Grandpa’s 1920 Chevrolet 490 Touring

Hot on the heels of our recent 1916 International Harvester Model E Pickup offering, comes this car from the same collection in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where both great-grandfather and grandfather of the seller obviously suffered from the incurable condition of oldcar-itis. On offer here on eBay is grandpa’s 1920 Chevrolet 490 Touring, in a state of disassembly, but certainly ready to come together to put yet another early American automobile back on the road. This is an important and noble task that falls to the next owner. I only wish there was a way to persuade young people to put down the phone and pick up a wrench. I can’t think of a better way to learn — not just a skill, but some history, too, about how America became the America we know today. Billy Durant started Chevrolet and his moxie, drive, and smarts helped him found the powerhouse General Motors. He is an underrated hero and a shining example of the power of the individual to change the world.

The Chevrolet 490 Touring, built between 1915 and 1922, featured an overhead valve 4-cylinder engine making 24HP. The seller says the car on offer ran “40 years ago or so (post-rebuild) and was put away well – should not take much to get running.” In the ensuing years, not just the engine but the drivetrain and chassis have been rebuilt so that’s one thing to take off your to-do list. Personally, I think it would be important to hear it running, but for the right price, I think it’s possible to take the seller’s word for it, particularly if grandpa rebuilt the engine. Chances are he did the job right.

The seller says the car is full of parts, fenders, etc. but adds the caveat: “This is a project and no guarantees that all parts are there.” Fair enough. I’m pretty certain with enough sleuthing anything that might be missing could be sourced. Sales numbers were pretty healthy in its seven-year production (if you put any stock in the wikipedia entry); 150,226 units in 1920 alone. Total approximate production run, again unverified, was over 750,000 units. So there are probably parts out there.

The 490 was Durant’s answer to Ford’s Model T; it was also the cost of the car upon its introduction in 1915. We always think of this automotive era as being dominated by the T and, while that was largely true, the era also gave birth to some amazing innovators and capitalists who not only helped put America on wheels, but established our nation as the transportation powerhouse of the world. In the case of the dismantled Chevrolet offered here, there will be some sweat, tears, and heartache as you journey on the path to a rebuild. But think of what you’ll be preserving! And, if that journey includes a young person, you’ll be personally contributing to keeping the American spirit alive.

Comments

  1. Bills

    Grandpa ran out of time. Spirited bidding means it will be finished. And he did save a car for another day.

  2. bobH Member

    I wish, I wish, I wish…. Wish I was 20 years younger. I could be all over this one. Of course, even if obtained for free, no way could a person come out financially… See the identical car listed in Georgia for 18K, ready to drive and enjoy. Doing this one would be a labor of love, and an ‘honor’ to grandpa. (Money be damned…) This one rings my bell.

  3. Mountainwoodie

    Let me be the first to say. That will buff right out!
    On a serious note someone competent needs to purchase restore this. We can’t let various parts of our motoring history disappear.

    Like 7
  4. William Hall

    It would be nice to get Kids out from behind a video game. There is so much to learn, and this old Chevy would be a great teaching tool.

    Like 3
  5. John Washburn

    Thank you for a good write-up. I am fortunate that my Dad introduced me to old cars when I was a teenager and I never lost interest.

  6. Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

    Stephen,

    In the 1980s I had a restoration shop that needed mechanic’s assistants. I spoke with the man who ran the county school system’s auto trades program. He began sending me 2 of his brightest students who also had an interest in antique cars. They helped us during the afternoons and came in as full time guys during the summer months. They learned so much more than the school system could offer, including the REBUILDING, rather than simply replacing, items like carburetors, alternators & generators, starter motors, and more. They also learned the history behind why certain automobile parts are designed differently for various suppliers. We were handling this under an intern [unpaid] basis.

    This program worked for 2 years until someone in the state education office found out, and because we were not in possession of teaching credentials, they stopped the program.

    Like 3
  7. bone

    I dont know if I’d trust the engine just because a Grandfather built it ; my Grandfather ran a owned and ran a small general store and he never even learned to drive, let alone do something mechanically ! As old as this car is, I would have to take the time to tear the engine down, or find some one who could , just to be sure it wont grenade

    Like 2

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