Trucks & Heavy Equipment | 7 February 2018Chevrolet’s First Trucks Share article facebook twitter google pinterest The story of how Chevrolet pickups first came to be is an interesting tale. Although that first Chevy truck wasn’t produced until 1918, the need for such a versatile, capable vehicle was clear to those working at Chevrolet assembly plants a couple years before. Because of this need, they took a few Chevrolet passenger cars, reinforced the load-carrying components, removed some of the rear body panels, and replaced them with platforms to carry parts and supplies. Voilà! The Chevrolet truck was born and, initially, put into service ferrying various parts from place to place at the company’s assembly plants. From the book Chevrolet Trucks: 100 Years of Building the Future is a closer look at some of those earliest models. A 1916 Chevrolet 490 passenger car, converted into the configuration that would have been used in a Chevrolet assembly plant up to two years before the company produced trucks for commercial sales. It was in January 1918, just a few months before Chevrolet became part of General Motors, that Chevrolet’s first series-produced trucks, designated as the Model T, appeared. Those first trucks were open-cab vehicles using the same cowls and flat, but rear-slanting, windshields as Chevrolet’s cloth-topped, open-sided passenger cars. Standard equipment included a speedometer, ammeter, tire pump, electric horn, and twelve-spoke hickory-wood wheels with demountable rims, as well as other essentials. This Chevrolet brochure shows just some of the variations and uses possible with its 490 truck chassis for the 1920 model year. Chevrolet’s overhead-valve inline four-cylinder provided motivation, but with modifications to provide more displacement via a longer stroke and more power—37 horsepower compared to 26 for the passenger car version. Customers bought the rolling chassis (manufacturer’s suggested retail price: $595) and worked with dealers or aftermarket suppliers to secure whatever bodywork was required for their specific needs. In addition to Light Duty trucks, the Model T also was available in three heavy-duty versions: Worm-drive chassis, $1,325, Flare Board Express truck, $1,460 and Curtain Top Express, $1,545. At first, Chevrolet built truck chassis for customers to have “aftermarket” bodywork installed to meet their specific needs. This is one example, a 1918 Chevrolet 490 half-ton light delivery cowl chassis with what we’d now consider an open SUV body and seating. Remove the bodywork from the cowl rearward on a Chevrolet 490 passenger car and you have the basis for Chevy’s first series of trucks. Soon, a Light Delivery truck based more closely on the 490 passenger car was added to the truck line. While the 490 numbers continued to be counted in the car category, Model T production soared to 6,098 units in 1919, with trucks coming off assembly lines in Flint, Michigan; Tarrytown, New York; St. Louis, Missouri; and Oakland, California. “The popularity of Chevrolet trucks was starting to rise,” The Standard Encyclopedia of American Light-Duty Trucks notes in its entry detailing the 1919 model year. It also indicates that, while the 490 truck was a carryover vehicle in its second year, the medium-/heavy-duty Model T truck benefited from Chevrolet’s FB engine. An early sales brochure referring to Chevrolet’s first trucks as “Commercial Cars.” Pages from a Chevrolet sales brochure advertising the company’s new Model G light truck lineup. Although Chevrolet still didn’t produce what we would recognize as pickup bodies for its trucks, in 1920 it equipped the 490 line with fully crowned fenders and headlamps mounted on the front fenders instead of the former tie-bar setup. The company also offered to install some bodywork from outside suppliers right on the assembly line. For example, buyers could select the standard open version or an express wagon with a canopy-style roof supported by what we would recognize today as B- and C-pillars; there was even one version with three rows of seats. Side curtains were available for use in inclement weather. The 1920 sales brochure also showed the 490 chassis with delivery and station wagon bodywork, as well as a “farm wagon” setup for showcasing fresh produce at the marketplace. Meanwhile, the Model T one-ton truck was shown with passenger bus, fire truck, wholesale hauling, and farm stand bodies. “Here is a motor truck of unusual strength and endurance for its capacity,” the brochure proclaimed. Buy From an Online Retailer Chevy has been setting industry standards for 100 years. Chevy Trucks recounts this incredible history, from the classic Series 490 to today’s Silverado and Colorado. In 1917 Chevrolet introduced its first truck, the Series 490, marking the company’s official entry into the dedicated truck business. During the century that has passed since that first Chevy truck, Chevy (and later GMC-brand trucks) have become some of the most ubiquitous and recognizable brands around the world. Every year the company sells over 1 million trucks worldwide. From the very beginning of the story to today’s modern global brand, Chevrolet Trucks: 100 Years of Building the Future covers the entire Chevrolet truck saga, from the early Series 490, to the medium and heavy-duty models, to the light-duty C-series pickups, right up to today’s contemporary Silverado and Colorado. Officially licensed with Chevrolet and created with their full cooperation for imagery as well as interviews with key figures involved with today’s truck program, this thorough history covers the full array of Chevy models since 1917 and is a must have for any truck fan whose heart beats with a V-8 rhythm. Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.