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Chevrolet's Voyage to the Top

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Topics:  Chevrolet

Chevrolet's Voyage to the Top

Ronnie Tanner
March 13, 2009

Chevrolet is the flagship of General Motors and occupies the top spot in sales for General Motors in the United States. Chevrolet has 18 models on its lineup today.

Began in 1910 as a joint venture between Louis Chevrolet and William Durant, the founder of General Motors, Durant had been forced out of General Motors earlier that year and was determined to use Chevrolet’s designs to forge his own company.

Chevrolet and Durant met when Durant then head of General Motors had hired Chevrolet to drive Buicks in promotional races.

Chevrolet and Durant were so successful with the new company that Durant was able to buy a majority of shares in General Motors and took over as president in 1917. Durant merged the two companies and by 1918, Chevrolet was a division within the General Motors Conglomerate.

Now Ford and Dodge were the only car manufacturers that were outselling General Motors. This was about to change. In 1929, Chevrolet introduced its new six-cylinder truck engine. Its cast iron construction gave it tremendous power and durability and it soon became known as “the cast iron wonder” among loyal owners. Priced at $595, customers bought more than a million in the first year alone. This gave Chevrolet the edge it had been looking for and by 1931, Chevrolet exceeded both Dodge and Ford. Chevrolet introduced new style designs during this era as well, including the larger engines, hydraulic brakes and column shifts. Chevrolet added convertibles to the line up around this time as well.

The introduction of the first fuel-injected engines allowed Chevrolet to continue its domination of the U.S. market. People could not get enough of Chevrolet and consumers were flocking to dealerships all across the country. By 1958, one out of every ten cars sold in the United States was a Chevrolet. Chevrolet introduced the Corvette in 1953 with a V6 engine and a lightweight fiberglass body. Sports car enthusiasts loved it. Although the Corvette was a magnificent vehicle, the designers at Chevrolet knew it needed something extra so it was given a powerful V8 engine along with air suspension for a smoother ride. Another leap forward came in 1960 when Chevrolet introduced the Corvair, which included an option for a turbo-supercharged engine.

One of Chevrolets other claims to fame lies with its small-block V8 design, which has remained in continuous production since its debut in 1955, longer than any other mass produced engine in the world. Although the descendants of the first basic small block have seen significant modifications down through the years, it is still used in the current production models of the 2008 Impala sedans, Chevrolet light and medium duty trucks and the current generation Corvette.

Chevrolet has produced many new models over the years and has become an industry leader in the production of light and medium weight trucks. Despite these accomplishments, Chevrolet faces an uncertain future. The mounting woes of the economic climate of 2008 and 2009 may well see the end of an era, and not just for General Motors and Chevrolet. The futures of all of the big three car manufacturers are in jeopardy. One can only hope that the vision and imagination of that fueled the past innovations will once again present itself and rejuvenate the now ailing American car giant.

Ronnie Tanner is a contributing writer at SWEngines. He writes about used Chevy engines and choosing this as an alternative to costly car purchases.

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