There are few automotive institutions more uniquely American than the truck. Although many foreign manufacturers now produce pickups and SUVs in various shapes and sizes, nearly all of them can trace their inspiration to one of these four originators, the oldest of which has an ancestry going back 78 years.
So in commemoration of the United States' 236th birthday, we bring you the four most iconic American trucks which we can thank for our modern truck culture and identity.
Chevrolet C/K/Silverado, GMC Sierra
Although they have changed names a few times, the Chevrolet and GMC fullsize trucks in their current form have been around, and in unbroken succession since at least 1960. Each generation has its own distinctive and immediately recognizable style that appeals to select group of enthusiasts. In the earlier years, the Chevrolet and GMC models had unique engines, with the GMCs employing available 305 and 351 cubic-inch V-6 engines shared with heavier-duty models. In the mid-1960s, the Chevrolet and GMC versions became more mechanically similar, but retained fiercely brand-loyal followers, a trend that remains to this day.
Having an even longer lineage than the modern GM fullsize truck, the origins of the Suburban go back to 1934, first introduced as the "Carryall Suburban." The Suburban served us through World War II, and became a favorite of hunters and wilderness enthusiasts and their families after the war. The Suburban also spawned several interesting variants within the Chevrolet brand and throughout General Motors, with the Chevy K5 Blazer and GMC Jimmy, Chevrolet Avalanche and Cadillac Escalade all tracing their origins to some variation of the Suburban concept. Starting in 2000, GMC started calling its version of the Suburban the Yukon XL, but other than the name change can legitimately claim a nearly 80-year heritage.
The ubiquitous F-Series in its modern form dates back to 1948, when it was made a purpose-built truck rather than a spinoff of a car chassis, as its predecessor was. Like the the current F-150 and Super Duty and even larger F-650 variants, the F-Series has always been offered in a variety of different forms, which included cab-over-engine (COE) variants, and a broad array of engines from inline-sixes, V-6s, V-8s, diesels, and V-10s. The two-door Bronco and later four-door Expedition models can trace their lineage to the F-Series, as well as the jumbo-sized Excursion and the upscale Lincoln Navigator SUV.
Willys MB/Jeep CJ/Jeep Wrangler
Second only to the Suburban in terms of the length of its heritage, the iconic "Jeep" has been with us since 1941, when it started life as the Willys MB. Ford's version of the military vehicle was known as the "GP" from which many believe we get the term "Jeep." The CJ (Civilian Jeep) began to be offered in 1945, and the CJ designation was used until 1987, when then-AMC introduced its successor, the Wrangler. The use of rectangular headlights on the first-generation YJ Wrangler models proved surprisingly controversial among Jeep loyalists, even though it still had the signature seven-slot vertical grille. It wasn't until a decade later when the TJ was introduced as a 1997 model that round headlights were rightfully restored to the Jeep's visage, a tradition that continues with the current JK Wrangler.