It's sad but true: For much of the last 100 years, cantankerous Louis Chevrolet was a nonperson to the car brand that bears his name. From the late teens through the 1980s, the company had little to do with the man. And vice versa.
Louis Chevrolet and Billy Durant were an odd couple. In 1911, Chevrolet, 32, was a headstrong 6-foot-1, 215-pound bear of a man. Just 12 years removed from his Swiss homeland, he already was a famous, if not wealthy, auto racer.
Cars and trucks bearing the all-American brand, Chevrolet, were built all across America. Other brands have had a single flagship assembly factory. Think Ford Motor Co.'s Rouge plant; Buick City in Flint, Mich.; and Volkswagen's Wolfsburg.
In 1914, Chevrolet got its famous bow tie emblem. It also got a pair of cars that helped build the brand's image. The H-model cars, popularly known as the Royal Mail roadster and Baby Grand touring car, were introduced that year.
Nameplates such as Corvette, Bel Air, Camaro and Silverado have defined Chevrolet through the decades. But it was a basic car with a dull black finish, single door and low introductory price that helped establish Chevrolet in its early days.
In 1915, Billy Durant, the founder of General Motors, was in exile from the company. Bankers, unhappy with his free-spending ways, had ousted him five years earlier. But revenge was not foremost in his mind as he plotted his return.
When Leon Edwards' father became a Chevrolet dealer in 1916, the Birmingham, Ala., retailer had two employees and his vehicles arrived partly assembled in railroad boxcars. "My father did the selling, and he was the bookkeeper.
The first 373 Chevrolet trucks to be built in Flint, Mich., in 1918 were almost lost in the bustle of the young automaker's primary business. Chevrolet sold 94,619 cars in the United States that year, according to R.L. Polk & Co.
William S. Knudsen found two seemingly contradictory traits in Americans when he arrived from Denmark in 1900 at age 20. "They were very friendly, and they loved to fight with their fists," he said. "I was more or less forced to become a boxer.
From world wars through General Motors' bankruptcy, some dealerships have hung on for nearly 100 years with Chevrolet. The family members running those stores today remember the tough times and the successes.
Baseball legend Barry Bonds' father was a major-league star, and quarterback Peyton Manning's dad also was a professional play caller. But their family pedigrees are dwarfed by the deep roots at Cox Chevrolet in Bradenton, Fla.
Alfred Sloan once wrote in a letter to General Motors stockholders: "The quickest way to profit is to serve the customer in ways the customer wants to be served." A dramatic engine innovation at Chevrolet in 1929 proved his point.
Back in an era before TV, before video games, and long before the Super Bowl, Chevrolet sponsored a sporting event that might have done more to unite young kids with the subject of cars and drivingdesk: how to say that more elegantly? than any other endeavor...
The old Chevrolet was not considered an appropriate car for the man who became the U.S. ambassador to Germany in 1933 -- but then many did not consider William Dodd a suitable man to represent his country anyway.
For the general sales manager of an auto company, there are good days and there are bad days. Bill Holler, who headed Chevrolet sales from 1933 to 1945, had plenty of both. The good days are easy to remember.
The SUV was born in 1935. That's the year Chevrolet introduced the Suburban Carryall, a windowed steel body atop a half-ton commercial truck chassis. Base price: $675, not including extras such as a heater and rear bumper.
Ever since Carl Benz first attached an engine to his four-wheeled platform, racing has been an important part of the auto industry. The desire to go faster and farther seems to be inbred in the minds and hearts of auto people.
Within two months of the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor, the last civilian cars rolled off the assembly lines, and auto plants were frantically converting to military-only production of arms, munitions, trucks, tanks and planes.
In 1946, the biggest problem new Chevrolet General Manager Nicholas Dreystadt faced was an enviable one: how to meet an insatiable pent-up demand for vehicles in post-war America. Dreystadt was up to the task.
Carl Fisher had an idea a minute, a few of which changed the world. He founded the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He instigated the Lincoln and Dixie highways. He dredged sand from the Biscayne Bay and built Miami Beach.
Early in 1952, General Motors President Charles Wilson went to Chevrolet General Manager Thomas Keating and told him "he could have anything or anyone he needed to breathe new life into Chevrolet." Keating took both. The anyone was Ed Cole.
The 1950s ushered in a new era in pop culture and automotive design. The U.S. economy was taking off, rock 'n' roll was finding its beat and singer Dinah Shore crooned, "See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet."
It was an entry-level brand, but Chevrolet certainly didn't act the part in the 1950s. During the mid to late years of that decade, Chevy designers were on a roll, and everything they touched turned to gold.
Considering how late it was to the party, the radical little engine that powered the mid-20th century Chevrolet out of a rut and into the fast lane had to be good. But nobody thought it would be that good.
Chevy's Corvette C6R endurance racer has one 24 Hours of Daytona victory, half a dozen Le Mans class wins and 15 championships to its credit. Over the past 13 years, the factory-backed Corvette team has won 81 races in 127 attempts.
The curtain almost closed on Chevrolet motorsports in 2009, during General Motors' brush with bankruptcy. It was not the first near-death experience for Chevy racing. A GM edict forced Ed Cole's operation underground in 1957.
Cars and trucks got bigger and heavier in the 1950s. The advent of turnpikes and interstate highways meant faster travel. Those factors combined to create showroom demand for more powerful engines. Chevrolet engineers responded.
