On November 3, 1911, race car driver and automotive engineer Louis Chevrolet co-founded the Chevrolet Motor Car Company with William C. Durant (ousted founder of General Motors for 5 years) and investment partners William Little (maker of the Little automobile) and Dr. Edwin R. Campbell (son-in-law of Durant)and in 1912 R. S. McLaughlin of Canada.
Durant was ousted from the management of General Motors in 1910 for 5 years. He took over the Flint Wagon Works, incorporating the Mason and Little companies. As head of Buick Motor Company prior to founding GM, Durant had hired Louis Chevrolet to drive Buicks in promotional races.Durant planned to use Chevrolet’s reputation as a racer as the foundation for his new automobile company.
Actual design work for the first Chevy, the costly Series C Classic Six, was drawn up by Etienne Planche, following instructions from Louis. The first C prototype was ready months before Chevrolet was actually incorporated.
Chevrolet first used the “bowtie emblem” logo in 1913. It may have been designed from wallpaper Durant once saw in a French hotel. More recent research by historian Ken Kaufmann presents a case that the logo is based upon a logo for “Coalettes”. Others claim that the design was a stylized Swiss cross, in honor of the homeland of Chevrolet’s parents.
Louis Chevrolet had differences with Durant over design and in 1915 sold Durant his share in the company. By 1916, Chevrolet was profitable enough to allow Durant to repurchase a controlling interest in General Motors. After the deal was completed in 1917, Durant became president of General Motors, and Chevrolet was merged into GM as a separate division. In 1917, Chevrolet’s factories were located at New York City; Tarrytown, N.Y.; Flint, Michigan; Toledo, Ohio; St. Louis, Missouri; Oakland, California; Fort Worth, Texas, and Oshawa, Ontario. In the 1918 model year, Chevrolet introduced the Model D, a V8-powered model in four-passenger roadster and five-passenger tourer models. It also started production of an overhead valve in-line six. Most cars of the era had only low compression flat head engines. These cars had 288in3 55 hp (41 kW) engines with Zenith carburetors and three-speed transmissions.
Chevrolet continued into the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s competing with Ford, and after the Chrysler Corporation formed Plymouth in 1928, Plymouth, Ford, and Chevrolet were known as the “Low-priced three”. In 1933 Chevrolet launched the Standard Six, which was advertised in the United States as the cheapest six-cylinder car on sale.
Chevrolet had a great influence on the American automobile market during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1953 it produced the Corvette, a two-seater sports car with a fibreglass body. In 1957 Chevy introduced its first fuel-injected engine, the Rochester Ramjet option on Corvette and passenger cars, priced at $484. In 1960 it introduced the Corvair, with a rear-mounted air-cooled engine. In 1963 one out of every ten cars sold in the United States was a Chevrolet.
The basic Chevrolet small-block V-8 design has remained in continuous production since its debut in 1955, longer than any other mass-produced engine in the world, although current versions share few if any parts interchangeable with the original. Descendants of the basic small-block OHV V-8 design platform in production today have been much modified with advances such as aluminium block and heads, electronic engine management, and sequential port fuel injection. Depending on the vehicle type, Chevrolet V-8s are built in displacements from 4.3 to 9.4 litres with outputs ranging from 111.394 horsepower (83.066 kW) to 994 horsepower (741 kW) as installed at the factory. The engine design has also been used over the years in GM products built and sold under the Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Hummer, Opel (Germany), and Holden (Australia) nameplates.
Chevrolet launched the Chevrolet Volt (and related Opel/Vauxhall Ampera) to add to a wide range of vehicles that by 2010 included a varied mix of American, Australian, European and Korean based designs to suit each local market.