1918 Chevrolet One-Ton, or Model T. Images courtesy Chevrolet.
In January 1918, Chevrolet introduced its first purpose-built truck models (in half-ton and one-ton ratings) aimed at commercial buyers. A century later, pickups are a mainstay of Chevrolet’s domestic business, and in celebration of the milestone anniversary, Rich Scheer, director of exterior design for Chevy trucks, has named the 10 most influential truck designs from the brand.
The 1918 One-Ton, or Model T (disregarding Ford’s automobile with the same name), was Chevrolet’s first purpose-built truck, inspired by the no-frills vehicles used to transport components and goods within manufacturing plants. Powered by a 224-cu.in. “FA” four-cylinder engine rated at 37 horsepower, the worm-drive truck could be ordered as a bare chassis for $1,325; as an open-top Flare Board Express for $1,460; or as a covered-top Eight Post Curtain Top for $1,545. In its debut year on the market, Chevrolet produced 359 Model T trucks, along with 520 Model 490 half-ton models.
1929 Chevrolet International Series.
In 1929, Chevrolet debuted the International Series trucks, with ratings from a half-ton to a ton-and-a-half. While the big news in AC half-ton models was the debut of Chevrolet’s inline six-cylinder engine (advertised as “A Six in the price range of the Four”), Scheer points to another milestone on select International Series models: the availability of a closed cab, extending the opportunity for interior design from cars to trucks. Externally, color began to play more of a role in truck design (and sales), with Scheer admitting, “The color combinations on Chevrolet cars and trucks from this period are still something I love today.”
1938 Chevrolet Half-Ton.
The 1938 Chevrolet Half-Ton was reportedly the first model designed by the Art and Colour department, under the leadership of Harley Earl. It also represents the first time that truck design branched off from automotive design, giving the former its own identity. Proportionally, the half-ton models were lower and longer than previous models, with an emphasis on style seen in the new grille and swept fenders.
1947 Chevrolet 3100.
Scheer calls the 1947 3100-series pickups “one of the most iconic designs in automotive history,” saying, “when you mention a vintage Chevy truck, I think almost everyone will picture this model in their mind.” True or not, the Advance Design pickups swapped the previous models’ waterfall grille (with horizontal ornamentation) for a distinctive five-bar grille that would go on to become a signature of the brand’s trucks. Fenders were now integrated into the overall design, pushing headlamps out to the widest part of the vehicle. “The cab that breathes,” helped boost Chevrolet truck sales from 171,618 in 1946 to 259,533 in 1947.
1955 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier.
The 1955 model year saw a significant redesign of trucks under the bowtie brand, including the introduction of the 3124-series Cameo Carrier, Chevy’s first Fleetside model and an attempt at making trucks more desirable to the masses. Based upon a standard 3100-series pickup, the Cameo added bolt-on fiberglass quarter panels, widening the bed exterior to the dimensions of the cab itself. An accent line carried over from the cab as well, extending down the length of the bed, which also featured finned taillamps. Perhaps the first pickup styled from bumper to bumper, just 5,220 Cameo models were built in the truck’s debut year.
1967 Chevrolet C10 Fleetside.
The 1967 C10 Fleetside pickup was “the first truck I really fell in love with,” according to Scheer, and with good reason: Period advertising called the 1967 truck line “the most significant cab and sheet-metal styling change in Chevrolet history.” Once again, Chevy was pitching trucks as an alternative to automobiles, particularly for those who camped, fished, hunted, or otherwise enjoyed the outdoors. Style elements included a pronounced shoulder line that runs from the cab down the bed, slightly flared fenders, and a horizontal grille bar, sporting the Chevrolet bowtie, that connects the headlamps and remains a feature of Chevy truck design to this day.
1973 Chevrolet C30 One-Ton Dually.
In 1973, Chevy introduced its C30 One-Ton Dually, which Scheer describes as “the first crew cab dually to market,” and, “the first modern heavy-duty truck.” Its design reflected the demands of buyers for added versatility and capability, either for towing heavy equipment during the week, a large fifth-wheel travel trailer on weekends or some combination of the two.
1988 Chevrolet K1500.
The 1988 C/K1500 was the brand’s first truck designed with aerodynamics in mind. Inside, the instrument panel (housed in its own rectangular pod) was equally contemporary, and Scheer describes the model as looking “modern and sophisticated,” even today.
1999 Silverado 1500
2007 Silverado 1500
The 1999 Silverado 1500 debuted the now-common Silverado nameplate, and with it, elements of front-end design that carry over to Chevy trucks today. Finally, the 2007 Silverado 1500 rounds out Scheer’s list, picked for its exaggerated fender flares and distinctive front and rear styling that brings back the “tough truck” appearance.