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Louis Chevrolet was born on Christmas Day of 1878 in Swiss Jura, the center of the French dairy industry. As the son of a watchmaker, he showed an interest in mechanics at an early age. Louis did not enjoy school very much, preferring instead to work for his father.
Chevrolet soon started to ride bicycles and began repair work on racing bikes. During his three years with bikes, he won 28 competitive racing events and continued to work on bikes until he turned to automoblies.
In 1900, at the age of 21, Chevrolet left Switzerland moved to Canada, then New York. The things that he accomplished there started a chain of events that left a huge impression on the American automotive industry. Chevrolet established a reputation in the United States as a race car mechanic, and was soon driving them. On May 20, 1905, his passion for racing and performance led him to win his first road race on a cinder track in Morris Park, New York.
With a new-found reputation in racing, Chevrolet met W.C. Durant in 1907. Durant was considered to be the “father” of General Motors and noticed Chevrolet's genius and eye for perfection. He put him to work designing Buick concept cars that led the Buick Racing Team to many victories.
In 1911, Chevrolet and Durant founded the Chevrolet Motor Company. Even with little formal education, Chevrolet designed and built the first Chevrolet automobile. Durant believed that they would need to make their cars cheaper to compete with the automotive market. Chevrolet wanted his cars to be the most impressive on the road and wanted them only to be built for the rich, which led to his resignation in October 1913.
With his talent for designing automobiles Chevrolet went back to his first love, racing. By 1917, he had built a new, advanced race car. With it, he again became a leader in the automotive racing industry. He completed his first laps at the Indianapolis race track in 1926, as the official pace car driver. During his career on the famous brick track, he won 10 races and 27 major races elsewhere, making him the most successful driver in his family. He formed the Frontenac Motor Corporation to build high-performance engine heads. However, the corporation was fated to go out of business.
Louis Chevrolet passed away on June 6, 1941, at the age of 63. He was buried in Indianapolis. Chevrolet was elected to automobile racing Hall of Fame in 1952. He was an accomplished man with a simple, but lasting motto: “Never Give Up."
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Chevrolet: 1911-1960 by Michael W.R. Davis.
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