If there ever was a quintessential American vehicle, it would be the pickup truck. It’s easy to understand why -pickup trucks been the main mode of transportation for working men and women for close to 100 years. The pickup truck has played such a critical role in the building of America that it’s almost hard to believe that there was a time when no one made them (except for do-it-yourselfers.)
Home brew pickups:
The first pickups were made by those who needed to carry stuff, such as farmers, tradesman, merchants and others. They started by purchasing bare chassis and cabs from the car manufacturers and then added their own home-made truck bodies. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” so it wasn’t long before these DIY trucks were being built all over America. In fact, an entire third-party industry sprang up just to help those that were building these home-brew trucks. Typically, they supplied things like truck beds and heavy-duty components. After a few years of watching these home-made trucks being constructed everywhere, the major automobile manufacturers decided that they should jump in.
The First Pickup:
Ford introduced the Model T runabout in 1925. This was a standard Model T chassis that Ford attached a small (56-by-40 inch) steel bed, adjustable tailgate, and heavy-duty rear suspension springs too. It was enormously popular.
However, the runabout was only good for hauling smaller loads. In 1929, Dodge jumped into the marketplace with their Merchant Express truck. This truck included a heavy-duty cab, frame, and body. Soon other manufacturers were offering their own truck models and a new industry was born.
The Power Wagon:
In 1943, Dodge designed a ¾ ton, four-wheel-drive truck for the military. Simply referred to as the “WC Truck,” it could haul huge payloads on either 7.5- or 9-foot beds over rough terrain, and it was highly reliable. After the war, much ex-military personnel wanted these trucks for civilian use. According to Holden Dodge of Dover, a local Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealer in Dover, DE, Dodge obliged and came out with their civilian “Power Wagon” shortly after the war ended.
Over time, burly trucks were made more comfortable with additions like automatic transmissions, independent front suspensions, power brakes and steering and more car-like interiors. This is a trend that continues to today.
In the late 1980s, Dodge forged an unlikely relationship with the commercial engine manufacturer: Cummins. Long known for making some of the most reliable diesel engines available, Cummins modified an existing six-cylinder engine just for use in Dodge pickup trucks. At 160 HP, this engine was modestly powerful but offered a massive 400 foot-pounds of torque. Commercial users went wild for these Dodge-Cummins trucks and essentially this sparked the mass adoption of diesel technology in the consumer truck segment.
Steel has always been the material of choice when making pickup trucks. It was inexpensive to buy and rugged. However, recent government efficiency standards have forced automakers to experiment with alternate metallurgy to reduce weight—without crippling strength. Ford was the first to introduce a pickup truck with aluminum construction. Their F-150 series has an aluminum bed and has performed well.
Automotive technology continues to advance and that which is used in pickup trucks will continue to evolve. In the future, look to see more powerful, yet more efficient engines and reduced vehicle weight to satisfy new government efficiency standards.
Featured Image by Wikipedia