This year marks 100 years of Chevy trucks. General Motors, Chevy’s parent company, is touting its 2018 Silverado as the result of 100 years of learning, adapting, and improving. And few could argue against GM’s credibility.
“All hours are Golden Hours in the Chevrolet”
Chevy began building its tough work machines in 1918, with its One-Ton or “Ton-Truck” pickup. Based on a delivery-car version of the Chevrolet Series 490 (Chevy’s version of Ford’s Model T), the One-Ton was built to compete with Ford’s TT pickup. It was motivated by a 2.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine that made less than 40 horsepower. Oh, how far we’ve come! Early versions even had removable tops that effectively made them convertible pickups.
Chevrolet evolved these modest hauling machines. They became the Chevrolet Superior platform in 1923, the Chevrolet Series AA Capitol in 1927, and the Chevrolet Eagle platform in 1933, with different variations of these titles made through the years in between. The 1929 model year trucks were the first to get inline six-cylinder engines. The changes made through this period were mostly equipment updates so as to stay competitive in the marketplace. Additionally, pricing changes were executed to keep business throughout the Great Depression, which lasted from 1929 until 1939. Full-size trucks built on the Chevrolet Master platform of 1933-1942 would be the last to directly share a chassis with Chevy passenger cars. By this point, Chevy trucks had inline-six engines making a whopping 80 horsepower.
“Eye it. Try it. Buy it!”
The first dedicated Chevrolet truck line debuted in 1941 as the AK Series. While this platform was created for trucks, it did share similarities with the GM A-car platform of that era. The AK platform was more versatile, however, as it could be used to underpin simple pick-up applications all the way to full-size buses. This generation of trucks was also pressed into service during World War II, and they remained in production through 1946.
The modern era of Chevy trucks began post WWII, with the introduction of the Chevrolet Advance Design truck platform in 1947. They were designed to be bigger, stronger, and more beautiful than the AK-generation machines. Chevy dubbed them “the trucks of a thousand uses.” The 3100-series truck of this era, best known for its five-bar horizontal grille, remains an iconic-styled truck to this day. Consumers responded to these attractive new machines. And they were the best-selling trucks in America from 1947 until 1955.
“See The U.S.A. In Your Chevrolet!”
For 1955, Chevy introduced its “Task Force” truck platform, which further built upon adding more comfort features and appealing styling than the previous generation. The 1955 trucks were also the first ever to have V8 engines, getting a 154-hp 265 cubic inch (4.3-liter) version of GM’s now legendary Small Block Chevy. It was also the first generation of Chevy truck to get a 12-volt electrical system.
“You’ve Got to Show ‘Em!”
The first Chevy C/K truck platform (of which there would be four generations) was introduced in 1960. This generation was the first to get a drop-center ladder frame and an independent front suspension (on two-wheel-drive versions), which resulted in a more car-like ride. These trucks had engine options ranging from 135-horsepower inline sixes to 220-horsepower V8s. The second generation “Action Line” C/K debuted in 1967. Most (but not all) iterations of these new trucks got coil-spring trailing arm rear suspensions, which further improved ride quality. And power ranged from 150-hp from a straight six, to a 240-hp 402 cubic-inch (6.6-liter) Big Block Chevy.
For 1973, the third generation C/K, also known as the “Square Body” or “Box Body” was launched. These Chevy trucks were designed on a clean sheet of paper and featured upgraded items like a stronger chassis, locking differentials, and more convenience items (power windows, power locks, etc.). However, power output remained roughly the same. The fourth-gen C/K debuted in 1988 and continued to offer more comfort and convenience features. There was also a “muscle car” version know as the 454SS that got a 230 horsepower/385 lb-ft 454 cubic inch (7.4-liter) Big Block Chevy V8. The C/K went out of production after 1998.
“Like A Rock”
In 1999, the Silverado name (which had previously been applied to trim lines) replaced C/K on Chevy’s full-size pickups. Ascribed the “Like a Rock” tagline, the new trucks featured hydroformed frames and a new selection of Vortec V8 engines. A very limited production hybrid version was also produced and sold to a limited number of consumers. Power ranged from 200 to 345 horsepower. In 2007, the second-gen Silverado went into production. It improved upon the previous generation in terms of power, technology, and comfort. A hybrid version of these trucks was available for sale to customers in all U.S. markets. The third-gen Silverado of 2014 to 2018 moved the bar forward even more, offering features like internet and smartphone connectivity, and power (285 to 445 horsepower) that would have been practically unbelievable to Chevy engineers of the past. A fourth-gen Silverado will begin production as a 2019 model.
“Build to Stay Tough”
Throughout the years there were also smaller trucks and even car-based Chevy pickups. The Colorados of today are among the best-selling non-full-size pickups ever. Similarly, the compact S-10 Chevy trucks of the 1980s and 1990s were highly sought after in their day. The light-duty Chevy LUV pickup of the 1970s still has an enthusiastic following. And the car-based Chevy El Camino (produced from 1959–1960 and 1964–1987) bridged the gap between pickup and muscle car.
But the full-size Chevy trucks are the kings of GM’s vehicle production. To date, Chevy has sold more than 85 million pickups. For perspective, the best-selling car of all time, the Toyota Corolla, has sold just over 40 million copies. What’s for sure, big guns like Iron Cross, Addictive Desert Designs, and TrailFX are lined up ready to outfit this platform at its best.