Segment One: 1918-1928 Four Cylinder Pickups

Author: Don Bunn

When William Durant (Billy) and Louis Chevrolet began selling Chevrolet cars in November 1911, actually the 1912 model year, their new company was not part of General Motors. Formerly Billy was head of GM, a company he founded in 1908, but had been forced out by the company's bankers who considered him unfit to run an enterprise the size of GM. Durant started the Chevrolet Motor Company on November 3, 1911. His long term strategy was to long

This 1918 Chevrolet 490 Light Delivery chassis cowl was the first truck model Chevrolet built. The chassis cowl consists of the painted metal parts. The wooden cab and pickup-type body were purchased from an aftermarket manufacturer. It was rated for a payload capacity of 1,000lbs. and sold for $595 retail. (Photo: Tom Snively)

term strategy was to use Chevrolet to regain control of General Motors. He reasoned he could accomplish his goal by quickly growing the new company into a very successful and profitable enterprise. The profits generated thereby would be used to purchase GM stock until he had a controlling interest. His inspiration was Mr. Ford whose Model T had proven to be successful beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Billy figured he could take Ford on and win with a competing low priced auto. Chevrolet cars sold well enough and generated profits such that by 1916 he controlled 54.5 percent of GM stock. He walked into GM and declared himself president.

The other new truck from Chevrolet in 1918 was the one-ton Model T "Ton Truck". It had a payload capacity rating of 2,000lbs and sold for $1245 retail. Chevrolet built only the chassis cowl and the buyer purchased a body from a manufacturer. A 1920 model is shown at left. This body was called a Covered Flareboard In the center is a 1925 Ford TT one-ton stake and on the right is a 1955 Chevrolet 1 1/2 ton chassis cab with Farm Body. (Photo: Everett Nebergall)

The first Chevrolet trucks went on sale in 1918, the same year that the Chevrolet Motor Company became part of GM. Chevrolet's famous series 490 auto was also new in 1918. This model was designed to compete directly with Ford's Model T. The 490 designation was based on the price the car was to sell for which was also the amount a Model T had been selling for. Mr. Ford immediately lowered the price of a Model T after the Series 490 was announced.

The first Chevrolet truck was the Model 490 Light Delivery. The half-ton rated 490 Light Delivery was a chassis cowl only based on the 490 auto. A chassis cowl included the chassis with engine, transmission and the front sheet metal which comprised the hood, front fenders, grille and headlights. Its instrument panel, steering wheel, foot pedals and shift lever were exactly the same as the cars.

The customer was expected to provide his own cab and body. Cabs and bodies in those days were constructed of wood. Often times the buyer would build his own body, usually without a cab, but most truck buyers purchased bodies and cabs from an outside independent body company.

The 490 was powered by a four cylinder overhead valve engine displacing 171 cubic

This 1921 Chevrolet 490 Roadster Pickup's cargo box is an aftermarket item. Its interesting to note that the Roadster without a box sold for only $625, the Light-Delivery without a cab or body sold for $560. The Roadster was considered by many buyers to be a better value because it was an ideal dual-purpose vehicle. (Photo: Don Bunn)

The 1927 Superior Model one-ton Utility Express was the first truck Chevrolet offered with a factory cab. The base truck sold for $495, the cab was $115. (Photo: Mike Larson)

inches. This engine which developed 21.7 SAE horsepower lasted through the 1928 model year. The 490's wheelbase was only 102 inches and it was rated for a maximum payload of 1,000 pounds. Its transmission was the same three-speed as used in the auto. Chevrolet was not bashful in advertising its selective gear shift transmission against Ford's foot pedal operated transmission. The windshield was an extra cost item. The 490 were equipped with 30x3 1/2 balloon tires front and rear. Its list price was $595.
Chevrolet's other new truck in 1918 was the Model T one-ton chassis cowl. It was a modified Model FA passenger car chassis, but it was beefed up a bit for commercial service. Its OHV four-cylinder engine displaced 224 cubic-inches and produced 21.7 net horsepower. It rode on a 125 inch wheelbase. Its list price was $1125. The one-ton featured a worm drive rear end, a half floating rear axle, 31x4 front balloon tires and 32x4 solid rubber rears, eight leaf front springs and 12 leaf rear springs and was rated for a maximum GVW of 2000 pounds.

The 490 Light Delivery and one-ton Model T remained in production through the 1922 model year. A 3/4 ton chassis cowl Model G was added in 1921 but it only lasted through 1922. The Light Delivery chassis and the one-ton trucks were renamed the Superior Series in 1922 (the same as Chevrolet Cars), this name lasted through the 1927 model year. The Series name was changed to Capitol for both trucks in 1927 which lasted through 1928 - the last year for the four cylinder era. It is interesting to note that for the one-ton model only a cab, stake body and panel body became available in 1927 only. Truck buyers could and did purchase and install aftermarket pickup bodies during this time. The cab returned for 1928 but the bodies didn't. No factory built pickups were built between 1918 and 1928, Chevrolet provided only the chassis and cowl.

Chevrolet's second series 1927 models were called the Series AA Capitol Trucks. The left side of the Capitol's four-cylinder engine is shown. It developed 21.7 SAE horsepower and 35 brake horsepower (Photo: Gary Benidt)

Shown is a 1928 Chevrolet half-ton chassis cab with an aftermarket pickup body. This was the last year for the original Chevrolet four cylinder cars and trucks. (Photo: Jim Benjaminson)

The last four cylinder Chevrolet one-ton truck was this 1928 Capitol Series LO chassis cab with low farm box. (Photo: Don Bunn)

Next Segment: Early Six Cylinder Pickups, 1928-1931