Chevrolet Motor Company

                 1911 - 1913

In late 1910 William Durant lost control of General Motors, and was eager to rebuild his empire.  The Buick racing team also lost factory support, so in early 1911 Durant recruited Louis Chevrolet to start a new automobile company in Detroit.  Durant respected Louie’s talents as an engineer, but also valued his name.  Chevrolet had earned a national reputation as a race car driver, and Durant wanted to capitalize on this fame.  Durant believed the Chevrolet name evoked power & strength, and also had the ambiance of European sophistication.  Louis spent much of 1911 developing a working prototype, and Durant was hard at work attracting new investors.  Durant’s goal was to build an economical car that could compete head to head with the Ford Model T.  Louis finished the prototype in fall of 1911, and it was a beautiful 6-cylinder luxury car.  While Louie's "Classic Six" was a finely crafted automobile, it was also expensive, and did not exactly fit Durant’s business plans for the future.  

 

In 1912 the Chevrolet Motor Company went through a rapid period of expansion and capitalization.  However the Classic Six automobile which Louis designed did not enter production until the last month of the year.  The car formally hit the automobile show circuit in January 1913, and Louis traveled around the country promoting the new vehicle.  The car was not a big seller, and researchers believe that fewer than 500 units were actually produced.  By the summer of 1913 Durant decided to move the company to Flint Michigan with the intent of mass producing inexpensive cars.  At this point in time Louie’s role in the organization was diminished, and the future of the company seemed somewhat risky.  Mr. Chevrolet and Mr. Durant ultimately parted ways in the fall of 1913.

Very few records exist on the early years of the Chevrolet Motor Company.  It appears that documents were not adequately retained when the company moved its base of operations from Detroit to Flint.  Perhaps records were hastily discarded during the transition process.  Below are a handful of rare documents that have survived, and that chronicle the birth of one of the most important companies in U.S. history.

3/04/11 - Detroit, Michigan

Louis Chevrolet invites Peter MacGregor

to work on "New" automobile

(Peter MacGregor Collection)

Spring 1911 - Detroit, Michigan

Louis lives at the New Brunswick Hotel,

also home of Wolverine Automobile Club

(Wayne State University)

Spring/Summer 1911 - Detroit, Mich

Louis Chevrolet rents space at

Schulte Garage to work on new car

(Kettering University Archives)

Circa 1911 - Detroit, Michigan

Corcoran Lamp Co. Factory leased to

the Chevrolet Motor Company

(Detroit Public Library)

11/02/11 - Detroit, Michigan

Chevrolet Motor Company files

Articles of Association

(Archives of Michigan)

11/08/11 - Detroit, Michigan

Louis Chevrolet signs

waiver to stockholder meeting

(Pinky Randall Collection)

11/15/11 - Detroit, Michigan

Payroll Ledger for the

Chevrolet Motor Company

(Henry Winterhoff Collection)

12/01/11 - Detroit, Michigan

Louis Chevrolet signs waiver to right

in increase of capital stock

(Pinky Randall Collection)

12/01/11 - Detroit, Michigan

William Little signs subscription

to capital stock

(General Motors Heritage Center)

Summer 1912 - Flint, Michigan

Chevrolet Motor Co. acquires new plant,

formerly the Imperial Wheel Company

(Sloan Museum)

11/12/12 - Detroit, Michigan

List of stockholders of the

Chevrolet Motor Company

(Pinky Randall Collection)

1913 - Detroit, Michigan

Republic Motor Co. sales pamphlet with

Deam Wetmore article on new Chevrolet

(Ken Kaufmann Collection)

2/03/13 - Detroit, Michigan

Dallas Dort writes to William Durant

about financial matters of Chevrolet Co.

(General Motors Heritage Center)

Circa 1913 - Detroit, Michigan

Lubrication Chart for the

Classic Six Chevrolet

(Sloan Museum)

Circa 1913 - Detroit, Michigan

Sales Pamphlet for the

Chevrolet Motor Company

(Ken Kaufmann Collection)

Circa 1913 - Detroit, Michigan

Chevrolet Classic Six

Sales Brochure

(Vintage Chevrolet Club of America)

5/21/13 - Detroit, Michigan

Special meeting called for directors

of the Chevrolet Motor Company

(General Motors Heritage Center)

6/02/13 - Detroit, Michigan

Stockholders waive right to

new issue of 500,000 preffered shares

(General Motors Heritage Center)

6/09/13 - Detroit, Michigan

Stockholders of Chevrolet Motor Co.

vote on issue of preferred shares

(General Motors Heritage Center)

6/11/13 - Detroit, Michigan

Little Motor Company stockholders

surrender shares for Chevrolet stock 

(General Motors Heritage Center)

July 1913 - Detroit, Michigan

Shares of Chevrolet stock exchanged

for shares of Mason Motor Co. stock

(General Motors Heritage Center)

7/02/13 - Detroit, Michigan

Letter of recommendation for

Gus Dolchrist, signed by Louis Chevrolet

(Dolchrist Family Collection)

7/10/13 - Detroit, Michigan

William Durant resigns as president

of the Chevrolet Motor Company

(General Motors Heritage Center)

7/10/13 - Detroit, Michigan

Tools & equipment of Chevrolet Co. being sold to Sterling Motor Company

(General Motors Heritage Center)

9/16/13 - Detroit, Michigan

Louis Chevrolet resigns position

with Chevrolet Motor Company

(Atlanta Constitution)

9/29/13 - New York City

William Durant files Trademark for use 

of the "Chevrolet" name

(National Archives)