7 Facts You Didn’t Know About the Chevy Emblem
Who designed the Chevy emblem, what does it mean, and where did it come from?
Updated July 11, 2018
As one of the biggest names in the business, Chevrolet has been known for its trustworthy and dependable vehicles since the very dawn of the car industry. For this reputation, the Chevy emblem has become a token of recognition, rather than just a branding and marketing tool. The story behind the famed Chevrolet Logo is a bit mysterious though, and trying to clear all the vagueness to reveal these amazing facts about the mystery surrounding the Chevy emblem was a long journey.
I present to you seven facts you didn’t know about the Chevy emblem.
Who Designed the Chevy Emblem?
With four different explanations about the origins of the Chevy emblem, it can be rather difficult to pinpoint the exact point in time of its creation or its exact inception. However, we do know for a fact that one of the forefathers of Chevrolet (and car industry as we know it) – William C. Durant – did, in fact, design the famed bow tie.
Interestingly enough, 105 years since its inception, we have four different stories about the Chevrolet emblem. All of them interesting, but only one true – and I am quite sure I know which one.
William Durant was a man of many virtues. Not only did he help start one of the biggest automotive stories of all time (GM, Chevy, multibranding), he was an avid graphic designer as well. Not necessarily a professional one, but he did love to create unique and appealing logos for his products. The Chevy emblem may have been his biggest achievement in that regard.
William C. Durant introduced the logo in 1913 to much acclaim. Yet, the emblem was not exactly the same as the one we can see today on Chevy cars. It actually had Chevrolet lettering across a stylized blue cross with white edges. It was not until 1914 that the logo landed on an actual car. Bear with us for a bit to find out about the first car which had the honor of sporting the Chevy emblem.
What Does the Chevy Emblem Mean?
To answer this question we have to dig a bit into the stories published about the Chevy emblem. I’ll start with the official one published in the 50 Year Anniversary issue of The Chevrolet Story, printed in 1961. The story does repeat something Durant himself acknowledged years before – an inspiration for the Chevy emblem was a pattern Durant noticed on a wallpaper in a Parisian hotel.
“It originated in Durant’s imagination when, as a world traveler in 1908, he saw the pattern marching off into infinity as a design on wallpaper in a French hotel. He tore off a piece of the wallpaper and kept it to show friends with the thought that it would make a good nameplate for a car.”
The second theory about the emblem’s origins is equally intriguing. As it turns out, Durant’s daughter Margery published a book called My Father in 1929. In it, she said: “I think it was between the soup and the fried chicken one night that he sketched out the design that is used on the Chevrolet car to this day.”
The third theory can hold some ground too. Louis Chevrolet, the founding father of Chevy, was actually born in Switzerland. So, some did theorize that the Chevy emblem is actually a stylized version of the cross on the Swiss flag.
And finally, the fourth theory suggests that the emblem took inspiration from a Coalettes logo – a company that specialized in the production of refined fire fuels.
Considering all four stories, the meaning of Chevy bowtie is a bit vague, but the last story does seem the most plausible one and I will explain why in a minute.
Why is the Chevy Emblem Called a Bow Tie?
For some, it is obvious. To be frank, the design of the Chevy emblem very obviously does resemble a bow tie; however, it also looks like a cross, or like some kind of a propeller, or a shield in its latest iterations. Despite looking like plenty of other things, the bow tie nickname has stuck for years. It was used all the way back before the WW2 and it became a sort of an adjective to describe the car. It seems that the whole bow tie thing adds to the Chevrolet story lore. It adds a bit of mysticism and showcases just how large the whole Chevy story really is.
What Was the First Car With the Chevrolet Emblem?
I bet you want to know this. Well, the first car to receive the famed Chevy emblem was a Chevrolet H-2 Royal Mail Roadster. Sure, I could have found some pictures, but this is a different kind of story, so I strongly suggest you watch the video I embedded for you. It shows an original 1914 Chevrolet H-2 Royal Mail Roadster which covered an amazing 250,000 miles from 1914 to 1936. The car features the Chevy emblem – the first used for the 1914 models.
