The Chevrolet Motor Car Company was originally founded by renowned race car driver Louis Chevrolet and ousted General Motors founder William C. Durant in November 1911. Chevrolet was acquired by General Motors in 1918 and positioned by Alfred Sloan to sell mainstream vehicles to compete with Henry Ford's Model T. The first Chevrolet truck, the 490, was produced in 1918 and was a light truck. Chevrolet produced the chassis and engine, but the customers needed to supply their own cab and body, which was generally made from wood. In the 1930s, they offered four different body types: pick-up, panel, sedan delivery and canopy. While luxury and upmarket models of commercial vehicles were available in the United States by the 1930s, in Australia many commercial operators were still making the transition from horse power to petrol power and generally only one model of truck in each weight capacity was available.
This 1935 Chevrolet truck was imported as a kit with components produced by Chevrolet's Canadian manufacturing plant. Australia was subject to the Empire Preference Policy of the British Commonwealth which placed tariffs on products from non-Commonwealth countries such as the United States. As a result General Motors and Ford both established Canadian subsidiary companies to avoid these tariffs. This vehicle would have originally been built as a rolling chassis and fitted with a cab built locally by Holden.
The Holden company began in 1856 as a saddlery and leather business, venturing into the new business of motor car body building in 1905. Holden Motor Body Builders was established in 1917 as a result of the Australian Government embargo on the import of foreign built car bodies. As a result motor vehicles such as this Chevrolet truck could only be imported as a rolling chassis and parts. By 1923 Holden Motor Body Builders was supplying over 50 percent of the Australian car body market and in 1924 they secured a lucrative contract as the exclusive supplier of car bodies for General Motors in Australia. In 1931, due to the difficult years of the Great Depression, General Motors (USA) negotiated the purchase of the local company and formed General Motors-Holden's Limited.
This vehicle, a 1935 Series Q, was found in a paddock in Victoria and was rebuilt over an eleven year period by a retired signwriter. He restored the paintwork to its original design by hand. With the introduction of computer graphics, the skills of the signwriting profession have changed dramatically and this restoration gave him a chance to practice the traditional skills.
This model also demonstrates the change in van design. Today’s vans are mainly "forward control" (the driver sits in line with, or slightly behind the engine and front axle) which reduces the vehicle's length. With this van, the engine and front axle are well ahead of the driver making for a longer vehicle.