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Louis Chevrolet

Born: 25-Dec-1878
Birthplace: La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland
Died: 6-Jun-1941
Location of death: Detroit, MI
Cause of death: Natural Causes
Remains: Buried, Holy Cross and Saint Joseph Cemetery, Indianapolis, IN

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Auto Racing, Engineer

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Designed the first Chevrolet

Louis Chevrolet learned the basics of mechanics from his father, a watchmaker. As a young man he built, repaired, and raced bicycles, but he abandoned his bicycle business almost as soon as he saw his first automobile. He worked at European auto factories, then came to Canada, where he worked as a chauffeur and mechanic. In 1901 he moved to Brooklyn, where he worked for the prestigious DeDion-Bouton motorcar company. Soon he was hired as driver for the Fiat auto racing team, and after several victories made him an American celebrity, he left Fiat to work for William C. Durant at General Motors, where Chevrolet became the lead driver for the Buick racing team. Often a winner but almost as often seriously injured, Chevrolet invented the roll bar, a steel hoop installed above the driver's head and across the vehicle to prevent the driver's body from being tossed and crushed if the car rolls over.

When Durant was squeezed out at General Motors, Chevrolet followed him, and designed a six-cylinder automobile for Durant's new company, which was named the Chevrolet Motor Car Company to cash in on the designer's fame for speed. Chevrolet's car was definitely a luxury item, with what were then high-tech features and among the highest price of any auto then being manufactured. But in 1913, when Durant decided to add a lower-priced model, Chevrolet balked. He did not want his name associated with a low-cost car, and he left his namesake company. In selling his stock to Durant, he unknowingly passed up an opportunity to become a millionaire, as the Chevrolet Company was soon absorbed into General Motors, and remains GM's best-known nameplate.

Chevrolet drove a Cornelian in the 1915 Indianapolis 500, finishing far from the front of the pack. He then started his own car company, but since his own name was on Chevys everywhere, he called his new company Frontenac Motors, taking the name from a 17th century French governor of North American colonies. Chevrolet's Frontenac racing team won back-to-back Indianapolis 500s in 1920 and 1921, with Chevrolet's brother Gaston driving the winning car in 1920. After the Frontenac Company failed, Chevrolet worked as a mechanic specializing in souping up Ford Model Ts, and also dabbled in aircraft and motorboat engines. A bust of Chevrolet greets visitors to the museum at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Father: Joseph Felician Chevrolet (watchmaker, b. 1853, d. 1901)
Mother: Angelina Marie Mahon Chevrolet (b. 1855, d. 1915)
Brother: Alfred Chevrolet
Sister: Fanny Chevrolet (b. 1881, d. 1959)
Sister: Berthe Chevrolet (b. 1883, d. 1957)
Brother: Arthur Chevrolet (race car driver, b. 1884, d. 1946)
Brother: Gaston Chevrolet (race car driver, b. 1892, d. 1920 auto wreck)
Wife: Suzanne Treyvoux Chevrolet (b. 1889, m. 1905, d. 1966, two sons)
Son: Charles Louis Chevrolet (b. 1906, d. 1934)
Son: Alfred Joseph Chevrolet (b. 1912, d. 1970)

    General Motors Engineer (1934-38)
    Frontenac Motor Corporation President (1916-24)
    Chevrolet Engineer (1911-13)
    General Motors Driver (1905-11)
    Fiat Driver (1902-05)
    International Motorsports Hall of Fame
    French Ancestry
    Swiss Ancestry
    Naturalized US Citizen 1915


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