Chevrolet turned 100 this week. I’m sure we all remember the newsreels showing President William H. Taft driving his 1911 Corvette, towing an oversized bathtub.

Chevrolet turned 100 this week. I’m sure we all remember the newsreels showing President William H. Taft driving his 1911 Corvette, towing an oversized bathtub.

I have never been a car enthusiast, but automobile history has long fascinated me.

Curiosity about vintage cars was sparked early. One year in grade school, I had several boxes of Kleenex (it may have been Puffs) adorned with classic automobiles. The underside of each box featured one of those cars, with a larger picture and a description, containing large words like “chassis.”

This special-issue tissue apparently was intended as a collector’s series. It taught me that the best way to pursue car restoration was to sneeze a lot.

Another youthful automotive indulgence was the Ford vs. Chevy argument, which probably continues to this day. I made friends on both sides with my staunch support of the Buick LeSabre.

It laid the foundation for other pop culture debates: Beatles vs. Stones. Bird vs. Magic. Coke vs. Pepsi. Fish vs. snakes. That one never really grew legs.

The Ford-Chevy fight didn’t come out of thin air. Ford, with its Model T, overshadowed General Motors as an innovator in the early days. Thanks to the Chevrolet, GM soon caught up. By 1927, Chevy overtook Ford as the most popular brand in the U.S. Later that year, Charles Lindbergh took the first solo flight across the Atlantic in a Camaro.

Chevy broke ground again in 1950 when it became the first reasonably priced brand with automatic transmission. It brought a shift in consumer demand.

Chevy’s biggest contribution to horseless carriage evolution, though, was stylistic. The Bel?Air, along with the ‘Vette, jump-started 1950s car fashion.

From that point on, every film set in that time period showed people driving shiny new Chevys, as opposed to ‘47 Oldsmobiles.

Within a few years, the golden age of Chevy hit some potholes. One was the Chevrolet Corvair, which had an engine in back and a Volkswagen Beetle under the hood.

I can’t remember what happened after that.

Dennis Volkert is features editor at the Sturgis (Mich.) Journal. Contact him at volkert@sturgisjournal.com.