100 Years Later - Chevrolet name still involved at IMS
Thursday, November 03, 2011
Today, November 3, marks the official 100th anniversary of Chevrolet. To help celebrate this milestone and a relationship between IMS and the Chevrolet name that pre-dates Chevrolet’s official start date, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has completed a project that has been left undone for 65 years.
Many people don’t know, but the three Chevrolet brothers so appreciated the Indianapolis community that they all requested to be buried here. Gaston, Louis and Arthur are all buried next to each other at Holy Cross and Saint Joseph Cemetery just south of downtown Indianapolis. Until just recently, only Gaston (the 1920 Indy 500 winner) and Louis had head stones at the location. Arthur, who competed in the 1911 Indianapolis 500, died without family or the ability to pay for proper graveside markings and was without a headstone since 1946.
In memory of Arthur, and to honor the Chevrolet name on this 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 and the Chevrolet brand, IMS, Chevrolet and Indianapolis businessman David Ring arranged to have a proper headstone placed on Arthur’s grave site. Ring, who owns Harry W. Moore Funeral Care on Indianapolis’ northwest side, is an Indianapolis 500 fan and is a student of the history of the event and the sport.
“When I heard that Arthur did not have a head stone I worked with IMS to arrange for one to be created and placed,” said Ring. “Especially in this year that is so important to the Indianapolis 500 and Chevrolet, I was honored to be asked to spearhead this project and see to it that Arthur was properly recognized.”
Between the three brothers, the Chevrolet name was represented eight times in the starting field of the Indianapolis 500 between 1911 and 1920.
Holy Cross and Saint Joseph Cemetery is located just south of downtown Indianapolis on the northeast corner of Pleasant Run Parkway Drive and Meridian Streets.
Below are two additional stories compiled by Donald Davidson highlighting Louis, Arthur and Gaston and their involvement with the Indianapolis 500:
It is rather ironic that the Indianapolis 500 and the Chevrolet Motor Company should both happen to celebrate their respective centennials this year. There is a long standing connection between the two, not the least of which is that Arthur Chevrolet, driving a factory-entered Buick, was one of the 40 contestants who took part in the inaugural Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1911.
In fact, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is now in its 102nd year, the track having opened in 1909, with the first running of the "500" taking place during its third season, approximately five months before the Chevrolet Motor Company officially came into being.
The Swiss-born brothers, Louis and Arthur Chevrolet were drivers and engineers for Buick Motor Company during the track's first two years, both competing in the multi-event programs conducted in 1909 and 1910. By the time the first "500" was held in 1911, Louis was coming to the end of a brief period in which he had been considered so valuable to Buick as an engineer that he had been obliged to step down as a driver. With rumors already flying that Billy Durant was luring the brothers away from Buick to form a new company bearing their name, a pair of Buick Super 100s took part in the first "500" driven by Arthur Chevrolet and a Frenchman living in the United States, named Charles Basle.
During practice, Louis came out of retirement to take some laps and one thing led to another. He explored the possibility of fielding a third car as a post-entry, the rumors persisting to this day that he (a) turned the fastest laps during practice and that (b) he failed to obtain the necessary waivers from all the other competitors. Neither is true. He apparently decided on his own to forgo trying to compete with a third car, content instead to stand by as a potential relief driver for his brother, this becoming academic when Arthur's car had to drop out after only 30 laps.
The 1920 Indianapolis 500 was won by Gaston Chevrolet, the youngest (by several years) of the three racing Chevrolet Brothers, Louis and Arthur having also driven in the "500." And had Arthur not been injured in an accident during practice that year, all three would have driven against each other in the same race.
By this time, Louis and Arthur had long since left the company bearing their name and had sold all of their stock, thus giving up the potential of quickly becoming multi-millionaires. Instead, they moved from Detroit to Indianapolis and began building race cars called Frontenac Specials. By 1920, there were seven such cars, four of which ran as Monroe Specials, sponsored by the William Small Company which had taken over the assets of the bankrupt Monroe Motor Company. Five of the seven cars failed to finish, all of them due to steering failures, four of which resulted in accidents. One of the Monroe Specials survived to win the race, driven by Gaston, who like his brothers was now an Indianapolis resident.
The legend is that back in the garage area after the race was over, the hard-headed and emotional Louis turned his attention to the steering failures, which had likely robbed the team of several top ten finishes. He is said to have taken a swift kick to the winning car whereupon its steering arm fell clattering to the ground.
Louis and Arthur returned to the Indianapolis 500 in 1921 and won again with driver Tommy Milton.
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