Thursday, November 3, 2011 | 8:40 p.m. CDT;
updated 1:11 p.m. CDT, Friday, November 4, 2011
Chevy, which lays claim to being the top-selling auto brand of all time, celebrates its 100th birthday on Thursday.
For most of its life, Chevy stayed a fender ahead of the competition by bringing innovations like all-steel bodies, automatic shifting, electric headlamps and power steering to regular folks at a low cost.
Chevy also embedded itself in American culture, sometimes changing it by knowing what people wanted to drive before they did. Snappy jingles and slogans dominated radio and television, and bands mentioned Chevys in more than 700 songs. No other automotive brand has come close to the adoration that Chevy won from customers, especially in the 1950s and '60s.
"The American car from the mid-1930s to the end of the '60s was a Chevrolet," said John Heitmann, an automotive history professor at the University of Dayton and author of a book about the automobile's impact on American life. "It was the car of the aspiring American lower and middle classes for a long period."
This product image provided by General Motors, shows a 2012 Chevrolet Corvette Centennial Edition. Corvette’s 2012 Centennial Special Edition includes Carbon Flash Metallic black paint with red accents, unique satin-black lightweight wheels, Ebony interior with red stitching, and “Chevy 100” logos inside and out.
This undated photo provided by General Motors shows a 1936 Chevrolet Suburban. Chevy’s original steel-bodied, truck-based Suburban “Carryall” of 1935-36 provided a robust and durable SUV-like alternative to wood-bodied wagons.
This product image provided by General Motors, shows a 1948 Chevrolet Pickup. GM’s first all-new vehicles after World War II, Chevy's Advance Design trucks for 1948 were reliable, versatile and modern. The 3100 pickup was the farmer and workingman’s four-wheeled friend.
This undated photo provided by General Motors, shows a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe. The all-new 1955 Bel Air redefined Chevrolet, with its sleek “Motoramic” styling, improved chassis and new 265-cid “Turbo-Fire” V-8 – the first of Chevy's legendary small-block V-8s.
This undated photo provided by General Motors, shows the 1963 Chevrolet Impala. The Beach Boys sang harmonies to Chevy’s 425-hp, 409-cid big-block V-8, a street legend that was handsomely showcased by this ’63 Impala Super Sport, with its bucket seats and console interior.
This undated photo provided by General Motors shows a 1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS. Based on the midsize Chevy Chevelle — and fully sharing in that car line’s multitudinous power options — the 1970 El Camino SS pickup combined pickup utility with muscle car looks and power.
This undated photo provided by General Motors shows a 1971 Chevrolet C/10 Cheyenne Pickup. A new-for-1971 Cheyenne premium trim package raised Chevy pickup interior style and comfort to new levels — to the delight of buyers seeking a spiffy truck to tow their recreational equipment.
This undated photo provided by General Motors shows a 1976 Chevrolet C/10 Stepside Pickup. Convenience aside, some pickup buyers just plain preferred the look of Chevy’s Stepside boxes, offered from 1955 to 2003.
This undated photo provided by General Motors shows a 1989 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1. Chevy thunder rolled across Europe when 24 pre-production ZR-1 Corvettes arrived for a 1989 press preview. A 4-cam Chevy/Group Lotus small-block V-8 made the ZR-1’s high-speed capability possible.