, with former Buick engineer Arthur Mason at its head), the Republic Motor Company (for which he bought an entire block in New York City to be used as an auxiliary assembly plant), among others.

Having lost control of General Motors (though he remained on the corporation's board of directors), Durant set out to start anew. Billy Durant's endeavors at this time was the creation of the Chevrolet Motor Car Company, which was incorporated on November 3, 1911 in Michigan by Durant, Louis Chevrolet, William Little (former general manager of Buick), and Edwin Campbell (William Durant's son-in-law). Headquarters were based in Detroit. Quite some time after the original press leak!

Louis Chevrolet 1911

No vehicles were produced in 1911, though the photograph above left is suspected to be the first prototype - circa late 1911 with Chevrolet in the driver's seat.

Louis Chevrolet was taking his time to produce that first Chevrolet, which turned out not to be a 'French Type" at all!


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