Chevrolet's 10 Most Important Trucks from Past and Present
New Colorado Already Put on Chevrolet's List of Top-10 Important Trucks
Chevrolet has given the buying public a ton of trucks since it first started offering them in 1918. And now, with the 2013 Colorado midsize pickup due in the United States in mid-2012, Chevy has provided its own list of important trucks from the last 93 years. In our eyes, there are some obvious picks and some surprising ones. As the title states, the Colorado is already on there.
1. 1918 Chevrolet 490 Half-Ton Light Delivery "Cowl Chassis"
If pedigree is important to you, this was a repurposed Chevy 490 car with stronger leaf springs out back and stripped of most of its body. They were called "cowl chassis" units because there weren't any doors or sides, but the engine and front end came covered. This wasn't unusual for the prewar period, when commissioning coachbuilders for bodywork was considered normal. The pictured 1920 Light Delivery truck here has a "depot hack" wooden body installed for passenger-carrying duty.
The Light Delivery truck cost $595 upon its introduction in January 1918 and was available with two four-cylinder engines. A heavier duty, one-ton model dubbed the Model T would have set buyers back $1125 and came with a stronger and longer frame, 37-horsepower engine, and a governed top speed of 25 mph.
In 1929, Chevy sold 187,103 trucks. In the same year where the Great Depression reared its ugly head, the "Cast-Iron Wonder" inline-six (aka Stovebolt or Stovebolt Six) entered service and would be the truck's powertrain's pillar through mid-1955.
After 1930, the majority of light-duty trucks were sold with cabs, boxes, and bodies fitted at the factory. As America fought its way out of a deteriorating economic climate, Chevy trucks were right there with it.
2. 1925 Chevrolet Half-Ton Panel Van -- Brazil
Why is a Brazilian truck on this top-10 list? Because the South American nation is currently Chevy's second-largest market behind the United States.
In September 1925, Brazil produced the first of what would be millions of trucks on its home turf. The very first model was turned into a panel van courtesy of locally sourced bodywork. In the late 1950s, Chevy Amazonas and various truck specialties designed for the South American masses were leaving their impressions on said masses. Today, the Chevy presence remains strong.
3. 1937 Chevrolet Half-Ton Pickup
Initially redesigned in 1934 with a dedicated truck chassis, the Half-Ton Pickup received its iconic body in 1937. A 78-horsepower six-cylinder came the same year. The 1937 style remains highly sought after today.
This generation also saw the introduction of the 1935 Suburban Carryall, the very first Suburban.
4. 1947 Chevrolet Advance-Design Half-Ton Pickup
After the Second World War, the Half-Tons were sent back to the drawing board. Now seen as more than just working vehicles, Chevy customers wanted a better truck overall.
The Advance Design looks were mimicked in the 21st century by the SSR and HHR but the original can be found on the first 1947 trucks. The strong, five-bar front grille made a noticeable impact, and the front end wouldn't change until early 1955. A new cab and box also helped push truck sales to the point where the ratio of Chevy cars to trucks sold in 1950 was close to 2.5:1. Before WWII, that ratio was 4:1.
5. 1955 Chevrolet Cameo Pickup
After Advance Design, there were Task Force trucks. The Cameo, new for '55, was considered a "gentleman's pickup" that was geared more towards passenger-hauling than working. In a sign of the times and regional marketing strategies, the Cameo apparently targeted the "California bungalow" owner.
In 1955, the small-block V-8 also did much to displace the straight-six in trucks as the V-8's glory years were just beginning. Factory-installed four-wheel drive came into play for the first time in 1957. In '58, the Fleetside box became an alternative to the then-traditional step-side design.
6. 1959 Chevrolet El Camino Passenger-Car Pickup
Historic name, historic design, and historic truck. The first El Camino carried all the glorious fins appropriate of the era, along with half-ton capability. From 1959 to 1960, the El Camino was Chevy's most conspicuous, mutant-looking vehicle around.
After a three-year break, the El Camino was brought back in 1964 and was based on the new Chevelle. In 1968, a Super Sport package was made available. And as was expected at the time, a big-block V-8 could be found shoehorned into the engine bay for maximum enjoyment.
The El Camino would continue with three more generations -- 1968-1972, 1973-1977, 1978-1987 -- weathering the oil crisis and eventually migrating to the smaller Malibu chassis before departing for good. The Pontiac G8 ST, a high-powered concept initially tipped for production a few years ago pre-Chapter 11, is the last we've seen of a potential El Camino revival.
7. 1967 Chevrolet C-10 Pickup with CST Package
While the El Camino turned heads, the C-10 helped propagate the trend of trucks having dozens upon dozens of trims, levels, and variants. The "C" designates two-wheel drive, "K" four-wheel drive.
From 1967-1972, the new-look trucks sat on coil springs in the front and back. A Custom Sport Truck package entered the market in '67 with premium upgrades. You could even get bucket seats, which was a big deal at the time. Another big deal was being able to tow trailers and campers on the burgeoning interstate highways, which the trucks afforded.
In addition to towing power, going off-road was covered by the K-5 Blazer. First sold in mid-1969, the Blazer rode on a shortened-wheelbase half-ton chassis for extra agility.
8. 1973 Chevrolet Suburban with Super Cheyenne Package
The Suburban was always intended for large families, and the bigger-is-better mentality saw no restraint in 1973. Based on the redesigned C/K full-size trucks, the new four-door Suburban body was larger and could accommodate up to nine people. A 5.7-liter V-8 provided pulling power. The Super Cheyenne Package included all manner of creature comforts.
From 1973-1991, the Suburban's public profile rose as we approached the SUV years. Now nearly 77 years old, the record-breaking Chevy continues its long-lived tenure in a very different environment from which it sprung.
9. 1999 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Extended-Cab Pickup
The current Silverado got its name in 1999 and would serve the nation until it was redesigned in 2007. Chevy points out the frame as a strong point. But trucks need to be sturdy on all fronts, and with the inescapable focus on fuel economy and efficiency, the full-size truck pushes the limits of powertrain, capability, and aerodynamics while maintaining drivability qualities that'd be unheard of in 1918. In 2011, the Silverado HD was the Motor Trend "Truck of the Year."
A new Silverado 1500 is expected in the next few years. Considering its position in the segment, we expect nothing short of excellent.
10. 2013 Chevrolet Colorado Global Pickup
The global Colorado's development was headed up by Chevy's Brazilian truck unit. It was first built and launched in Thailand. Soon, it'll arrive in the U.S. The new global Colorado will take over the midsize pickup slot to be vacated by the current-generation Colorado/GMC Canyon, and in today's cultural melting pot, it will have quite an international flavor to it.
To be produced in Wentzville, Missouri, the Colorado is expected to produce 1260 new jobs in a still-stagnant U.S. economy. The overseas trucks utilize diesel engines but considering our market's aversion to compression-ignition power, we can expect gas engines from the get-go. More specific details will be announced as they become available.
Will the new Colorado make a bigger impact than its predecessors? Only time will tell.