Last week, Chevrolet turned 100 years old. And like every other birthday in my calendar…I missed it. Unlike every other birthday this year, I am not scrambling for a belated birthday card or last minute flowers. Instead, I am going to share with you what I love most about Chevrolet.
I mean, my first car was a Chevy. It was a 1973 brown Caprice Classic that had been affectionately named “the Love Boat” by my high school friends. But that is a whole other blog post.
In my opinion, no other American car company quite captures the American spirit like Chevy does. You see it in the Corvette pictured above and you see it in the Chevy Volt. And like America, Chevy has seen its share of ups and downs.
About three years ago, General Motors (Chevy’s parent company) was put through the ringer (as you all know) when the executive branch turned to Washington for some emergency cash. GM, along with Ford and Chrysler, were mocked for months for essentially treating Capitol Hill like one big payday loan service. Since then, there’s been a lot of chatter around the topic and most of it political gain (yes, I mean you Romney). So much chatter that it’s almost tough to remember what made the company so great in the first place.
But that’s what I’m for!
Chevy was founded on November 3, 1911 by Louis Chevrolet and ousted GM-founder, William C. Durant. He was forced from management of GM after becoming a wee bit financially overextended. Though five years later had enough shares of GM to regain control of the company. This was due to the success of Chevy. It had become profitable enough to allow Durant to purchase controlling interest. In fact, the sub-brand has been so successful for GM that both Chevrolet (and Chevy) are almost synonymous with General Motors and GM.
But Chevy really is more than just a brand. It’s like Coca-Cola or Ford, in the fact that it has defined American culture on so many levels. But don’t take my word for it, let the cars speak for themselves. Here are eleven of Chevy’s most iconic cars.
1914 Chevrolet Royal Mail Roadster
Priced at $750, the list price included a top, a windshield and a speedometer. These items had only been available as accessories on pricier cars just a few years back. It was also the first model to carry Chevrolet’s bowtie logo.
1936 Chevrolet Suburban
The Suburban is the longest-lived, continuous production, automotive nameplate in the United States. It’s no surprise, with this vehicle Chevrolet pretty much invented the SUV. Early models were a popular alternative to wood-bodied wagons as they were a lot more durable. For the first time, it was possible to transport up to eight people comfortably. The car had a list price of just $685. As a side note, a lot of automakers used this generic name for this style of car and it wasn’t until 1988 that GM trademarked the name.
1948 Chevrolet Pickup
It’s pretty darn hard to talk about Chevrolet trucks without getting that pesky Bob Seger song stuck in your head. Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, back to the pickup. The 1948 “Advance Design” trucks were the first completely restyled vehicle by General Motors after World War II. The most notable feature is probably the cab. It went from having just two seats to bench-style seating for up to three people (more if they’re tiny).
1953 Chevrolet Corvette
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe
No car is more American or more rock n’ roll than a ’55 Bel Air. I can only imagine what it feels like to drive one. I suspect it’s a lot like being The Fonz — pure awesomeness!
1963 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray “Split-Window”
There are really only three words to describe this car: I want one!
1969 Chevrolet Camaro
1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS
The El Camino holds a weird space in Chevy’s design history. It is hardly the sexiest car the automaker has ever made. In fact, many might argue it’s the worst. That said, the vehicle definitely has a cult following. I think to best understand the El Camino, you have to watch this clip with Brad Pitt from the movie The Mexican.
1989 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1
2010 Chevrolet Camaro
A throwback to the styling of the 1969 Camaro, this version is best known for the 2007 film, Transformers. After 35 years of continuous production, the car had been removed from Chevrolet’s production line due to poor sales. And I admit, I still take issue with Bumblebee being a Camaro, as much as I love the car. In my youth, I had collected over 100 Transformer toys so I am one of those guys. Keep in mind, if your car does ever turn into a robot, like seen below, you have bigger problems.
2011 Chevrolet Volt
I feel like the Volt is one of the best automobiles to come out of Detroit in a very long time. It is slick, futuristic and a lot of fun to drive. In fact, that is my biggest complaint about alternative vehicles; they drive like an alt vehicle. Bleh! But the Volt does not. It is a fun, solid car that just happens to be electric. I could easily drive one of these cross country! What I also love about the Volt is the styling. It feels modern but undeniably American. And with its groundbreaking drivetrain…this is what it means to be a Chevy.
It is safe to say, at the age of 100, Chevrolet isn’t looking half bad. I am anxious to see what the next 100 years brings. And I can only hope to be as graceful in my old age. I suspect I will be carrying a cane and telling kids to get the heck off my lawn.
Nonetheless, Happy Belated Birthday, Chevy!