Even if you’re a Chevy enthusiast, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about the automaker. You may not be aware that Chevy began as a luxury brand, that its founders feuded, or how it came to be the brand you know today.
A Rough Start
Originally known as Chevrolet Motor Company, the automaker was founded in 1911 as a partnership between William Durant and famous race car driver Louis Chevrolet.
Their alliance was short-lived because the partners could not agree on what kinds of vehicles to produce. The race car driver wanted the automaker to be a luxury brand while Durant was committed to making value-priced vehicles. In 1912, the company did debut a luxury vehicle, the Series C “Classic Six,”, priced at $2,150, which would be about $50,000 today. The race car driver left the company the following year due to his dispute with Durant who kept the rights to use the race car driver’s name. 1913 was also the year that Chevy introduced its bowtie logo.
A New Direction
With his former partner’s departure, Durant focused on making affordable vehicles. In 1915, Chevy introduced its first value-priced car, the Chevy Model 490, which was named for its list price $490. 1918 was a big year for Chevy. That year the company became part of General Motors and debuted the first Chevy truck. In 1924, Chevy launched a plant in Denmark’s Copenhagen, its first one outside of the United States. The automaker continued its innovation in 1935 by inventing a segment in the vehicle marketplace with the introduction of a utility vehicle, the Suburban Carryall. It seated eight on three bench seats and would be the forerunner of the modern SUV.
Due to World War II, Chevy stopped making civilian vehicles in 1942 to focus on making military trucks to support the war effort. The company returned to civilian production three years later.
Chevy is an American Icon
Chevy saw very good times in the 1950’s and 1960’s that cemented the company’s place as an American icon. Chevy scored a victory over its competitors in 1950 when the company offered the Powerglide as the first value-priced car with automatic transmission. Chevy got another big win in 1953, when the automaker unveiled its “dream car”, the Corvette, at the Motorama auto show in New York City.
In 1956, the automaker got a nod to its place in popular culture when Dinah Shore began to close every episode of her television show singing See The USA In Your Chevrolet. The following year, Chevy introduced fuel injection in some of its vehicles and for the first time there were Chevy trucks with four-wheel drive.
In another sign of Chevy’s place in pop culture, the Beach Boys’ song 4-0-9, about Chevy’s with a 409 cubic inch V-8 engine, comes out in 1962. Since Chevy produced the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray Split-Window Coupe for only one model year, the vehicle became desirable to collectors. In 1967, the Camaro debuted.
The next decade began with the production of Chevy’s famed muscle car, the 450 horsepower 1970 Chevelle SS 454. In 1975, Chevy started its “Baseball, Hot Dogs and Apple Pie” ad campaign. Four years later, the company built its 100 millionth vehicle, a 1979 Monza.
It was bad news for Corvette fans because there was no 1983 model year Corvette due to production delays. The new C4 Corvette was supposed to have debuted as a 1983 model in the fall of 1982. When the car didn’t become available until January 1983, Chevy dubbed it the 1984 model. In 1986, the “Heartbeat of America” became Chevy’s ad campaign. Extended cabs begin to be offered on full size trucks two years later.
In 1991, the song “Like a Rock” by Bob Seger became the basis for Chevy trucks’ new ad campaign. The next year, the millionth Corvette was produced. The Camaro was discontinued after the 2002 model year but the model returned in 2010. In 2011, Chevy introduced its first extended range electric vehicle, the Volt. It’s also the year of the company celebrated its 100th anniversary. This year Chevy marked 100 years of Chevy trucks.