Felix Chevrolet is the oldest auto dealership operating in the city of Los Angeles. It was opened in 1921 at 12th Street and Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles, by Winslow Felix, reported to be the first Mexican American-owned dealership in Los Angeles. Felix was also said to be a friend of Patrick Sullivan, one of the creators of the “Felix the Cat” cartoon character (introduced nine years before Mickey Mouse). Sharing a name with Sullivan’s cat character, Felix acquired rights to feature the character in his dealership’s marketing.
In 1957, Nickolas Shammas purchased the dealership. He saw potential in the 110 freeway being built through Downtown Los Angeles and wanted to position his newly-purchased dealership to take advantage of it. Shammas relocated the dealership, in 1958, to its current location in University Park. Above the showroom, he erected the three-sided Felix the Cat neon sign (designed and created by Wayne E. Heath), to draw the attention of motorists on the nearby freeway. Felix Chevrolet went on to become, at one point, the largest Chevrolet dealership west of the Mississippi.
The Felix the Cat sign has since become an iconic landmark in Los Angeles, arguably in the same class as the Hollywood Sign. In 2007, preservation activists sought official cultural/historic landmark status for the sign and showroom from the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission. The dealership owners strongly objected, citing the need for flexibility to adapt to an evolving market and development. They did promise, however, to maintain the sign. Also opposed to landmark designation was then Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and City Council member Jan Perry. In the end, although the commission voted to declare the sign and showroom a city cultural/historic landmark, the city council decline to approve the designation. In 2012, the sign was changed from neon to LED lighting, in order to reduce climbing maintenance costs.