Chevy Trucks History: 1918 – 1959
garett_mosher Getty Images
1918 Chevrolet Four-Ninety Half Ton Truck
Chevrolet’s historians believe that the company may have built a small number of Four-Ninety trucks for its own use in 1916, and records show that some of the trucks were converted to ambulances and shipped to France.
The first truck produced for individual buyers was built in Flint, Michigan, in November of 1918, and left the factory in December. Chevy introduced two four-cylinder trucks for the 1918 model year, both cowl chassis designs that were only outfitted with sheet metal on the front. Truck buyers of that era typically added a wooden cab and cargo box or a panel van body.
- The half ton Light Delivery cowl chassis was actually a Chevy Four Ninety car without its body, but with beefed-up rear springs. The truck was priced at $595.
- A one ton truck, called the Model T, for ‘truck,’ was priced at $1,125, again without a body. Although it was based on the FA-series car, the pickup was built on a truck frame and was both longer and stronger than the half ton truck. A 37 hp engine boosted the truck’s power and load capacity, but a governor kept its top speed at 25 miles per hour.
1930 Chevy Pickup Truck
Chevy’s inline six-cylinder engine, an overhead valve design, came onto the scene in 1928 and was used in cars and trucks for several decades.
In 1930, Chevy bought the Martin-Parry body company and began to replace its simple cowl chassis trucks with steel-bodied half-ton pickups already equipped with a factory-installed bed. The trucks were available with either a roadster body, shown above or a closed body, like the panel truck below.
Roadsters of 1930 had a completely different look than the Chevy SSR Roadster, a truck that lasted only a couple of years.
1930 Chevrolet Panel Truck
This 1930 panel truck was one of the models in Chevy’s lineup during the 1930s, a decade when more manufacturers entered the pickup truck market.
1937 Chevy Half-Ton Truck
The U.S. economy saw a recovery in the mid-’30s, and Chevy grabbed the opportunity to promote its trucks. In 1937, pickups became more streamlined, with a sturdier body and more powerful 78 horsepower engine.
Chevy loaded a 1937 half ton truck with 1,060 pounds of cargo and sent it on a 10,245 mile trip around the United States — the truck averaged 20.74 miles per gallon. Its drive was monitored by the American Automobile Association.
1947 Chevrolet Advance-Design Half-Ton Truck
Early in 1947, Chevy introduced the first GM vehicles to be completely redesigned following World War II. In building its Advance-Design trucks, Chevy’s goal was to offer owners a more roomy and comfortable cab with better visibility, along with a wider box.
Designers set headlamps wide apart in the truck’s front fenders, and they were separated by a grille with five horizontal bars. Chevy continued to make improvements to the truck through 1953 and changed its front-end appearance in early 1955.
Chevy saw a shift in customers during the Advanced Design’s run. Before World War II, one truck was sold for every four cars. In 1950 Chevrolet became the first U.S. automaker to sell more than two million vehicles in one year, and the ratio of cars to trucks shifted to about 2.5:1.
1955 Chevrolet Task Force Truck
Chevy’s truck customers were becoming more concerned about style and performance by the mid-1950s, and in 1955 the automaker introduced its new Task Force trucks, which shared design roots with the Chevy Bel Air. Optional equipment included a new small-block V8 engine.
The Chevy Cameo truck was introduced the same year.
In 1957, a factory-installed 4-wheel-drive system became available on some Chevy trucks, and a Fleetside box option was offered in 1958. Updated Task Force models were available through 1959.
1955 Chevy Cameo Carrier Truck
The words ‘Task Force’ bring to mind a truck that’s ready for work, but the 1955 Cameo Carrier was more of a trendy town-truck.
It only had a three-year run, but Chevy historians regard the Cameo Carrier as a precursor to future generations of trucks, built to combine comfort, work, and style, including the El Camino, Avalanche and Silverado Crew Cab.
1959 Chevrolet El Camino
Chevy’s original El Camino looked very much like the Chevy cars of its day, but with the capabilities of a half-ton truck. The new truck lasted one year before being shelved but was brought back in 1964 as the ‘personal pickup’ concept, a design based on the Chevy Chevelle.
Two generations of the Chevelle El Camino were produced, the first from 1968-1972 and the second from 1973-1977. Buyers could outfit their truck with a big-block V8 engine, and by 1968 a complete Super Sport package was available.
The last El Camino trucks were built for the 1987 model year. El Camino fans hoped that the Pontiac G8 Sport Truck would make it to production, but the project was scrapped.