Chevrolet is one of the divisions under General Motors of Detroit, Michigan in the United States. Detroit is home to the big three of American cars in GM, Ford and Chrysler. As part of the GM family, Chevrolet (or Chevy as it is known) builds everything from compacts to offroad vehicles to top-of-the-line sports cars in the market. Its history, like many, is that of takeovers and acquisitions and how resilient the car brand has been over the years.
Chevrolet started out as the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in 1911 and was founded by race car driver Louis Chevrolet and William Durant who founded General Motors.
William Durant was ousted as majority owner of GM the previous year as a group of bankers took control. He teamed up with Chevrolet with the intention of re-acquiring General Motors in the future. The Chevrolet Motor Company was formed from several smaller companies: the Little Motor Car Company, Mason Motor Company and Republic Motor Company.
The first ever car to wear the Chevrolet badge is the Series C Classic Six and was also known as the Type C. As the name suggests, it has a six cylinder cast iron engine which had a 299 cubic-inch or 4.8-liter displacement. It was one of the biggest displacement engines at the time and had a T-head configuration. The engine could output 40bhp and had a 65mph top speed. It had rear wheel drive and a 3-speed cone transmission.
The first prototype of the Series C was built in 1911 and the first production model debuted at the 1913 New York Auto Show after some refinements. The Series C had very good performance thanks to its huge engine and could compete with the best cars of the era. As a testament to the quality of the car, 5,987 were produced from 1913 to 1914. The next year it was replaced by the Series H and Series L both of which featured smaller engines to compete with other cars in the market and were the first cars to feature the familiar “bowtie” emblem. There are only two known surviving Series C Classic Six cars today with one in the GM Museum in Detroit.
The Chevrolet Motor Car Company was successful as a car manufacturer and in a few short years William Durant had enough money to repurchase controlling share in GM. Chevrolet was merged as a division of GM in 1917. Durant lost control of GM in 1920 and started another company, Durant Motors, which was not as successful and eventually closed in 1933.
Louis Chevrolet left the company and founded Frontenac Motor Corporation which built racing cars. He, along with his brothers, was successful in building racing cars as well as racing them.
To this day, Chevrolet is still part of General Motors and produces top end sports cars like the Camaro and Corvette. They also have a range of trucks and SUVs. Chevrolet is present worldwide and has a subsidiary Holden in Australia.