LOUIS CHEVROLET 1878-1941
Louis Chevrolet is the man who gave his name to the most popular and famous American car. Today, more than 100 millions of "Chevrolet" cross over all the world. But 80 years ago, before his name was associated with the extraordinary development of the car, Louis Chevrolet was already very famous in the United-States as a racing driver. Today, everybody knows about the Chevrolet company, but the story of his designer, who was born in Switzerland, was unfortunately forgotten.
Louis-Joseph Chevrolet was born on the Christmas day of 1878 in the Switzerland town La Chaux-de-Fonds, in a house which was since pulled down. He was the second son of Joseph-Félicien Chevrolet, a man of Bonfol who worked as a watchmaker as well as a farmer.
The successive economic crises between 1880 and 1890 makes the family go to the main town of Bourgogne, Beaune. Later, five children completev he family.
As a young man, Louis Chevrolet shows abilities in repairing mechanics. He works in the Roblin's bicycles shop. Some bike racing will allow him to be spotted.
One day, he has to repair the car of a American man named Vanderbilt. This opportunity urges Louis Chevrolet to make his life in the world of motor mechanics.
In 1900, at 22, Louis Chevrolet leaves to the United States. He works some times in the factories of Dion-Bouton and Fiat in Brooklyn (NY). Five years later, he marries Suzanne Treyvoux in the French Church Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (NY). Two children will be born. The rest of family rejoin them afterwards.
THE RACING DRIVER
Since 1905, his passion for racing and his astonishing resistance makes him famous as "one of the best driver in the world". He is almost the foolhardiest. He almost came within an ace of death on dangerous racing circuits. Several times winner in the United States, for example with the Buick he has built himself, he contributes to make famous both cars and labels. When his loved brother Gaston dies during a racing, Louis decides to put down. He stoppes then a marvelous career which has given him glory, ovations and numerous trophies.
THE CAR DESIGNER
The world-famous name of Louis Chevrolet is linked with his job as a car designer. When during the year 1909 he decided to build himself a motor for a new model, the car's story was only at its beginnings. His career has been bounded with William C. Durant, the founder and manager of General Motors Company.
Aware of the new markets for cars he had conceived, as well as of the necessity of building others factories, Louis Chevrolet and some partners set up on the year 1911 the "Chevrolet Motor Car Company of Michigan". These factories manufacture among others the "Baby-Grand". On the year 1913, according financial and competition reasons, Louis Chevrolet was forced to leave the society which has his own name. Nevertheless, the trade mark stayed until 1933, when Chevrolet Motor and the General Motors Co merged.
Despite this setback, Louis Chevrolet, man of genius, had plenty of new plans. For his own profit, he started building some cars, for example the "Cornélia", the "Frontenac" and especially the "Monroe". This one knew a growing success, in particular during speed race.
The knowing-how of Louis Chevrolet expresses on developing aircraft motors which patents enjoyed varying fortunes.
Since 1934, several apoplectic fits compelled him to stop working so hard and to allow a travel to Europe - at Beaune and at La Chaux-de-Fonds -, where he had known his first success. He spent his later years between Florida and Detroit. He died on June 6th 1941 in Detroit ; he was 62 years old. He rests side by side with his brother Gaston in Indianapolis, the town where he had won his best sporting achievements.
The passion, the genious and the perseverance of Louis Chevrolet are well known. He worked without hesitations day and night to carry out his company, devoting all his life to his ideal.
Louis Chevrolet was an skilful player and sportsman. But he was the goodness too. He had the reputation to be a marvelous friend and someone very generous.
Louis Chevrolet will stay in the story as one of the most innovator of the world, precursor of today's cars.
La Chaux-de-Fonds, native town of this world-around famous Swiss citizen, had tribute to him by naming a street Louis-Chevrolet.
Source: Jacques-André Humair Director of La Chaux-de-Fonds' library