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The beginner's guide to Chevrolet

Everything you ever wanted to know... and a fair bit you didn’t

1968 Chevrolet Camaro SS
  • What’s Chevrolet and when did it start making cars?

    1957 Chevrolet Corvette C1

    Chevrolet was started on 3 November 1911 by Swiss engineer Louis Chevrolet along with disgruntled General Motors founder William C Durant, who’d recently been ousted.

    The first car in 1912 was the Classic Six, with a price equivalent to £54k today. It didn’t even have windows. Durant and Chevrolet clashed, the former with a vision for a ‘people’s car’ that could be sold cheaply. Louis quit the company in 1913, leaving just the name behind.

    Financial shenanigans saw Durant leveraging his Chevy stock to take GM back over in 1916 and Chevrolet merged into it in 1919. Its HQ had been in New York, but shifted to Detroit in 1921.

    Sales topped 125,000 in 1917, which was also the year Chevrolet introduced its first V8. The 10 millionth car was sold in 1934 on the firm’s 23rd anniversary, the 50 millionth in 1955. Chevrolet has never been a classic global carmaker, with the US being its main market, but it’s made various efforts to expand its reach over the years. GM snapped up Korean brand Daewoo in 2001 and rebadged them as Chevrolets in the UK before withdrawing from Europe in 2016. Nowadays you can only get the £100k Corvette round these parts, but if you can only buy one Chevrolet that seems reasonable to us.

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  • What’s the cheapest car that Chevrolet builds... and what’s the most expensive?

    Chevrolet Trax

    Chevrolet’s US range consists of 13 SUVs, four pickups, a saloon and a sports car, which gives you an idea of the car market over there. The Trax SUV is the cheapest, starting at $20,400 (£16,200) in LS spec. It comes with a 1.2-litre petrol, a six-speed automatic gearbox, an 8in interior touchscreen with smartphone integration, keyless entry and 17in steel wheels.

    At the other end of the scale is the Corvette Z06, the performance version of the Corvette, which is advertised from $112,700 (£89,500) but maxes out at $134,245 before options for the convertible version in 3LZ trim. That car has a 5.5-litre V8 petrol and eight-speed auto transmission, an 8in interior touchscreen, keyless entry and heated seats. Among other things, obviously.

    The UK only gets the entry level Corvette Stingray, starting at £92,890 for the Coupe 2LT, up to £100,840 for the Convertible 3LT.

  • What is Chevrolet’s fastest car?

    Chevrolet Corvette ZO6

    The Corvette Z06 is the clear speed demon in the Chevrolet lineup, with a whopping 195mph vmax. You’d need to find a long enough road, of course – we can think of one in Colorado that might work. It’s not the fastest ever Corvette, that honour goes to the final iteration of the previous generation (C7). That car was badged the ZR1 and only 300 of them were made back in 2019 as that version took its final bow. It featured a 755bhp 6.2-litre V8 with a massive supercharger and a wind tunnel developed aero package that took it to a 215mph top speed. A ZR1 model of the current C8 Corvette is coming in 2025 with two turbos bolted on to the car’s 5.5-litre V8 engine.

    And of course following the usual Top Gear rules we all know the next fastest Chevrolet is the Malibu saloon that you rented on holiday in Florida that one time. Those things are always super speedy.

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  • Where are Chevrolets built and how many are sold a year?

    Bowling Green Assembly

    When it comes to building its cars, Chevrolet benefits from being part of the General Motors family of carmakers, with various plants making cars in Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Japan and 10 or so locations in the USA. These benefits extend to sharing underbits with cars from Cadillac, GMC and Buick. Even the Vauxhall Insignia and Chevrolet Malibu shared a base until the Vauxhall was canned in 2022.

    Which also happens to be the last year we have full sales figures for – Chevrolet shifted a smidge over 1.5 million vehicles in 2022, an increase of 5.6 per cent on the previous year. The company’s bestselling model is the Silverado pickup, which accounts for over a third of its total sales, 523,000 of them shifted during the year.

  • What’s the best concept that Chevrolet ever made?

    Chevrolet CERV

    Chevrolet’s had some fun concepts – often a bit flighty, but usually thinly disguised production cars. The CERV (Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle) models are our favourites.

    Come the third one in 1990 it offered an exciting glimpse of the next Corvette. Cars were starting to move past the angular wedges of the Seventies and Eighties into something a bit more fluid and high-tech. CERV III had the kitchen sink thrown at it to show what exotic lightweight materials and the latest computer tech could do – 0–60mph in 3.9secs and a top speed of 225mph – but of course it all got ditched for the production C5 Corvette in 1997.

  • What was Chevrolet’s best moment?

    Chevrolet Camaro SS

    The firm had already been going for 50 years, but its global image was cemented in the Sixties and Seventies as it set the muscle car tone with its Corvette and Camaro models. Iconic bits of Americana that also helped build the country’s immense soft power during the period.

    NASCAR might be a touch earthy for snooty European tastes, but Chevrolet is the most successful manufacturer to be involved in the series, with 39 manufacturers’ titles since NASCAR started in February 1948.

    Maybe 2007 blockbuster movie Transformers could be seen as the company’s best moment in recent years – yellow Autobot Bumblebee might not have remained as a scummy Seventies Camaro (he morphed into the spiffing new model in a neat bit of presumably paid marketing), or indeed a Chevrolet at all, but he was the standout character among a cast that some criticised for being a touch... robotic.

  • What was Chevrolet’s worst moment?

    1970 Chevrolet C10

    Could Chevrolet’s worst moment have been the complicity of its C10 pickup truck in the unfortunate multiple demise of weather forecasting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil in Bill Murray flick Groundhog Day? Maybe execs were pleased with the traction of its vehicle in the film’s icy conditions.

    That would ignore Chevrolet’s output in the Seventies and Eighties, which was largely dire as the firm embraced a heady combination of front-wheel drive, indifferent design and boat-like handling. Chevy even imported a set of small Suzuki and Isuzus in the Eighties after the oil crisis, rebadging them to go up against the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla.

    More recently, the carmaker was forced to pull ads in the US in 2019 that quoted surveys that found the firm to be the most reliable brand ahead of Toyota, Honda and Ford. The rivals protested – it seemed the survey wasn’t a trusty independent one, but commissioned by Chevrolet itself.

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  • What was Chevrolet’s biggest surprise?

    Chevrolet Matiz

    Chevrolet got involved with Daewoo, the automotive offshoot of a major Korean chaebol (family owned conglomerate) that sold mega cheap small cars. Hits included the Matiz and Lanos. It went bankrupt in 1999 and some of the wreckage was snapped up by General Motors in 2002 for an impressive $1.2bn. Some of the Daewoos were then rebadged as Chevrolets and sold in Europe, with a few choice elements of the GM range thrown in.

    The firm’s annual sales of 200,000 across Europe by 2011 was respectable, but came at the cost of trashing an esteemed US brand (dinky Koreans sitting alongside the likes of the Camaro in dealerships) and squashing sales for Vauxhall and Opel, also trying to compete on price and volume. The whole thing didn’t seem very well thought out and Chevrolet withdrew from Europe in 2014. GM underlined the defeat by selling Opel/Vauxhall to the Peugeot group in 2017.

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