Chevrolet Trucks: Building America for 95 years

1916 Four Ninety pickup built for use in Chevrolet plants Photo courtesy of Vintage Chevrolet Club of America

1916 Four Ninety pickup built for use in Chevrolet plants Photo courtesy of Vintage Chevrolet Club of America

It started with a simple idea – a few car chassis fitted with hand-built beds to help carry materials around a booming car factory. Before long, millions of Chevrolet pickups were woven into the fabric of a fast-growing country. Chevy trucks tackled the toughest jobs on farms and in the fields, hauled tools and lumber to the burgeoning suburbs and carried families and friends into the wilds for well-earned vacations.

“Full-size pickups are unique, both in the jobs their owners ask of them and how long customers expect them to last” said John Crotty, Owner of Crotty Chevrolet Buick in Corry, PA. “For the past 95 years Chevrolet Pickups have earned the reputation of being the most-dependable, longest-lasting full-size pickup truck on the market.”

“The legacy that Chevrolet trucks have built over the last 95 years is important to protect,” said Don Johnson, Chevrolet vice president of Sales and Service.  “The best way for us to do that is by delivering the capability and technology our customers have grown to expect, in both our current trucks and in our next generation of full-size pickups.”

Here are some Chevy truck highlights:

1918 Chevrolet 490 half-ton Cowl Chassis

1918 Chevrolet 490 half-ton Cowl Chassis

1918 Chevrolet Four-Ninety Half-Ton Light Delivery “Cowl Chassis”

Although there are indications that some Four-Ninety based trucks were built for internal use in 1916, and that a few even earlier chassis may have been converted to ambulances and sent to France in 1914, the first customer chassis appears to have been built in Flint, Mich., on Nov. 22, 1916, and shipped from the factory on Dec. 2 that year.

Two four-cylinder models marked Chevrolet’s formal entry into the truck market for the 1918 model year. Both were cowl chassis units that came from the factory with only frontal sheet metal. It was customary at the time for buyers to obtain a wooden cab and cargo box or panel van body to suit their purposes.

Priced at $595, the half-ton Light Delivery cowl chassis was essentially a bodyless Chevrolet Four Ninety car equipped with stronger rear springs. Mounted with a pickup box or panel body, it provided an agile and economical light-delivery truck for small businesses popping up across America in the boom following the First World War.

The second model, a 1-ton capacity 1918 Chevrolet “Model T” (presumably for “Truck”) cost $1,125 without a body.  It was based on the FA-series car, and was built on a truck frame that was longer and stronger than the half-ton model.  A 37-horsepower engine gave the larger truck the power to haul heavier loads at a governor-limited top speed of 25 mph.

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