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Chevrolet Royal Mail roadster, 1914

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Chevrolet Royal Mail roadster, 1914
Smithsonian Institution, Negative #: 78-12252


This object appears in the following sections:

Smithsonian Automobile Collection — Car collection, 1910-1919

Chevrolet Royal Mail roadster, 1914
Chevrolet Royal Mail roadster, 1914

Chevrolet Royal Mail roadster
Catalog #: 336,719, Accession #: 1978.1027
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection

The 1914 Chevrolet Royal Mail roadster represents the early years of a make that a decade later would become the low-priced, mass-market leader in General Motors Corporation's varied array of cars. In 1914, Chevrolet cars were redesigned to compete with Ford and other makes vying for the low-priced market, which comprised working class and middle-class Americans. The Royal Mail and its larger companion, the Baby Grand touring car, were the first Chevrolet cars priced under $1,000. The Royal Mail body was considered streamlined and attractive. Its four-cylinder engine featured an overhead valve design, a Buick innovation that increased power; the OHV design reappeared on other GM cars during the next several decades. Alton M. Costley, a businessman who owned a Chevrolet dealership near Atlanta, donated this car to the Smithsonian in 1978.

Physical Description

The 1914 Chevrolet Series H roadster, marketed as the Chevrolet Royal Mail, is an open car with a folding top and folding windshield. Like many "streamlined" cars of the day, its styling is smooth and uninterrupted and flows from front to back without projecting hardware or accessories. The gasoline tank is external, but it has a pleasing elliptical shape that complements the body. The hand-cranked engine has four cylinders and an overhead valve design.

Date Made:

Gift of Alton M. Costley


William C. Durant, founder of General Motors, introduced the Chevrolet automobile in 1911. The first model, an expensive touring car designed by race-car driver and mechanic Louis Chevrolet, did not sell well. Durant decided to manufacture cars for the rapidly growing low-priced market, which the Ford Model T then dominated. The stylish Chevrolet Royal Mail roadster and Chevrolet Baby Grand touring car cost more than a Model T; they attracted thousands of buyers, but sales did not come close to Ford. Sales of later models such as the Chevrolet 490, priced at $490, rose more rapidly but still amounted to only a fraction of Model T sales. In the 1920s, Chevrolet became the cornerstone of General Motors' renewed bid to unseat Ford as America's leading mass-market auto producer. Stylish and comfortable, Chevrolet cars were sold on credit and presented an affordable version of more expensive GM makes such as Oldsmobile, Buick, and Cadillac. GM's strategy of offering a "price for every purse," combined with expanded production capacity, paid off. By the 1930s, Ford no longer held its commanding lead; Chevrolet's annual sales approached or exceeded those of Ford and put millions of Americans on wheels.

Related People, Places, and Events
Chevrolet Motor Car Company

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