It didn’t take long for people to realize that early cars could transport more than people; they could transport freight and goods. Soon, enterprising dealers were selling basic car chassis so that buyers could make install wooden beds on them and use them to haul things. In fact, small operations sprung up all around the country to manufacture these early trucks.
It didn’t take Detroit long to catch on to this trend and start manufacturing their own trucks. In 1916, Chevrolet was one of the first to offer a “pickup truck” right from the factory. It was a huge hit.
By 1918, Chevrolet was offering several factory-designed 4-cyl pickup truck models. Some of them could be ordered customized with wooden cabs, cargo boxes and panel bodies to suit their customer’s needs. The sales staff at Century 3 Chevrolet of West Mifflin, PA a full-service Chevy dealer said the 1918 Chevrolet truck chassis was priced at just $595.
Because trucks often required more power than ordinary passenger cars, Chevrolet started to build more heavy duty chassis. These included heavy steel frames, larger wheels, dual rear tires and more powerful engines. In the early 1940s, Chevrolet started producing a more powerful inline six cylinder engine, “the Stovebolt Six”, which became the mainstay power-plant in Chevrolet cars and trucks for decades to come.
The US entered WWII in 1941 and the entire American automobile industry switched over to production of war goods. Domestic automobile production did not resume until 1946 when the war was over. In 1947, Chevrolet introduced its Advance Design Truck Line to satisfy pent-up, post-war demand. Rather than settle for a basic utility look, the designers now made the styling attractive with rounded fenders and dome-like cab. During the Advance Design Trucks’ run, there was a measurable shift among Chevrolet customers from buying passenger cars to buying trucks. People started to buy them as their basic transportation. In fact, before WWII, the ratio of Chevrolet cars sold to trucks had been about 4 to 1. By 1950, the ratio of cars to trucks was closer to 2.5 to 1. Chevrolet also became the first brand to sell more than 2 million vehicles in a single year.
By 1967, the Federal Interstate Highway System was completed which gave motorists access to the entire nation. Trucks soon played a major role in transporting goods and freight country wide. To power this new generation of freight haulers, Chevrolet offered a variety of small- and big-block V-8 engines. It was during this time that Chevrolet began a long running TV and Radio advertising program that included the legendary jiggle “See the USA in your Chevrolet”.
In 1999, the Chevrolet Silverado was introduced. The new Silverado trucks resulted from the most intensive truck development program yet undertaken by GM. It was the first time that GM focused efforts closely on providing passenger car-level interior comfort and convenience features in their truck models. Those who owned the early Chevy trucks would be amazed at what they would see today. The newest trucks ride just as well as a fine car and are loaded with features. There isn’t such thing as a “utility truck” anymore, they are more like cars than ever before.