As one of the biggest names in the automotive business, Chevrolet has long been known for its trustworthy and dependable vehicles. For this reason, the Chevy logo speaks of the brand’s reputation, in addition to being a branding and marketing tool.
The story behind the famed Chevrolet logo is a bit mysterious though. But out of its vague history and storied past, we bring you these seven interesting facts about the Chevy logo, its backstory, and its evolution over the years. Save these fun facts for trivia night or simply impress your friends the next time you hit up your local coffee and cars.
Who Designed the Chevy Logo?
Four different stories exist about the possible origin of the Chevy logo, and it is difficult to pinpoint the exact point in time that it was created. However, we do know for a fact that one of the forefathers of Chevrolet (and the car industry as we know it) — William C. Durant — did, in fact, design the famed bowtie logo.
William C. Durant was a man of many virtues. Not only did he help start one of the biggest automotive companies of all time (GM, Chevy), he was also an avid graphic designer. Though he was not necessarily a designer by trade, he loved to create unique logos for his products. The Chevy emblem may have been his biggest achievement in that regard.
Durant introduced the Chevy logo in 1913 to much acclaim. However, the original emblem was not identical to the one found on today’s Chevy cars. It had Chevrolet lettering across a stylized blue cross with white edges. It was not until 1914 that the logo landed on an actual car (more on that later).
Interestingly enough, 105 years since its inception, we have four different accounts about how Durant came up with the Chevrolet logo. All four of these stories are interesting, but likely only one is true.
What Does the Chevy Emblem Mean?
To answer this question, we have to dig a bit into the stories about the origin of the Chevy logo. I’ll start with the official one published in the 50 Year Anniversary issue of The Chevrolet Story, printed in 1961. This official record repeats a story that Durant himself acknowledged years before — that the inspiration for the Chevy logo came from a pattern Durant noticed on 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 wrote, “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 and some theorize that the Chevy logo is actually a stylized version of the cross on the Swiss flag. Finally, the fourth theory suggests that Durant took inspiration from the Coalettes logo, a refined coal product produced by the Southern Compressed Coal Company.
Considering all four stories, the meaning behind the 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 Logo Called a Bowtie?
The answer to this question, for some, is obvious at first glance. To be frank, the design of the Chevy logo does very obviously resemble a bowtie. However, it also looks like a cross, some kind of a propeller, or a shield, in its latest iterations. Despite looking like plenty of other things, the “bowtie” nickname has stuck for years. It was used all the way back before World War II and it became a sort of an adjective to describe the car, adding to Chevrolet lore.
What Was the First Car With the Chevrolet Logo?
The very first car to receive the famed Chevy logo was a 1914 Chevrolet H-2 Royal Mail Roadster. This car was essentially an alternative to the Ford Model T. However, it came standard with a speedometer, and one could even 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 and were produced as a 4-door, 5-passenger touring car, or a cool-looking roadster. If you look closely, you can spot that Chevy logo on the front of the Royal Mail Roadster.
Which Story About the Origin of the Chevy Logo is True?
As mentioned earlier, there are four different stories about the origins of the Chevy logo. 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.
William C. Durant did actually confirm that he was inspired to create 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 previously 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, Virginia in 1912, Durant was reading the newspaper in their hotel room when he stumbled upon a design strangely similar to what we now know as the Chevy logo.
“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, is incredibly similar to the Chevrolet logo.
So, with all the facts laid out, I will go out on a limb here and guess that Durant probably used the Coalettes logo as inspiration. I will also say, however, that it is entirely possible that he was inspired by the exact same design years earlier and thousands of miles away. Perhaps the Coalettes logo was merely a refresher for him. Who says only one of the origin stories is true? Perhaps they are all tales from the same narrative.
Chevy Logo Evolution: The Past 100+ Years
As the brand evolved, the Chevy logo could not have remained exactly the same. In fact, the golden Chevy bowtie we are accustomed to isn’t all that old. In their official statement on the evolution of the emblem, 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.”
From then until now, the polished bowtie has become one of the most symbolic automotive logos ever produced, emblazoned across some of the nation’s favorite vehicles, such as the Chevy Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban, Corvette, and Camaro. Few other logos command as much authority as the Chevy bowtie.
What Does the Color of the Chevy Logo Mean?
In today’s market, manufacturers frequently reimagine the style of their vehicles with each year model — and this includes badges. In that regard, the Chevy logo has seen a number of interesting evolutions since its inception, and today, you can choose between several different versions with their straight-from-the-production-line cars.
The gold bow tie logo comes standard on Chevy’s most common production vehicles. The blackout Chevy logo is usually seen on the upgraded trim packages. And, interestingly, there is also a black Chevy logo that is actually hollow.
Dubbed the Flowtie, it initially debuted on the Z/28 Camaro after Chevy’s engineering team found that the emblem actually pushed air away from the radiator, so they made it hollow! Talk about fashion meets function.
And not all new Chevys put the bow tie front and center. Notably, Chevy’s ZR2 package adds an off-road appearance package that emblazons a blacked-out “Chevrolet” across the grille with a smaller silver bowtie offset to one side.
Chevy Logo: Always Evolving
Chevy is sure to continue iterating on the iconic bow tie logo as the brand continues to evolve. From its storied history to its instant brand recognition, this is one automotive logo that hit the mark. Where Chevy takes it from here, only time will tell.