What Would the Corvette Look Like if it Were Built in the 1920s?

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Chevrolet (the man) used his engines to turn Ford Model Ts into race winning machines. One recently headed to auction.

As if Chevy guys needed more ammunition for their Ford-owning friends, history has one more. In the 1920s, the Chevrolet brothers turned Ford’s Model T engines into race winners.

This ’26 Model T Frontenac headed across the block in October at The Branson Auction in Missouri and sold for a mere $16,225. Extraordinarily cheap considering this represents one of the more interesting parts of American racing history: The part where Chevrolet cranked horsepower out of Ford motors.

1926 Ford Model T Frontenac

Louis, Gaston, and Arthur Chevrolet made their surname big through racing. Gaston won the ’20 Indianapolis 500 with a Frontenac, a car that the brothers designed. Louis Chevrolet won the following year at Indy as a car owner with Tommy Milton in the driver’s seat.

Here’s where things get interesting. The Chevrolet brothers had already lent their name to one of General Motors’ brands, but they got their kicks off adding power to competitors’ cars for racing. We’ll let Motor Authority fill in the gaps:

“Disagreements between Chevrolet and [GM founder] Billy Durant led to the brothers creating their own car company, Frontenac, with Gaston and Tommy Milton both winning at Indy in such cars. Chevrolet also produced cylinder heads that greatly increased the performance of Ford’s Model T, and Fronty-Fords won races at tracks across the country.”

'26 Model T Frontenac engine

Check out the video for more information. The Fronty-Ford up for auction is believed to be a replica. However, by the time a ‘26 Fronty-Ford was racing, it was likely winning only smaller races. Legendary engine builders Duesenberg and Miller (which later became Offenhauser) were dominating the big stages like Indianapolis by 1922.

Frontenac was out of business by the end of 1921, although the engines stuck around for longer. That’s common with race engines, but Louis Chevrolet took odd mechanic jobs where he could. His last name nevertheless became synonymous with performance and rightly so.

This was The Branson Auction‘s 39th year with twice-annual events in the spring and fall. See the auction results here.

Eric Rood is a regular contributor to Corvette Forum and LS1Tech, among other auto sites.

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