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A notice for self-appointed automotive experts everywhere:

Thursday, 6 April, 2006

The namesake and engineer of the automobile company which eventually purchased the then nearly bankrupt General Motors and based all of their cars on variations of the new parent’s design in 1913 was not French. Louis Chevrolet was born, 1878, in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland. By the time of the GM merger he was no longer part of the company, but they had the rights to his family’s name. Later he returned to Canada, to where he immigrated as an engineer and chauffeur a decade earlier and founded a sports and luxury car company, Frontenac. Frontenac failed before producing a single car and they negotiated a deal with Ford, whose River Rouge plant happened to lie across the Detroit River, to assemble the T for distribution in the British Commonwealth. Within months Frontenac became part of Ford, and they used the name as a marque in Canada until the ’60s, much as the Henry Ford motor company was reorganized from an independent to a contractor to GM, and eventually built it’s own cars under a name from history, Cadillac.

The Chevrolet Brothers, including his assistants Andre (who assumed the name Arthur) and Gaston, built quite a reputation for their engineering prowess, especially in Indianapolis through the ’20s. However their next venture merged with Glenn L. Martin upon the onset of The Depression. The Glenn L. Martin Company evolved into Lockheed-Martin, the aerospace contractor.

By 1934 the once powerfully built and dashing Chevrolet was virtually destitute, working as a general mechanic and living with his wife in a small apartment in Orlando Florida. General Motors brought the former racing legend onto the payroll with the intention of using his likeness and reputation for promotional purposes, however illness intervened and he grew weaker with time. He made his last promotional appearance in 1938. By 1946 his wife was reliant upon their two sons for income and Chevrolet succumbed following surgical complications, June 6 1941. His widow approached the Indianapolis Speedway for assistance in his memorial and his body was moved by train to Holy Cross and Saint Joseph Cemetery, near Indianapolis adjacent to the scene of his greatest triumphs. A “memorial fund” which served as a pension for his widow was organized by the active racing teams of that time. A memorial statue was commissioned and installed, partly with financial assistance from General Motors in 1956, at the museum on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway grounds.

The present whereabouts of his progeny, one nephew American-born Charles appeared at the unveiling of his memorial, is not public knowledge. They are not believed to be involved in the automotive industry in any form.

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