April 16

This Day in History

Automotive

Apr 16, 1946:

Arthur Chevrolet commits suicide

On this day in 1946, Arthur Chevrolet, an auto racer and the brother of Chevrolet auto namesake Louis Chevrolet, commits suicide in Slidell, Louisiana.

Louis Chevrolet was born in Switzerland in 1878, while Arthur's birth year has been listed as 1884 and 1886. By the early 1900s, Louis and Arthur, along with their younger brother Gaston, had left Europe and moved to America, where they became involved in auto racing. In 1905, Louis defeated racing legend Barney Oldfield at an event in New York. Louis Chevrolet's racing prowess eventually caught the attention of William C. Durant, who in 1908, founded General Motors (GM). Chevrolet began competing and designing cars for GM's Buick racing team. In 1911, Chevrolet teamed up with William Durant to produce the first Chevrolet car. The two men clashed about what type of car they wanted, with Durant arguing for a low-cost vehicle to compete with Henry Ford's Model T and Chevrolet pushing for something more high-end. In 1915, Chevrolet sold his interest in the company to Durant and the following year the Chevrolet Motor Company became part of General Motors.

Throughout this time, Louis Chevrolet's brothers continued racing and building cars. Arthur Chevrolet drove in the inaugural Indianapolis 500, held in 1911, although mechanical problems forced him out of the race and he failed to finish. He made another attempt at the Indy 500 in 1916, but once again dropped out due to mechanical issues. Gaston Chevrolet won the Indy 500 in 1920 in a Monroe car designed by his brothers; he died later that year in a racing accident.

Despite Louis and Arthur's talent for racing and design (in addition to building cars, they also designed aircraft engines) they had little gift for finance and often were pushed out of their endeavors before they could reap the rewards due to them. By the 1930s, both men were broke and their racing careers were over. Louis returned to Detroit to work in GM's Chevrolet division. He died on June 6, 1941. His brother Arthur committed suicide five years later.

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