Chevrolet - Born out of Racing
The brand 'Chevrolet' was taken from the last name of Louis-Joseph Chevrolet. He was born on Christmas day, 1878 in Switzerland and died in Detroit in 1941. His family moved to France in 1886 where he developed his interest in mechanics with his father, a watchmaker and bicycle maker, and at the Roblin Mechanic shop. He worked there and then at DeDion-Bouton, a French car manufacturer. DeDion-Bouton was at that time was the largest car manufacturer in the world. In 1901 he moved to Brooklyn. In 1905, Fiat hired him as a racecar driver. The #16 Fiat that he drove in the 1905 Vanderbilt Cup Races, a 30 mile race on Long Island, finished in 10th place despite a broken wheel which occurred when he hit a telegraph pole on the 10th lap.
1905 Vanderbilt Cup Race
Louis Chevrolet
In 1905 he drove a 200 HP Darracq 25 liter V8 for an American land speed record of 117.64 MPH at Ormond Beach, Florida. It was later driven by a team member at over 121 MPH. Watch the video of the restored car. After a short time with Fiat, he moved to Canada and back to New York where he drove for Buick and met Bill Durant. During his Buick racing career, Chevrolet and Durant partnered to form the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in 1911. The partnership lasted until 1915 when Durant sold his share of the company. In 1917, Chevrolet was made part of Durant's General Motors. Chevrolet's Indianapolis 500 career began in 1915 driving a Cornelian where he placed 20th. His qualifing speed was 81.01 MPH, but dropped out on lap 77 with a broken valve in the engine. The Cornelian was a chain drive cycle car weighing 1100 lbs. It was powered by a Stirling engine, which runs on a heat differential between 2 halfs of the engine. It is a closed cycle engine with no intake or exhaust. Air just moves back and forth between the hot and cold end. This powers a displacer piston which turns the crankshaft. The Stirling engine was designed in 1817. There is a Cornelian on display at the Indy 500 Museum.
Louis Chevrolet competed in 4 Indy 500 races from 1915 to 1920. His best finish was 7th place. The rest is history. Starting from a racing heritage, Chevrolet went on to become one of the best known names in the automotive world. Now if the next new Chevy is named the Cornelian, you know where it came from.
1915 Cornelian