From world wars through General Motors' bankruptcy, some dealerships have hung on for nearly 100 years with Chevrolet. The family members running those stores today remember the tough times and the successes.
The brand means more to them than just making a dollar. They eat, sleep and breathe Chevy. Says Chuck Brooks of Cook Motor Co. in Crawford, Ga.: "It's our life. That's what we are."
Here are some of their stories.
Ford to Chevy
A popular pathway to a Chevrolet dealership? Ford.
Frei Chevrolet in Marquette, Mich., got its start in 1913 as a Ford dealership. But by 1922, Clayton Frei was ready to say goodbye to Ford, which was pressuring dealers to take tractors to sell in order to get the cars they wanted.
"So they had way too many Ford farm tractors," says Jim Grundstrom, Frei's grandson and current owner of the Upper Peninsula dealership. "Up here where we're located, the farming season was short."
Enter Chevy, which offered the added bonus of cars available in a range of colors instead of the only-in-black Model T. The notion of those colors enamored Clayton Frei, Grundstrom says.
Down in Texas, Frank Blankenbeckler III's maternal grandfather, Y.C. Carlisle, faced a similar choice. He owned the Ford store in McGregor, Texas.
"Grandfather didn't much want to be in the tractor business," says Blankenbeckler.
So Carlisle packed up and moved to Waxahachie, where he started Carlisle Chevrolet in 1926. Blankenbeckler now runs the store, which advertises itself as the oldest Chevy dealership in Texas.
It wasn't just tractors driving the defections.
In 1926, Grovert Motor Co. in Newhall, Iowa, switched to selling Chevrolets after 13 years with Ford.
"At that time, Chevrolet had more innovations that the public desired," says Bill Grovert, current owner and grandson of founder William Grovert. He cited electric starters, floor pedals and -- again -- those colors among the reasons for the switch.
For Leon Voegeli, it was World War I that caused the change. Voegeli was a Ford dealer in Monticello, Wis., in the mid-1910s, starting when he was just 18. But he sold the Ford store after being drafted into World War I, recalls grandson Dan Stenbroten.
When he came back, Voegeli started selling cars again, buying Chevrolets from other dealers. Chevy offered him a franchise in 1923, and the deal got done in 1924.
In 1995, his family repurchased the Ford dealership. If it hadn't been for the war, Stenbroten doubts his grandfather ever would have let it go.