The Chevrolet Brothers and Racing

On this day in 1946, Arthur Chevrolet, an auto racer and the brother of Chevrolet auto namesake Louis Chevrolet, commits suicide in Slidell, Louisiana; he was 61.

Older brother Louis was born in Switzerland in 1878, while Arthur’s birth year has been variously listed as 1884 or 1886. By the early 1900’s, Louis and Arthur, along with their younger brother Gaston, had left Europe and moved to America, where they became involved in auto racing. In 1905. Louis defeated racing legend Barney Oldfield at an event in New York.

Louis Chevrolet’s racing prowess eventually caught the attention of William C. Durant, who in 1908, founded General Motors (GM). Chevrolet began competing and designing cars for GM’s Buick racing team. In 1911, Chevrolet teamed up with William Durant to produce the first Chevrolet car. The two men clashed about what type of car they wanted, with Durant arguing for a low-cost vehicle to compete with Henry Ford’s Model T and Chevrolet pushing for something more high-end. In 1915, Chevrolet sold his interest in the company to Durant and the following year the Chevrolet Motor Company became part of General Motors.

Throughout this time, Louis Chevrolet’s brothers continued racing and building cars. Arthur Chevrolet drove in the inaugural Indianapolis 500, held in 1911, although mechanical problems forced him out of the race and he failed to finish. He made another attempt at the Indy 500 in 1916, but once again dropped out due to mechanical issues. Gaston Chevrolet won the Indy 500 in 1920 in a Monroe car designed by his brothers; he died later that year in a racing accident.

Despite Louis and Arthur’s talent for racing and design (in addition to building cars, they also designed aircraft engines) they had little gift for finance and often were pushed out of their endeavors before they could reap the rewards due to them. By the 1930’s, both men were broke and their racing careers were over. Louis returned to Detroit to work in GM’s Chevrolet division. He died on June 6, 1941, and Arthur committed suicide five years later.

So at the end of this particular road, our lesson endeth.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.

What say you, the people?