This car was essentially an alternative to the Ford Model T. However, it did come with a speedometer as standard and one could have it with an electric starter – a really nifty feature back in the day.
As the first car by Chevrolet under W.C. Durant, the H series automobiles were rather popular. No wonder they were produced as a four-door, 5-passenger touring car or this cool looking roadster. Interestingly enough, Chevrolet knew how to reward the owner of the 1914 H-2 Royal Mail Roadster in 1936. They gave him and his missus a brand new Chevrolet. Awesome.
Perhaps Chevy should consider awarding that guy who covered 773,000 miles in a ‘Vette with a brand new ZR1.
Regardless, the first car with the Chevy emblem was the 1914 Chevrolet H-2 Royal Mail Roadster.
Which Story About the Chevy Emblem is the True One?
So earlier, I mentioned four different stories about the origins of the Chevy emblem. We’ve narrowed down these stories to the unofficial gearheads’ consensus: one of the two stories below is the truth. Perhaps, even, both are true in a way.
See, William C. Durant did actually confirm that he was inspired for the Chevy logo in a Parisian hotel. He took a piece of wallpaper with a print of the recognizable pattern with him. Later on, the emblem landed on a trio of 1914 cars.
However, the other story may still hold merit due to some undisclosed information.
Back in 1986, Chevrolet Pro Management Magazine published an interview with Durant’s widow, Catherine. In the interview, she recounted something important about the Chevy bowtie emblem. Apparently, while visiting Hot Springs, Va. in 1912, Durant was reading the newspapers in their hotel room and he stumbled upon a design strangely similar to what we now know as the Chevy emblem.
“I think this would be a very good emblem for the Chevrolet,” he said.
It turns out that the newspaper he was reading was The Constitution newspaper, published in Atlanta on November 12, 1911. He noticed an advertisement by the Southern Compressed Coal Company for “Coalettes” – a fuel product for making fires. The Coalettes logo, as you can see above, is incredibly similar to what we now know as the Chevrolet logo.
So, with all the facts laid out, I will go out on a limb here and say that William Durant actually used Coalettes logo as inspiration when he created the famed Chevy emblem. I will also say, however, that it is entirely possible he was inspired by the exact same design years earlier and thousands of miles away and the Coalettes logo was merely a refresher for him. Obviously, someone wanted him to have this idea, and it was so nice it came to him twice! Perhaps he liked the shape of the wallpaper design but it wasn’t until he saw words superimposed over it that he knew how he wanted to use the shape for his Chevy logo? I’d believe it. Who says only one of the origin stories is true? Who’s to say they’re not all tales from the same narrative?
Chevy Emblem Evolution Over the Past 105 Years
As with everything else, the Chevy bowtie could not have remained exactly the same for all eternity. In that regard, Chevrolet actually issued a fantastic picture presenting the most important evolution steps of the Chevy emblem. It is definitely worth a look. Now, the golden chevy emblem we are all accustomed to right now actually isn’t that old. In their official statement, Chevy notes:
“Many variations in coloring and detail of the Chevrolet bowtie have come and gone over the decades since its introduction in late 1913, but the essential shape has never changed. In 2004, Chevrolet began to phase in the gold bowtie that today serves as the brand identity for all of its cars and trucks marketed globally. The move reinforced the strength of what was already one of the most-recognized automotive emblems in the world.”
Does the Color of the Chevy Emblem Hold Meaning?
The market of today has a tendency to make manufacturers reimagine all the styling aspects of their cars, including badges. In that regard, the Chevy emblem has seen a number of interesting evolutions since its inception, but today, you may choose between three different versions with their straight-from-the-production-line cars. There’s the standard gold emblem for commonly produced vehicles, the blackout Chevy emblem for cars usually associated with black or midnight editions, and more surprisingly, a hollow one!
The newest Chevy emblem design, dubbed the Flowtie, was placed on the new Z/28 Camaro after it was found that the emblem actually pushed air away from the radiator, so they made it hollow!
If that’s not the coolest emblem feature you’ve ever seen, I don’t know how to help you.
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