Chevy's top 10 trucks of all time

TheStreet.com

It took Chevrolet six years to decide that if the auto market was a good place to be, the truck market might also offer some potential.

So in January 1918, Chevrolet -- which was founded Nov. 3, 1911 -- added its first truck models. Since then, the iconic company has sold tens of millions of trucks.

In fact, in recent years, particularly before the U.S. auto industry restructuring at the end of the past decade, GM and Ford were largely pickup truck companies that also made cars. Both are changing today, manufacturing cars such as the Cruze, Sonic, Fiesta and Focus, which can compete with automobile market leaders Honda and Toyota.

Still, in November, light trucks including utilities accounted for 68% of GM sales of 180,402 vehicles.

Recently Chevrolet, in celebration of its 100th anniversary, prepared a list of "10 Chevrolet trucks that built a global brand." This followed an earlier list, the top five Chevrolet cars of all-time.

Here are those top 10 trucks:

1920 Chevrolet 490 Flat Face Cowl and Chassis

The first Chevy trucks, offered in 1918, were essentially body-less Chevrolet 490 cars equipped with strong rear springs. The buyer added a wooden cab and cargo box or panel van body.

If this sounds a bit inconvenient, it should be noted that the price for a half-ton vehicle was just $595. For $1,125, Chevrolet offered a 1918 Model T (for truck), with a one-ton capacity, built on a longer, stronger frame.

During the 1920s, trucking grew to the point that in 1929, Chevrolet sold 187,103 trucks.

1925 Chevrolet Panel Truck in Brazil

Very early on, GM realized that it could make money selling cars not only in the U.S., but also around the world.

In the early 1930s, the automaker established a worldwide network of 18 plants to assemble Chevrolet cars and trucks.

The first foreign plant, in Denmark, built its first Chevrolet, a truck, in 1924. In 1925, for the first time, Chevrolet assembled a truck in Brazil. Then as now, Brazil had a rapidly expanding economy and within a little more than a year, GM do Brasil had sold its first 25,000 vehicles. Millions more sales have followed.

Today, the U.S. is the only place where Chevrolet sells more vehicles than it does in Brazil.

1937 half-ton pickup

In the mid-1930s, as the U.S. economy began to recover from the Great Depression, Chevrolet sought to lead a reviving truck market with innovations in pickup trucks.

The 1934 Chevrolet pickup got its own chassis, rather than one adapted from a passenger car.

The 1937 pickup got a streamlined design, a sturdier body and a larger, more powerful 78-horsepower engine. And speaking of fuel efficiency, a 1937 Chevrolet half-ton pickup took a 10,245-mile drive around the U.S., monitored by the American Automobile Association. Carrying a 1,060-pound load, the truck averaged 20.7 miles per gallon.

1948-Half-Ton Pickup

In 1947, with World War II over, Chevrolet introduced a completely redesigned truck with a roomier, more comfortable cab, improved visibility and a wider pickup box.

The design was produced, with few major changes, from 1947 through 1953, when it got a new frontal appearance.

This is the time when trucks began to overtake cars as Chevrolet's principal product. Before World War II, Chevrolet produced four cars for every truck. By 1950, when Chevrolet became the first brand to sell more than 2 million vehicles in a yeaar, the ratio of cars to trucks was around 2.5-to-1.


1955 Chevrolet Cameo Pickup

The Chevrolet pickup got a new, modern look in 1955, as well as a V-8 engine.

That was a big change, because from 1929 until mid-1955, all Chevy light trucks were powered by six-cylinder engines.

The imaginative Cameo pickup (pictured) was intended as a "gentleman's pickup," more at home in a trendy suburban "California bungalow" driveway than on a farm or in a factory yard, Chevrolet said.


1959 Chevrolet El Camino

Either the 1959 El Camino is a gorgeous pickup truck or a marriage made in hell between a car and a truck. We are still trying to figure that out.

The way Chevrolet sees it, the original El Camino, introduced for 1959, "combined the dramatically finned styling of that period's Chevrolet cars with half-ton pickup utility." But after 1960, the El Camino went on a three-year hiatus.

The 1964 El Camino was based on the Chevrolet Chevelle, and the Chevelle El Camino enjoyed two more styling generations (1968-72 and 1973-77). In 1978 came an El Camino based on the Malibu.

The El Camino went to automobile heaven after the 1987 model year. Today, a quarter-century later, Chevrolet still gets requests to bring it back.

1967 C-10 Pickup with custom trim

The Chevrolet pickup got another new look in 1967.

The exterior profile, which lasted through the 1972 model year, featured a lower-silhouette cab and large, rounded wheel openings. The new chassis had coil springs front and rear.

By 1967, the Federal Interstate Highway System was giving Americans unprecedented access to natural wonders and recreational areas. That created markets for trucks that could pull campers and trailers.

1973 Chevrolet Suburban

In 1935, Chevrolet introduced the Suburban Carryall, built on a half-ton chassis, with a durable steel body and room for eight. Or as GM put it, "With the 1935 Suburban Carryall, Chevrolet essentially invented the SUV."

The 1973 The Suburban featured a roomy four-door body, replacing the three-door style produced during 1967-72. It could carry up to nine passengers and was bigger, longer and stronger than any car-based station wagon. But who knew station wagons would disappear while the Suburban would continue to prosper?

In fact, the 1973 Suburban set a style that continued through the 1991 model year. During that time, Suburban dominated the recreational travel market and fed into an image of American drivers as consumers of abundant space and excessive amounts of gasoline.

Chevrolet celebrated the Suburban's 75th anniversary last year. In continuous production since 1935, Suburban is the auto industry's longest-lived vehicle nameplate.

1999 Silverado

Chevrolet's introduced the Silverado name in 1999.

The vehicle's styling "gave more definition to the tautness of line that so successfully characterized the preceding 1988-99 Chevrolet C/K trucks," Chevrolet said. Inside, comfort and luxury were emphasized.

In 2001, the first Silverado HD models established heavy-duty three-quarter- and one-ton truck benchmarks for trailer tow ratings. A second-generation Silverado was launched in 2007.

2012 Chevrolet Colorado

The new Colorado is a global midsized pickup truck, developed under the direction of a team from GM do Brasil, with inaugural production in Thailand.

The new truck was introduced in Thailand on Nov. 14.

Why Thailand? Because the country is the world's largest market for midsized pickups. The new Colorado will subsequently become available in Brazil and other regions around the world, including the U.S.


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