Love them or hate them they are some of the best selling vehicles in the Country. Almost half of the vehicles I’ve owned in my driving carrer have been trucks. My father always had a truck growing up as well as my grandfather. My first vehicle was a pickup so I have an affinity for them. Mine was a 1994 Dodge Ram. It was a single cab 4×4 and I absolutely loved that thing. As a 16 year old I was pretty rough on the thing and broke it a few times but it took a pretty good beating. Since then I’ve owned two other Dodge pickups and they were both great, I regret selling all of them haha. I get slightly attached to my vehicles and I don’t know what it is about the trucks but I become more attached to them than the cars i’ve owned. Trucks are great in that you can throw anything you need in the bed, most of them have good power, and curbs are merely a suggestion. They have been the backbone of the workforce in the United States and many other countries for a century now. Today a good percentage of them are used as passenger vehicles with many offering the same or better creature comforts as their car counterparts but it wasn’t always like that.
There have been trucks around since the very late 1890’s but they took a few years to really become popular. Chevrolet offered models that were essentially cars with an open frame and that’s pretty much it. This allowed for the buyer to install their own cab and bed on the vehicle to meet their needs. There were companies who installed truck beds on modified Ford model T’s but it wasn’t until 1925 that Ford started mass production of a pickup truck based on the model T called the model T Runabout. Dodge introduced their version of the truck just one year earlier in 1924. The Runabout was replaced in 1928 with the model A which offered an enclosed cab. These trucks were still just pick up bodies from the factory and it wasn’t until 1931 that Chevrolet introduced the first factory assembled pickup truck. The United states government halted the production of the pickup trucks for civilians during World War Two so that they could be used for wartime duties.
The 1950s were a stylish era for cars and trucks alike. While not my favorite era of trucks, they are close. No other time were trucks more original ,styling wise, in my opinion. World War Two was still fresh in the minds of many and the general public was ready to settle down, buy a home and a new pickup truck for work. One of my favorites was the 1955 to 1957 Chevy pickups, particularly the Napco trucks. The Dodge Power Wagon made a name for itself during the war with it’s 4×4 capability and Chevrolet noticed. Napco had been makin specialized mechanical parts for four-wheel-drive systems for over a century for multiple brands but most notably the mid 50’s Chevrolet and GMC trucks. I’m a big fan of four wheel drive capability in a pickup because why not? While not necessary in all climates the more capability the better in my book. The Napco kit could be installed in as little as 3 hrs and with only four extra holes drilled into the frame. The kit could be ordered directly from Chevrolet for the 56-59 model years and it really transformed the old Chevy into a much more capable truck. Go check out Legacy Classic Trucks, known for their awesome power wagon builds, who also offer pretty much brand new Napco Chevy pickups and they are gorgeous!
Pickup trucks of the 1960’s became more squared off and less stylish in my opinion. That’s not to say they were ugly, unless you count the Studebaker Champ. Yes Studebaker had a full size pickup to compete with the likes of Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge and so did International Harvester, best known for the Scout and their heavy equipment. Trucks of this era were still pretty utilitarian compared to todays but that really goes for all prior generations , we will get to that later. Although Trucks were built for work manufacturers were still innovating with new technologies and ways of doing things. Ford had their twin I-beam independent front suspension, Jeep touted their Gladiator pickup with its four-wheel-drive, and Dodge offered a crew cab with enough room for 6 passengers. Factory four-wheel-drive was still around as options but most trucks of the decade were still rear-wheel-drive and mostly offered with inline 6 cylinder engines. I think the late 60’s Fords and Chevys were the best looking of the decade and the V-8 engine started to become more and more popular.
The 1970’s was a glorious decade for pickup trucks and had some of the best looking in my opinion. I’m a huge fan of the big four-wheel-drive square body trucks. It’s hard to beat old steel, manual transfer cases, and solid axles. One of my all time favorite “old trucks” is the Ford F-250 Highboy. It was introduced in 1967 and was produced until 1977. The ¾ tons were revamped the year after and sat almost 2 inches lower giving the older trucks the nickname Highboy. Most were powered by Fords 360 V-8 and were offered with the C6 automatic or 4-speed manual transmission. The Highboy F250 is the best looking Ford pickup ever in my opinion. Toyota pretty much dominated the Japanese truck market in the 1970s and after although Datsun had been around in the states since the 1950’s. 1979 saw the introduction of my favorite older Japanese truck the Hilux. The Hilux was the first compact truck to offer four-wheel-drive and Toyota did it right fitting it with a pretty indestructible drivetrain, good ground clearance and very good reliability making them sought after for trail rig builds. We have a very clean 1987 Toyota pickup as a shop truck and they are pretty cool little trucks. Toyota’s reputation in the small truck market is unsurpassed in my eyes and if I were in the market for one it would probably be a Toyota.
I think i’ll save the 1980s trucks through todays for a future write up and talk a little bit about why I love pickup trucks so much and what my experience with them has been. As I mentioned earlier my first vehicle when I was 16 was a 1994 Dodge Ram and it was great. I had a lot of fun in that thing and it held up to my abuse pretty well. It started my love affair with trucks. It had the smaller 318 V8 in it but it was a solid engine with plenty of power. I had a car for a few years after that and then splurged on my first brand new vehicle, a 2006 Dodge Ram 2500. Growing up around my dad and grandfather who were truck buyers and always had been it was a proud day for me. I worked hard to afford that brand new pickup and I don’t think i have been more excited about a vehicle purchase since. It was a club cab (four door) ¾ ton with the Cummins diesel engine and it was great. I had been into diesel performance for years prior reading about it but I had never owned one. The “computer controlled” diesels were still kinda new in 2006 so programming was very dirty but amazing how much power was available with just a $500 box plugged into the OBD2 port. I put a silly 5” turbo back exhaust on it and it was a bit loud but I loved it at the time.
I’ve owned two other trucks since then including my favorite so far but i’ll save those for later. I think today’s trucks suffer from what the military refers to as “mission creep”. They are still trucks as far as classification goes but many consumers don’t buy them for what they’re original purpose was, to work. A large population of truck buyers shuttle more people than wood or dirt. I prefer older trucks for their “down to business” styling and simple, beefy drivetrains but I totally see the allure of the new pickup trucks. They have all of the cool new technology that cars have, in some cases better, and they can still tow trailers and haul heavy loads. Trucks today are more capable than ever but are used by many as daily transportation, not a means of making a living but that’s ok. All the cool tech and creature comforts make them desirable to many who need room for the whole family but also need room for hauls from the hardware store or somewhere for their wet dog to ride. The downside to all of this is that ,in my opinion, they have gotten way out of hand pricewise. New trucks, with all of the fancy stuff they have now are pretty expensive. You can option out full size one-ton diesel trucks from any of the three major manufactures here to well over 70k, some over 80k. That’s nuts! Maybe i’m just jealous because I can’t afford one, i don’t know haha. I love the old trucks but if someone gave me a new one I wouldnt turn it down. From all of us here at Gearbox have fun, be safe, and keep the shiny side up!