Chevrolet was just the name of a race car driver when James Luck and his brother started a horse-and-buggy and livery-stable business in Ashland, Va., around 1907.
But less than 10 years later, Luck realized that this newfangled horseless carriage was changing the way people got around -- and was here to stay.
So in 1916 he established J.N. Luck Motor Co. and started selling Chevrolet cars, says his great-grandson, Ross Luck, general manager of what is now Luck Chevrolet.
The dealership is owned by Luck's cousin, dealer principal Eddie Stiles, and uncle, Joe Stiles.
"We tell our customers we've been in the transportation business 104 years," says Ross Luck. There was a brief break in that tradition, though: His family business sold refrigerators during World War II when vehicle production was suspended.
Luck Chevrolet is among the oldest Chevrolet dealerships in the United States.
For many years Chevrolet published The Chevrolet Story, which chronicled the brand's history.
The brochure covering the brand's history from 1911 through 1961 noted that Chevy established a wholesale selling organization in Oakland, Calif., in 1914. It says other offices opened a year later in Kansas City, Mo., and Atlanta.
Christo Datini, lead archivist at the General Motors Media Archive, says it could be that those offices were the forerunners of what are now known as zone offices.
An aerial shot of the dealership in 1951
Many of the early dealers such as Luck were merchants who sold cars, often as a sideline, James Rubenstein writes in Making and Selling Cars.
"Some were shopkeepers who also sold hardware, harnesses, wagons, bicycles and tires; others were trades people such as blacksmiths, electricians, locksmiths or livery stable operators," Rubenstein writes of early auto dealers.
Detailed historical information about how Chevrolet established its early dealer network is scarce. Datini says that could be because the original Chevrolet Motor Co. primarily was interested in retaining records about products and programs.
"As the dealers were independent of the factory, the dealer information was not seen as vital for historical preservation," Datini speculates. "Furthermore, Chevrolet did not become part of General Motors until 1918, seven years after it was formed, so the majority of records of the original Chevrolet Motor Co. have most likely been lost to time."
But it's fair to say that soon after GM founder Billy Durant and namesake race car driver Louis Chevrolet started Chevrolet in 1911, they began assembling a retail network in the United States and Canada.
J.N. Luck won a sales award from Chevy in 1926.
An early trade publication, The Horseless Age, carried an ad on Dec. 31, 1913, that solicited "clean and dignified representatives" to sell the Chevrolet Royal Mail and Baby Grand, under the headline, "An Open Letter to Live Auto Dealers Everywhere."
It points out that Chevro-let had a "branch factory" in the heart of New York City and gives dealers a "uniform discount" of 20 percent on vehicles.
"Are you in a position to represent us?" the ad asks.
W.G. Clark answered yes. Clark operated a farm machinery and carriage business in Fredericton, New Brunswick, with his father, John Clark.
In 1915, W.G. Clark put on display one of the first Chevrolets in Canada, says John Clark IV, fourth-generation dealer principal of Clark Chevrolet-Cadillac in Fredericton. Clark IV operates the oldest Chevrolet dealership in Canada, says GM of Canada.
"Shortly thereafter, J. Clark and Son Ltd. began using agents to sell Chevrolets wholesale to local carriage dealers and blacksmiths," according to a 1990 historic account celebrating the company's 75th anniversary as a Chevrolet dealer.
Back then, cars were shipped by rail and had to be assembled after unloading. Alden Clark, W.G. Clark's son, is quoted in the 1990 historical account saying that Chevrolet cars were transported six to a freight car, "doubled decked."
"It was quite a trick getting the first ones out, then lowering the top ones down, putting the wheels on and rolling them out the narrow side door without damaging them," said Alden Clark, then de-scribed as a 65-year veteran of the family business.
"Then we'd have to tow them to the shop to install the windshields, steering wheels, tops, bumpers and spare tires."