Chevrolet as a brand is known for making a wide range of affordable vehicles, many of which are incredibly popular across America. Whether you’re looking for a commuter vehicle, a family car, or something bigger and tougher for work, Chevy has it all. Remaining popular and innovating for over 100 years is quite a trick, and while many, many people are responsible for maintaining Chevy’s reputation and work ethic over the decades, it all started with just two individuals: race car driver Louis Chevrolet and General Motors founder William C. Durant. Curious about how these two brought to life an automotive powerhouse and what led to the array of choices we have from Chevy today? Wondering what Louis Chevrolet might think about these new models and which one he might have a hankering to drive?
The Need for Speed
While Louis Chevrolet was not the only race car driver in his family, he was the first, leading the way for two of his brothers. He had fallen in love with automobiles as a youngster, and nothing would deter him from his goal: to produce and sell high-quality vehicles. This dream took him from his home in Switzerland to France, then to Canada, and finally, to the United States. He spent years as a driver, mechanic, engineer, designer, and racer, building up his experience and expertise when it came to engine work, vehicle design, and showmanship.
Louis Chevrolet did not have an easy road of it, that’s for sure––falling out with business partners and family members, braving severe financial crises during times of economic instability, and suffering several serious racing accidents meant Chevrolet started many projects but couldn’t always complete them. Not only did he move from place to place in order to try and achieve his goal of designing and selling finely-tuned vehicles that would do incredibly well on the racetrack, but he also spent time creating other projects, like a light aircraft engine and a 10-cylinder radial engine.
Chevrolet’s love of speed, high-quality vehicles, and racing has left a stamp on the company that shares his name. While the Chevy brand does sell many SUVs, pickup trucks, and sedans, it is also known for one of the most popular sports cars of all time: the Chevy Corvette.
The company responsible for producing the Corvette is indebted to two individuals who created the design for the flagship sports car: Harley Earl and Tom Keating. These two men led Chevy into new waters, the waters designated for well-to-do drivers who wanted something more fun to drive than a regular old sedan.
Nowadays, of course, there are a variety of drivers who have or had a Corvette, and the stories they tell are infused with their love and respect for the vehicle that has become the Chevy icon for speed, beauty, and power. Earl and Keating worked in the 1950s to introduce America and the world at large to the Corvette.
While many discussions, articles, and other sources of information are prone to pass over or straight up hide Earl and Keating’s roles in creating this sports car icon, it is true that they are the two people responsible for the continued popularity of the Corvette through the decades. Louis Chevrolet, in contrast, is well known but barely stayed with the company for two years, leaving because of differences between himself and William Durant.
Digging deeper into historical records has given the world a new view of Chevy’s early history, and what’s interesting in connection to the Corvette is that Harley’s experience with the Hollywood elite at the time led to his job at Chevy and the creation of the Corvette logo. While Harley did not end up going with his original design, which included an American flag, he did produce another design that became the standard and that can still be seen on Corvette models today––a design that includes a red flag reminiscent of Louis Chevrolet’s native Switzerland.
There might be some debate about this, but I believe Louis Chevrolet would, if he were alive today, jump at the chance to race a brand new Corvette like the C8 Stingray, the eighth generation Corvette that continues to be admired by longtime Chevy fans. One look at the curvy, aggressive sports car, and upon hearing the engine roaring, it’s highly likely Louis Chevrolet would be ecstatic to see what the company that carries his name is doing to lead the automotive industry toward the future.
The 2023 Chevy Corvette is part of the celebration of the Corvette’s 70th anniversary, which means that the special 70th Anniversary Edition will act as an additional trim for the car. There are a few new colors for the 70th Anniversary Edition, along with eye-catching accenting on the exterior and a personalized luggage set. The affordable yet competitive Corvette can be bought as a coupe or as a convertible. The convertible comes with a power hard top, though the coupe does have the option to take off the roof panels and turn it into a convertible with a bit more work.
Chevy’s 2023 Corvette Stingray has a 6.2L V8 engine, which is what makes that gorgeous, loud purring sound when you start it up. The transmission is an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic, and while many drivers will complain, there are fewer and fewer vehicles being made that are available with a manual transmission. So this isn’t news, nor is it Chevy’s first rodeo where transmission options are concerned. In fact, the original 1953 Corvette was also only available with an automatic.
One of the very few drawbacks of the Corvette is its lack of seating. It really is only built for two individuals, and if you have a family, grandkids coming to visit, or multiple friends wanting to carpool for a road trip, this car will not fit the bill. However, if you simply want a fun commuter ride that you can show off around town, on the highway, or on a speedway, then the Corvette will suit you to a tee. A perk of it being so small, though, is that the removable roof can fit inside the cargo compartment in the back, so you never need to store it anywhere and can take it out to put back on if the weather becomes dark and stormy.
The newest Corvette is luxurious, the interior decorated with metal, leather, and suede, with a focus on providing the driver with the best driving experience possible. The steering wheel has been squared off, the infotainment system is pointed toward the driver so that neck craning and narrowly escaping a collision isn’t necessary any longer, and there is trunk space in the back and front because of the mid-engine design. This allows the driver to stash, grab, and go without having the hassle of tying down luggage, stuffing bags in nooks and crannies, or shoveling precious items into a less-than-safe compartment.
Built by Enthusiasts
As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Chevy Corvette, I think it’s a good idea to reflect back on Louis Chevrolet, his love of automobiles and racing, and Earl and Keating’s Corvette designs. I hope that others who love the idea of driving high-quality cars as much as they did will take the reins for future generations.