The 1916 Chevrolet Series 490 transformed Chevy from an also-ran into a major player, as the young company move downscale to compete seriously against Ford's phenomenally popular Model T.

1916 Chevrolet Series 490
The 1916 Chevrolet 490 was Chevy's attempt to compete with the
Ford Model T. See more pictures of Chevrolet Series cars.

On sale by June 1915, as a 1916 model, the "Four-Ninety" was named for its initial price. A Model T Ford just happened to cost $490 but soon fell to $440, slaying Chevy's brief rivalry on price alone.

In reality, with a full electrical system, the 490 actually cost $550 more. Chevrolet responded to Ford's price cut by offering its car for $490 complete, but that figure quickly proved unprofitable, so the price of a properly equipped touring car or roadster reverted to $550.

Spanning a 102-inch wheelbase, the down-to-basics 490 was built in franchised plants to cut costs and hasten delivery. A simplified variant of the 171-cubic-inch four-cylinder engine from the Series H yielded 20 horsepower (same as the Model T). Painted only in black -- again like Ford -- the lightweight 490 had a cone clutch and three-speed transmission.

Within 17 days, Chevrolet Motor Company had 4,661 orders with cash deposits. Durant claimed that "a little child can sell it," and more than 18,000 were built in the first year.

As the new model gained attention, total sales soared to 62,898 cars, sending Chevrolet into seventh place in the industry -- approaching Studebaker.

1916 Chevrolet Series 490
The 490 was named for its price, although
properly equipped it actually cost more.

1916 Chevrolet Series 490 Facts
Model
Weight range (lbs.)
Price range (new)
Number built
All models
1,820-2,500
$550-$750
70,701

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