Chevrolet Timeline Tales: 1920 Indy 500 Winner, Gaston Chevrolet, Killed In Beverly Hills Race

Dateline: 11.25.11

All three Chevrolet brothers raced at the Indy 500, but only Gaston Chevrolet won the big race!

Auto racing has come a very long way in the last 100 years, but it always has been, and probably always will be, a very brutal sport. How could it not be? Part of every race involves tremendous forces at high speeds, so within that context, it’s understandable how sometimes, things can go terribly wrong.

Louis Chevrolet arrived in America in 1901. After working a few years and earning enough money, Louis sent for his younger brothers, Arthur and Gaston. All three Chevrolet brothers were mechanics and has a passion for automobile racing. Middle brother, Arthur, was not only the first of the Chevrolet brothers to race at the Indy 500, but he raced at the very first Indy 500 race in 1911. Although he only completed 30 laps and did not finish the race, Arthur was “there” for the first Indy 500, and would compete in one more Indy 500 race in 1916.

Louis was the next Chevrolet brother to race at the brickyard in 1915 and would compete again in 1916, 1919, and 1920. His best finish was 7th place in 1919 and was the only of his four Indy 500 races that he finished. But it was kid brother Gaston that would ultimately add the name “Chevrolet” to the list of Indy 500 winners. Gaston’s first Indy 500 race was in 1919, finishing the race in 10th place. But it was 1920 when Gaston qualified in 6th place with a speed of 91.550-MPH, held the lead for 14 laps, and won the race.

The Chevrolet brothers were serious racers. The story of Louis’ Chevrolet Motor Company and William Crappo Durant’s buyout is now legendary. Louis started his car company in 1911 and sold out to Durant by 1915. The following year, Louis, Arthur, and Gaston started the Frontenac Motor Corporation, specifically to design, build, and develop race cars. When Gaston entered his first Indy 500 race in 1919, he was behind the wheel of one of the family business race cars. The following year, the Chevrolet kid brother brought home the Indy 500 gold, driving the latest of the Chevrolet brothers designed race cars.

1920 must have seemed like the Chevrolet brother’s year. Much like modern race car builders, such as Greenwood, Pratt & Miller, and others, the Frontenac built customer cars. After his Indy 500 win, Gaston won a 100-mile match race against top racers Tommy Milton, who just happened to be driving a Chevrolet car, and Ralph Mulford. (Milton competed in 8 Indy 500 races and won the event in 1921 and 1923. Mulford competed in the first Indy 500, coming in 2nd place and raced in a total of 10 Indy 500 races)

But it was six months later, on November 25, 1920 in Beverly Hills, California, at a notoriously dangerous board track, that tragedy struck a fatal blow at the Chevrolet family. On the 146th lap of a 200 lap race, Gaston’s car crashed and he was killed. Continue reading “Chevrolet Timeline Tales: 1920 Indy 500 Winner, Gaston Chevrolet, Killed In Beverly Hills Race”

More Interesting, Little Known, Seldom Talked About Chevrolet History

Dateline: 11.8.11

So, what became of the three Chevrolet brothers, Louis, Gaston, and Arthur?

The Chevrolet Brothers: Louis Chevrolet, Gaston Chevrolet, & Arthur Chevrolet

We might be learning more about Chevrolet than their public relations department would like us to know. One of my favorite car blogs is from Hemmings Motor News. Every day they serve up a heap’n, help’n of automotive history and fun. Today they posted an interesting story about the final resting place of the three Chevrolet brothers – Louis, Gaston, and Arthur. As Chevrolet rolls into their centennial celebration year, I’m sure there’ll be all sorts of special features, articles, videos, and books. So, let the fun begin!

Louis Chevrolet in his senior years.

Regardless of what your favorite auto maker happens to be, there’s no argument that “Chevrolet” is one of the all-time top iconic brands in American popular culture. Although the name may well have originated in France, it turns out that Louis Chevrolet emigrated from Switzerland. But first, he went through Paris, then Montreal, before arriving in Brooklyn in 1901. Louis had two younger brothers, Arthur and Gaston.


The Chevrolet car company story is fairly well known. Louis teamed up with William Crapo Durant to form the Chevrolet Company in 1911. Louis and Willy had a falling out in 1915 and Willy sold his shares in the company. With some interesting money machinations, Durant used his funds to eventually buy the controlling shares of General Motors, the company he had lost a few years before. Then in 1917 Durant bought out Chevrolet and folded the name into his General Motors company. (This is starting to sound like a Gordon Gekko story!) Louis took his money and got into the auto racing business, but went broke by the time of the 1929 stock market crash. Needing a job, Louis ended up as a line mechanic in a Chevrolet factory. Although he was a mechanic first, it must have been a humiliating experience.


Here’s the first turn at the first Indy 500 in 1911. Arthur Chevrolet is somewhere in there.

What became of the other two brothers whose name became a cultural icon? Gaston Chevrolet first raced in the 1919 Indy 500 and came in 10th place. But it turned out that 1920 was Gaston’s year – sort of. He won the 1920 Indy 500 with an average speed of 86.63-mph – a very fast speed for the day. Later that year, Gaston was killed in a race at the very dangerous, one-mile board track in Beverly Hills, California. Ironically, because of the points structure at the time, Gaston posthumously won the  AAA National Championship. He was only 28-years old. Continue reading “More Interesting, Little Known, Seldom Talked About Chevrolet History”