In 1955, Ruth Glennie left Boston to drive to Detroit for a job almost unheard of for a woman at the time: designing cars for General Motors. She was among nine "Damsels of Design" that GM Vice President of Styling Harley Earl had hired.
Few who knew Bill Mitchell are likely to forget him. His presence was at once energizing and intimidating. Not a tall man like Harley Earl, Mitchell nevertheless filled a room with an aura of command and confidence.
What went into one of the most famous shapes in automobile history? Who were the forces behind it? And what was its legacy? These are all part of the rich subtext of the Corvette Sting Ray, arguably the most memorable design in Chevrolet's 100 years.
Soon after launching the radical rear-engine 1960 Corvair as General Motors' compact import fighter, Chevrolet decided it also would need a conventional compact car line to counter Ford's fast-selling Falcon and Chrysler's funky Ply-mouth Valiant.
There are two reasons why the Chevrolet Caprice was born. First, Chevrolet was blindsided by the 1965 Ford LTD full-sized sedan. Ford spent a ton of money advertising that the LTD was quieter than a Rolls-Royce -- and Americans believed it.
The blame for my love for cars - and four-barrel carbs - can be placed upon my father and his spearmint-green-metallic 1978 Chevrolet Caprice Classic. What my dad didn't understand was that under the hood lurked 350 cubic inches of Detroit muscle.
General Motors was caught flat-footed by Ford's Falcon-based Mustang "pony car" when it debuted in April 1964 to thunderous applause. The rear-engine Chevy Corvair, though restyled and upgraded for 1965, could not compete.
When many Americans think of John DeLorean, they think of the Back to the Future movies that featured his stainless steel car; or the cover of Time magazine from November 1982, soon after his arrest on drug trafficking charges; or perhaps his glory...
Chevrolet introduced the industry's first one-piece all-steel roof beginning with the 1935 model year. And it played a key role in the development of one of the biggest safety advances of the past 50 years: airbags.
The Chevrolet Cavalier was the workhorse of General Motors' J-car platform developed in the late 1970s to battle the smartly packaged, well made small cars from Japan and Europe that were making a serious dent in the U.S. market.
And Chevrolet didn't achieve a dominating position on the nation's, and even the world's, racetracks until Herb Fishel led the brand's motorsports activities. Fishel grew up in Winston-Salem, N.C., where everyone followed Southern stock car racing.
The most common way people describe Bob Burger is outspoken, no-nonsense and even blunt. "He was a straight-shooter. No games. No hidden agendas," said friend Tony Hopp, former CEO of Campbell-Ewald, Chevrolet's longtime ad agency.
Chevrolet launched the Corsica compact sedan and Beretta coupe in 1987 to breathe new life into its front-wheel-drive lineup. GM had hoped the two new compact Chevys would sell 500,000 units annually, but sales never came close to that.
If the story of Chevrolet's Geo subbrand starting in the 1989 model year seems a little confusing in hindsight, blame it on the era. It was a time when many consumers wanted a car that was "Made in the U.S.A." but didn't always know which one was or was not.
In some of the loudest salvos in their decades-long pickup war, Chevrolet and Ford full-sized trucks faced off during the 1980s in advertisements of death-defying feats as each sought to prove superiority.
When John Middlebrook joined Chevrolet as general manager in 1996 he had three years to make his mark on the division. In 1999 General Motors shifted power from the divisional management to corporate management.
Kurt Ritter joined Chevrolet in 1971 and quickly became known as the truck guy. After a career of getting Chevy's trucks competitive against Ford's, he was promoted to running Chevrolet. And General Motors let him slip away to the competition.
During Ed Peper's stint as head of Chevrolet, from early 2005 to the summer of 2009, there was plenty to get fired up about -- both good and bad. He presided over some of General Motors' most important launches in decades, such as the 2008 Chevrolet Malibu.
In 2007, GM launched an experiment aimed at seeing how fuel cell vehicles perform in everyday driving. The program, Project Driveway, was billed as the world's largest test market for a hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicle.
Chevrolet dealer Herb Adcox used to have a good laugh whenever the FedEx delivery man showed up at his Chattanooga, Tenn., store. It was spring 2009. General Motors had been sharpening its ax to cut its dealer network ahead of its June bankruptcy filing.
With booming China sales blowing new life into the global auto industry, General Motors turned to a new China-focused compact dubbed the Chevrolet New Sail to harness that wind. The car, launched in January 2010, was pioneering in several ways.
Soon after he was named head of Chevrolet sales and service in March 2010, Alan Batey delivered a blunt message to Chevy's dealers. "If you want a friend, you need to buy a dog," Batey remembers telling dealers after he arrived.
Chevrolet launched the Volt in December 2010 amid an industry push for electric-drive cars. Talk of battery chemistry, range anxiety and recharging times filled the air. The Volt represented General Motors' commitment to a new powertrain technology.
Pinky Randall, 84, is one of Chevrolet's biggest fans. But unlike most enthusiasts who limit their holdings to cars and a few bits of memorabilia, he has collected cars, trucks and everything that says "Chevrolet."
What's in a name? Plenty, if that name is Jeff Gordon and if it's on an auto dealership. Gordon, the popular Hendrick Motor-sports NASCAR driver, partnered with Hendrick Automotive Group and bought into a Wilmington, N.C., Chevrolet dealership in 1998.
Chevrolet has enjoyed success in Europe by selling affordable Korean-built small cars -- but now it wants to win even more buyers. Chevrolet Europe Managing Director Wayne Brannon, 56, talked about the brand's ambitions with Harald Hamprecht.