Chevrolet Centennial: 100 Years of Iconic Cars

Chevrolet celebrates its centennial anniversary Nov. 3, 2011. The Chevy division of General Motors prides itself on its rich place in U.S. auto history and its standing as an affordable global brand.


Louis Chevrolet and William C. Durant collaborated on the 1912 Series C "Classic Six" Chevrolet. The six-cylinder automobile sold for $2,150. (General Motors)

Auto racer Louis Chevrolet co-founded the Chevrolet Motor Co. with William C. Durant in 1911, with the goal of creating a racer’s dream car.  The Series C “Classic Six” vehicle premiered in 1912, and sold for $2,150.  Louis left the auto-making industry in 1913 to focus on racing, but granted Durant the rights to continue using the Chevrolet name on future models.


Chevrolet aims to design cars that possess a spirit of their own – a car with personality and spunk that can inspire new and old generations of Chevy owners alike - a car that you can, as Dinah Shore sang, “see the U.S.A. in.”

General Motors’ vice president of design, Ed Welburn, will never forget the first time he saw a Chevy.  He was about 6, walking down a leaf-lined street with his mother in a suburb of Philadelphia.  A ’55 Corvette whipped around the corner, kicking up fallen autumn leaves, and just as quickly as it came it was gone.

The Corvette’s sleek, sporty frame had a lasting impact on young Welburn, and a few years later, at age 11, he wrote a letter to General Motors expressing his interest in designing cars and seeking career advice.  GM wrote back offering advice on what he should study and details of their internship program, advice that he took to heart. Welburn went on to intern at GM, and after graduating from Howard University in Washington D.C., he was hired full-time.  The 2010 Chevrolet Camaro is just one of the car designs on which Welburn worked.

On the past century, Chevrolet has produced several iconic cars and trucks that have revolutionized General Motors’ reach. Chevy has also secured a place in U.S. pop culture history, popping up in the songs of Don McClean, The Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, Prince and Young Jeezy.


Here’s an abridged look back at Chevy’s game-changing designs:


1936 Chevrolet Suburban

The 1936 Chevrolet Suburban Carryall truck was a pioneer in the SUV market. (General Motors)

The first Chevrolet Suburban Carryall not only changed Chevy’s lineup, it influenced the entire industry of car design.  The 1936 Suburban was the first crossover vehicle with the feel of a passenger car and the room of a truck.  The Suburban was a pioneer in the SUV market.


Chevrolet Pickup Trucks


“Like a Rock”:  Trucks have played a major role in Chevy’s history, starting with the first truck model in 1918.   Ed Welburn, General Motors’ global vice president of design, describes the spirit of Chevy’s pickup as “honest,” “an everyday hero.”  Video shows a demonstration of the 1967 truck features.


1953 Corvette


The ’53 Corvette model marked the industry’s first fiberglass body.  This first Corvette was intended to shake up Chevrolet’s offering and rival European sports cars.


1957 Bel Air


Hitting the roads alongside the rock n’ roll explosion of the 50s, the sleek design of the Bel Air Sport Coupe appealed to a younger market.  Because of its sporty, contemporary body, Ed Welburn says, the Bel Air “looked like it would be more expensive than it is.”

As the Chevy brand continues to grow nationally and globally, the company places strong emphasis on fuel efficiency and fuel alternatives.

The Chevy Volt premiered in 2007, with a rechargeable electric driving system and backup gas tank.

The 2012 Chevy Volt is a versatile electric car that can run on a gas-free electric rechargeable battery, on board gas generator that produces electricity or on a tank of gas. (General Motors)

New Chevy models for 2012 include the 2012 Cruze Eco and the 2012 Chevy Sonic.

What can we expect from Chevy in the next 100 years? Only time will tell if there will ever be an actual transforming Bumblebee Camaro on the market one day.

The Special Edition "Transformers" 2012 Chevrolet Camaro Coupe model is based on the film series' Bumblebee character. (General Motors)