15 Eye-Opening Facts About Chevrolet You Didn't Know

Written by Jim Belt in Trucks

Chevrolet is an iconic American brand with over a century of history making reliable, affordable vehicles for the masses. But the story of this automotive giant from Detroit goes far beyond just baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. How well do you know the Bowtie Brand? Take this quick pop quiz:

What was the first Chevrolet production model in 1913 missing?
- A) Headlights
- B) Reverse gear
- C) Windshield wipers
- D) Radio

If you chose B) Reverse gear - you're right! The very first Chevy had no reverse gear. Drivers had to get out and push it backwards to go in reverse.

With that surprise out of the way, here are 15 more fascinating insights about Chevrolet that may surprise you just as much.

15. It's One of the Oldest Car Companies

Founded in 1911 by legendary racecar driver Louis Chevrolet and ousted GM founder William C. Durant, Chevrolet is one of the oldest continuously operating automotive brands in the world. It helped bring vehicle mobility to the masses over 111 years ago and is still going strong today.

14. The Iconic Bowtie Logo Has Murky Origins

While one of the most recognizable logos, the origins and meaning of Chevrolet's iconic bowtie emblem are surprisingly unclear. There are conflicting stories about whether it was inspired by the wallpaper design in a French hotel or an ad in Édouard Bénédictus' catalog.

13. It Was an Early Automaton Pioneer

Long before today's self-driving car efforts, Chevrolet was already a pioneer in vehicular automation technology. In the 1950s, it developed an early autonomous system dubbed "Auto-Pilot" using vacuum tubes, sensors and a computer to steer and control a car largely by itself.

12. Its R&D Facility Is Massive

To develop new cars, trucks and technologies, Chevrolet maintains a massive research and development facility located in Warren, Michigan. The expansive tech campus features over 31 miles of test tracks and road courses spread across 4.5 million square feet of land.

11. Corvette Was Originally a GM Show Car

The iconic Chevrolet Corvette almost didn't make production. It started out as a radically styled showcase concept car called the EX-122 that wowed crowds at the 1953 GM Motorama events before getting green-lit as a low-volume regular model.

10. It Made Passenger Trains Too

In addition to cars and trucks, Chevrolet actually manufactured electric passenger trains for a short period in the late 1920s through its Chevrolet Electric Car division based in New York.

9. Origins of "Like a Rock" Ad Campaign

Chevrolet's wildly popular and long-running "Like a Rock" ad campaign didn't come from some big New York marketing firm, but rather from ad students at Alma College in Michigan. Their class project became a advertising phenomenon.

8. It Developed a Game-Changing Engine

Under legendary engineer Ed Cole's leadership, Chevrolet developed the pioneering small-block V8 engine in 1955. This lightweight, compact and affordable OHV V8 revolutionized the American car market and powered generations of performance vehicles.

7. The Corvair Pioneered Air-Cooled Cars

Long before Volkswagen and Porsche brought air-cooled rear engines to America, Chevrolet did it first with the innovative Corvair compact in 1960. Its rear-mounted aluminum air-cooled flat-six powered the lightweight, fuel-efficient and affordable model.

6. It Helped Establish Kindergartens

In the 1920s, Chevrolet established some of the nation's first company-sponsored kindergarten facilities and classes to provide childcare and early education for the children of its factory employees.

5. It's an Aerospace Innovator Too

While best known for automobiles, Chevrolet has also been involved in major aerospace innovations. It helped build the world's first supersonic pure turbojet engine in the 1940s and later partnered with NASA on battery tech for the Lunar Rovers used on Apollo missions.

4. Chevy Championed Fuel Injection

Chevrolet introduced one of the first affordable production passenger cars with fuel injection in the 1957 Rochester Ram-Jet system offered on select models. This allowed for improved power, efficiency and emissions over traditional carburetors.

3. Its Cars Appeared in Iconic Movies

Chevrolet models have had major roles in many iconic films including Back to the Future (1981 DeLorean Time Machine), The Goonies (1949 Suburban), Transformers (Bumblebee Camaro), Beverly Hills Cop (1984 Camaro), and more.

2. The Bel Air Was A Hit Across America

No car embodied the American dream quite like the affordable yet stylish Chevrolet Bel Air. Launched in 1950, it was a massive sales success and became so ubiquitous in the country that it still remains an enduring symbol of 1950s culture today.

1. Chevy's First Car Had No Reverse Gear

Talk about humble beginnings - the very first Chevrolet production model in 1913 came without a reverse gear. Drivers had to get out, lift up the back, and push it backwards to go in reverse!

From producing early automated vehicles to sponsoring America's first kindergartens to powering NASA's lunar rovers, Chevrolet's innovative spirit goes far beyond just building great cars and trucks. With over a century of surprising history, the iconic Bowtie brand has left a fascinating lasting legacy.