The Death of Gaston Chevrolet


The careers of the Chevrolet brothers were steeped with some amazing accomplishments in otherwise fairly tragic lives. This video clip is a short 36 seconds and while interesting, it hardly does justice to what Gaston, Arthur and the patriarch Louis were all about.


I wrote a very enjoyable piece about Louis Chevrolet in this year's Indianapolis Motor Speedway Allstate 400 program which chronicles his racing accomplishments and his numerous business failures. In pulling together that story, I came across what I thought was a very poignant piece on Louis by AP writer Don Pryor which was published in 1938, near the end of Chevrolet's life. Virtually a forgotten man even before he died, Chevrolet had not only endured losing several fortunes in selling his stock in the Chevrolet Motor Company and the rights to his Frontenac Company (ending in bankruptcy), but also suffered the grief of Gaston's death and the passing of his Purdue educated son, Charles. His relationship with brother Arthur became estranged due to a dispute over investments in their "Fronty Ford" engine products and investments in aviation. Arthur had retreated to Louisiana working as a boat mechanic and, apparently despondent, committed suicide after Louis' death. He rests with his brothers in an unmarked grave at the Holy Cross and St. Joseph's Cemetary in Indianapolis.


Gaston, as this video notes, won the 1920 Indianapolis 500 at the wheel of a car designed by brother Louis. His death at the final race of the year at the Beverly Hills board track in Southern California triggered another weird chapter of American motor sport that continues to this day. Gaston won the points-based national championship posthumously that year. In most quarters, he is recognized for that today. Unfortunately, some still think Tommy Milton won the championship, which is the product of revisionist history by American Automobile Association (AAA) officials. I won't open that can of worms here.


The board tracks were notoriously deadly. Indianapolis 500 winners Joe Boyer (1924) Howdy Wilcox (1919) both lost their lives on board tracks, nearly a year apart. September 1924 was paricularly deadly for auto racing as Boyer, Jimmy Murphy and Dario Resta - Indianapolis 500 winners all - were killed racing. Murphy and Resta did not die on the boards though. Murphy was at the dirt track at Syracuse and Resta died at the famous Brooklands track in England. Unfortunately, as this video demonstrates, Gaston Chevrolet's name is also on that list of "500" champions who died racing.