Happy 100th Birthday, Chevrolet

  1. An Automotive Legacy
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    An Automotive Legacy

    On Nov. 3, 1911, racing driver Louis Chevrolet and ousted General Motors (GM) founder William C. “Billy” Durant, team up to build vehicles. One hundred years later, the company they formed, Chevrolet, is still making cars. The storied brand is responsible for some of America’s most-loved vehicles, from the Corvette, to the Suburban, to the Bel Air.

    Here are some highlights from Chevy’s 100-year history.

    Photograph: Chicago History Museum/Getty Images

  2. 1911
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    1911

    Racecar driver Louis Chevrolet designs the first Chevy, called the “Classic Six,” in a loft in Detroit. In 1912, the first production year, the company sells 2,999 Classic Sixes.

    Copyright 2011 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.

  3. 1913
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    1913

    The now-classic “bowtie” logo first appears in ads in 1913 and on a vehicle in 1914. The models that feature the bowtie are the Model L “Light Six” and H-Series Chevrolet Fours, a popular, cheaper 4-cylinder vehicle.

    Copyright 2011 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.

  4. 1918
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    1918

    By 1918, when Chevrolet is purchased by General Motors, Chevy has become the fourth-largest car producer by total sales, just behind Buick. That year Chevrolet produces 149,904 vehicles.

    Copyright 2011 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.

  5. 1920
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    1920

    Facing a recommendation to close the Chevy division after founder Billy Durant leaves, the company is saved by Alfred Sloan Jr., then-assistant to the GM president. Sloan takes the lead in pushing GM to compete with the Model T—despite having just 4 percent market share to Ford’s (F) 60 percent. Sloan becomes president and CEO in 1923, when Chevy launches the Superior to compete against the Model T.

    Copyright 2011 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.

  6. 1930
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    1930

    At the beginning of the Great Depression, Chevy is the No. 2 seller of cars, behind Ford. In 1931, Chevrolet launches low-price cars such as the Roadster for $475. (In 2011 dollars, the price tag for a Roadster comes to just $7,090.28.) Chevy passes Ford on sales in 1931, and the 9 millionth Chevy is built in 1933.

    Photographer: Corbis

  7. 1937
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    1937

    Chevrolet Plant #4 in Flint, Mich., is among those struck by the United Autoworkers Union in a sit-down strike that leads to GM’s first contract with the union. Storage space is becoming more important in cars, and in 1939 Chevy launches its first station wagon, a Woodie.

    Copyright 2011 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.

  8. 1940
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    1940

    In the first few weeks of the new decade, a Chevrolet Master Deluxe Town Sedan is the 25 millionth vehicle to roll off the GM production line, with Chevy responsible for more than 15 million of those automobiles.

    Copyright 2011 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.

  9. 1942
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    1942

    Just after the new Fleetline Aerosedans arrive in dealerships under the slogan “Bigger is Better,” production of commercial vehicles grinds to a halt. Early in 1942, Chevrolet switches to producing explosive shells, trucks, and other military necessities to help the war effort.

    Copyright 2011 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.

  10. 1953
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    1953

    A prototype of the first Corvette appears in 1953, sparking wide interest and giving Chevy the green light to produce 300 in the first run.

    Copyright 2011 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.

  11. 1954
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    1954

    Chevy manufactures a total of 2.2 million vehicles and sponsors Dinah Shore to sing the jingle, See the U.S.A. in Your Chevrolet, on her television show. With Chevy’s first 8-cylinder engine in 36 years, 1954 marks the year the company makes inroads on the growing muscle-car market.

    Copyright 2011 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.

  12. 1963
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    1963

    By 1963, one of every 10 vehicles sold in the U.S. is a Chevy. A year earlier, the Beach Boys release a song about a Chevy hot rod called the 409, and in 1963, the group records Shut Down, about the second-generation Corvette, known as the Sting Ray: “Superstock Dart is windin’ out in low, but my fuel-injected Stingray’s really startin’ to go.”

    Photographer: Michael Ochs Archives/Corbis

  13. 1965
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    1965

    Ralph Nader publishes Unsafe at Any Speed and ignites a firestorm of controversy about the safety of such cars as the rear-engine Chevrolet Corvair. That year, Paul Revere & the Raiders record a song about the popular Chevelle (with one model named the SS 396): “Cruising the highway, getting my kicks, nothing can match my … SS 396.” That year, almost 1.1 million Impalas are sold, a single-model record for a car.

  14. 1971
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    1971

    The Chevy Vega is launched in 1971 and initially sells well before gaining a reputation for being poorly made and prone to rust. Although the Vega is later viewed as a disaster by the likes of Popular Mechanics, the '70s are good for the brand and Chevrolet is memorialized by Bruce Springsteen in Racing in the Streets in 1978 and by Don McLean in the 1971 classic, American Pie.

  15. 1984
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    1984

    1984 A Fremont (Calif.) production plant jointly operated by Toyota (TM) and GM starts producing the Chevy Nova. From 1988 to 1993, Chevy cars win six straight at the Indy 500. And Prince is on the airwaves with his 1983 hit, Little Red Corvette.

    Photographer: Getty Images

  16. 1989
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    1989

    The Chevrolet subdivision Geo is launched in 1989 and includes the Tracker, Metro, Storm, and Prizm. The last of the Geo line is discontinued just eight years later, in 1997.

    Copyright 2011 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.

  17. 1991
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    1991

    Chevrolet launches a new ad campaign that helps define the company through a 1986 song by Bob Seger, Like a Rock. Still, the company is suffering and, as BusinessWeek puts it, “badly needs new models.”

    Photographer: Getty Images

  18. 2005
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    2005

    Cars made by GM’s Daewoo affiliate in Korea are rebranded as Chevrolet in Europe. The ad campaign says it simply: “Daewoo has grown up enough to become Chevrolet.”

  19. 2009
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    2009

    China becomes the brand’s third-largest market after the U.S. and Brazil. Chevy launches the company’s first global car, the Cruze, in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and the Americas.

    Photographer: Getty Images

  20. 2010
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    2010

    Production of the Chevy Volt begins in 2010, and the model goes on sale in mid-December. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Volt at 93 miles per gallon when the battery is fully charged and at 37 miles per gallon when the battery is depleted.

    Photographer: Getty Images

  21. 2011
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    2011

    After 100 years of vehicles fueled by gasoline, the all-electric Chevy Spark is announced in 2011. The vehicle is slated for production in 2013.

    Photographer: Alamy