) -- If the most important thing in life is to be remembered for doing something important, Louis Chevrolet hit the jackpot.
On Nov. 3, 1911, Chevrolet co-founded a car company with three partners. Because he was a famous race car driver, the company took his name.
This was a time when the automobile was an emerging technology, like the smart phone is today, and Detroit was like San Jose, a center of innovation and start-up companies. Start-up car companies grew on trees!
Anyway, one of Louis Chevrolet's partners was William Durant. He had been ousted from his previous startup, which was called
, but by 1916, the Chevrolet Motor Car Co. was so profitable that Durant was able to buy back a controlling interest in GM.
Long story short, GM grew so much that 55 years later, it produced about half of all the vehicles sold in the U.S. Then, foreign automakers began to enter the U.S. market, and GM began to lose market share and, unfortunately, to lose money as well. In 2009, GM filed for bankruptcy, emerging as a much stronger company.
Anyway, the point here is that Chevrolet is passing the century mark in November, and one of the ways that the company is celebrating is by polling drivers on the greatest Chevys in history.
One of the cars named the 1912 Chevrolet conceived by Louis Chevrolet himself. Two others were the 1932 Deluxe Sport Roadster and the 1936 Suburban, the longest lasting nameplate in the U.S. auto industry. But the top five Chevys, selected in the polling of nearly 125,000 Chevrolet fans, are more recent, and here they are.
5. 1963 Corvette Sting Ray
Ranking fifth on the list is the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray with 10,597 votes.
The 1963 Sting Ray was designed by legendary GM design chief Bill Mitchell, and came to market ten years after the first Corvette.
The car had independent rear suspension, a first for a modern American car, as well as hideaway headlights to keep it streamlined.
Surprisingly, it was also affordable. "America's sports car" was now within reach for the working class, Chevrolet wrote.
4. 1957 Belair
The 1957 Belair gets our vote for the greatest Chevy of all time. But in the Chevy poll, only 13,151 voters agreed with us, ranking the Belair in fourth place.
This is "one of the most popular cars ever due to its unique blend of style, functionality and of course the option of Chevrolet's legendary small-block V-8 engine," Chevrolet said.
Among the features: A wraparound windshield, a massive chrome bumper, twin wind splits on the hood and sporty tail fins.
Additionally, the car featured a brand new technology: A fuel injection engine. "The rest was drag race history," Chevrolet said.
The 1957 Belair was one of the classic Chevys that
cruised Woodward Avenue for the August Woodward Dream Cruise.
3. 1953 Corvette
The 1953 Corvette was ranked the third greatest Chevy of all time, with 13,297 votes.
Only 300 were produced and one of the owners was John Wayne. They were all white with a red interior and a black canvas top and had removable plastic windows.
In fact, the 1953 Corvette was supposed to be a show car, but the response at the January 1953 Waldorf Astoria Motorama was so positive that GM decided to build more.
The first 15 cars were built by hand in the back of a customer delivery garage in Flint, Mich.
2. 1970 Chevelle SS
The 1970 Chevelle SS was ranked as the second greatest Chevy of all time, with 18,449 votes.
Though styled as a family car, the Chevelle SS was far from underpowered.
Rather, it had a 450-horsepower V8 engine and could reach 100 miles per hour in under 13 seconds, enabling Mom to make some very quick trips to the grocery store.
"Even today, this so-called family sedan is parked at the top of anyone's muscle car list," wrote Chevrolet.
1. 1969 Camaro
The 1969 Camaro easily won the Best Chevy ever competition with 25,058 votes out of 124,368 votes cast.
"The '69 Camaro has become one of the best examples of timeless design in the industry," said Tom Peters, Chevrolet design director, in a prepared statement. "Like the very best designs, the Camaro is much more than just a machine because it evokes powerful emotions in people of all ages. That's why we looked to the '69 for inspiration when designing the fifth-generation Camaro."
It must be said that Peters is not exactly Mr. Impartiality here. He has owned the same 1969 Camaro for nearly 20 years.
-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
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