Back in 1917, when the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution were raging in the Old World, Chevrolet began selling its first pickups in the USA, which came off the assembly line in 1918. Yes, Chevy pickups are over 100 years old!
Remarkably, even though the US automobile industry of that period had a completely different structure, the three leading great brands – Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge – began producing their pickups almost simultaneously in the period 1914-1917.
The first pickup in history was released in 1913 based on the legendary “Tin Lizzy” or Ford Model T. It was a passenger machine with a cargo compartment. At Chevrolet, the developments went in much the same way. The first versions of the vehicle in this class were built based on the Chevrolet Series 490 passenger car: the first car capable of carrying a ton appeared in 1918. Well, it did not have a body, and the decision of what to build over the frame was up to the owner.
The first factory Chevrolet pickup was produced in 1930 with a carrying capacity of 0.5 or 1.5 tons, depending on the wheelbase and the presence of a twin on the rear axle. In addition, a good promotion was organized by the company: “six for the price of four”, meaning the number of cylinders. An inline overhead-valve six with a volume of 3.2 liters produced 53 hp. It cost only $440, which was not a big sum for a successful farmer or a city shop. In this model, there was a synchronized gearbox and there was no need for double release and regassing, which was so inconvenient during intensive driving.
In general, the appearance of these cars kept pace with the trends of the period they were produced in. The 30s Chevrolet pickups had narrow noses, flat radiators, a side-opening hood, wide fenders, and running boards that could take you to a nearby work camp. The car of 1934 got serious updates and had nothing to do with its predecessor: more rounded shapes, a wider and longer cabin, and a lower seating position. The wheelbase had also become longer, engine power had increased to 69 hp. The 1937 model was refreshed by hiding the radiator under a streamlined muzzle replete with chrome.
In 1941, the next restyling added new shades of these vehicles and chic mustachioed chrome in the entire front of the people’s truck. However, this massive, chrome-loaded front end causes some disharmony with the actual dimensions of the truck. Because of the Second World War, the US government imposed a moratorium on the production of pickups for civilian use. And in 1945, when sales resumed, the Chevrolet car won the title of “Most Popular Pickup of the Year.” In total, the company offered 100 models on wheelbases of 9 sizes.
The 1946 model’s design was based on 1941 models (the last year of full production before the war) and had 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, 1 ton, and 1 1/4 ton lifting capacity. Chevrolet had increased the wheelbase size by 10.25 inches in the weight class. For example, the wheelbase of a 1/2-ton truck was 115 inches, a 3/4-ton truck was 125.25 inches, and a 1-ton truck was 134.5 inches. In the 1946 model year, eight different models of 1/2-ton cars were available. The 1-ton was produced in 11 models, including three with two rear wheels. The vehicle’s length varied, depending on the weight category. Thus, a 1/2-ton had 195 3/16 inches in length, and a 3/4-ton vehicle measured 204 11/16 inches. However, the 1-ton and 1 1/2-ton trucks had the same sizes, respectively, their dimensions were 222 3/8 and 223 3/4 inches. Weight varied greatly depending on body type and model. Trucks weighing 1/2 tons weighed between 2300 and 3385 pounds. Heavier models of 1/2 ton vehicles weighed more than some 1-ton models.
1946 became an important model year as the company returned to pre-war production volumes. In 1946, 300,000 trucks were released compared with 36,000 in 1945, when because of material shortages, trucks were delivered with painted grilles, bumpers, hubcaps, and trim; the “blackout” policy continued with the resumption of civilian production in early 1946.
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