This year marks an important milestone in the history of the North American automobile industry. It was one hundred years ago, on Nov. 3, 1911, that the famous Chevrolet Motor Car Company was established.
Louis Chevrolet, after whom the Company was named, was a Swiss immigrant who became famous racing Buick cars.
William Durant was the other founder. He had created General Motors in 1908 with an amalgamation of the Oldsmobile and Buick companies, but had been forced out of G.M. in 1910 by his bankers.
In 1912, the Chevrolet Company created a partnership with R. M. McLaughlin of Oshawa, who had been building McLaughlin Buicks. McLaughlins then began to manufacture Chevrolet cars in Canada.
In 1913, the Company created the famous ‘bow-tie’ emblem, which was based on a stylized Swiss cross. In 1915, Louis Chevrolet decided to sell his shares to Durant after design disputes. When he died in 1941, Louis Chevrolet was penniless.
Meanwhile, the popularity of the Chevrolets soared. The Company made so much money that Durant was soon able to buy back General Motors.
In 1916, Edward Michener, in partnership with his brother Norman, decided to become the community’s first agents for Chevrolet.
The new firm, Michener Brothers, initially operated out of the old Hepworth-Trimble flour and feed mill, which stood on the current site of the City Centre Stage on 49 St.
Interestingly, in their initial ads, Michener Brothers announced that they were the Central Alberta distributors for the ‘famous Chevrolet cars’ and that they were also dealers in cattle, sheep and horses, paying ‘highest market prices.’
Michener Brothers did very well in the automobile business. In 1918, they had R.G. Dawe construct a large brick garage for them on the southeast corner of Gaetz Ave. and Second St. South (48 St.). This building is still standing.
However, with Edward Michener being appointed a Senator, he and his brother Norman decided to sell the Chevrolet Agency to Ross and Hammond, local farm implement agents.
In 1920, George Ely, who had already purchased the Mechanical Garage from the Michener Brothers, bought out Ross and Co. and changed to name of the business to the General Garage. Ely also added Dodge cars to the dealership.
In 1925, Ely decided to concentrate on auto service and repair. The Chevrolet dealership was taken over by Groo Bannerman, who established Bannerman Motors. Oakland (Pontiac) cars were added to Chevrolets as the lines of vehicles sold.
The onset of the Great Depression brought very hard times. In 1932, W.E. Lord, the owner of Red Deer’s first department store before he sold out to Eaton’s in 1928, bought into Bannerman Motors.
In 1933, together with his son Ralph, he bought the entire dealership and changed the name W.E. Lord Company. They sold Oldsmobiles as well as Chevrolets.
Despite the Depression, the Lords did well. In 1935, they were able to construct a large new brick garage on the northwest corner of 48 St. and Gaetz Ave. This building is still standing. For a while, the Lords added Buicks, Pontiacs, LaSalles and Cadillacs as well as G.M.C., Maple Leaf and Chevrolet trucks to the vehicles they sold.
In 1946, the Lords sold the business to Fred Jenner, an experienced car dealer in Red Deer and Olds. Jenner had also earned a M.B.E. for his distinguished service in the Second World War. The name of the company was changed to Red Deer Motors.
In 1951, Fred Jenner moved to Edmonton where he started Jenner Motors. Walter Harvey then managed the business until his passing in 1957. Red Deer Motors was subsequently purchased by Jack Ferris. He later became partners with Gordon Lund, with Lund taking over sole ownership in 1969.
Meanwhile, with the business booming, a new building was constructed in 1965 on a seven-acre site on the southwest corner of Gaetz Ave. and 32 St. At the time, it was on the southern outskirts of the City.
In 1990, the business was purchased by the Wheaton family and renamed Wheaton Chev Olds. The dealership is now known as Pike Wheaton Chevrolet and is one of the premier dealerships in Central Alberta.