The Chevy brand’s official birth date is recorded as Nov. 3, 1911, which makes them 100 years old this month (of course, that’s assuming you didn’t reset the clock when the U.S. taxpayers had to give them a huge loan to stay afloat).
Chris Perry, vice president of global marketing and strategy for Chevy, puts it this way: “From the beginning, Chevy has offered long-lasting trucks that help people make a living, enjoy life and get things done.”
In honor of this momentous occasion, we thought we’d pull out some of the most significant trucks that built — and will likely continue to build — the Chevy brand. In chronological order, here they are.
10. 1918 Chevy 490 Cowl Chassis
These trucks came off the line and were sold with only front sheet metal. Buyers usually bought a wooden cab and cargo box or panel van body. Priced at $595, the light-duty vehicle was essentially a body-less Chevy 490 with stronger rear leaf springs.
9. 1925 Chevy half-ton panel van (Brazil)
While customers worldwide have always enjoyed Chevy trucks, Brazil is probably the home of the most passionate fans outside the U.S. The first trucks were built there in 1925, and more than 25,000 vehicles were sold in the first year of production. Brazil remains the second-largest market for Chevy trucks today.
After the Great Depression, there was a huge push for construction and work projects that motivated GM to completely redesign the pickup truck in 1934, stuffing the vehicle with all sorts of “modern” features and technology. Among the new models in 1935 was the Suburban Carryall, arguably the first SUV. For 1937, Chevy introduced streamline styling, heavier-duty frames and a larger, more powerful 78-horsepower engine. That same year, the American Automobile Association sent out a new Chevy pickup with a half-ton of payload over a 10,000-mile route across the U.S., averaging 20.74 mpg.
7. 1947 Chevy half-ton (U.S.)
After World War II, Chevy introduced the “Advanced Design” trucks that were roomier, had better all-around visibility and offered a wider pickup box. By the 1950s, Chevy was the first brand to sell more than 2 million vehicles, in large part due to the popularity of the Advance Design pickups.
Debuting with a modern exterior design, the 1955 Chevy pickups were the first of its segment to get the new overhead-valve small-block V-8. Trucks were becoming more civilized, as many of the fully optioned vehicles were being called “gentleman’s pickups” as more showed up in driveways than sat on farms. This was also the year Chevy became the first to offer a factory-installed four-wheel-drive system. Additionally, in 1958, a new slab-sided Fleetside box option provided an alternative to Chevy’s traditional step-side pickup box.
5. 1959 Chevy El Camino
Described by some as the first passenger-car pickup, the Chevy El Camino offered a classic-era big-fin rear styling look with practical half-ton pickup utility. As many will know, the El Camino was benched for three model years before it reappeared as a 1964 model, based off the newly released Chevelle platform. Many years later, the 1978 El Camino moved onto the Malibu platform. The last El Camino was built in 1987, but Chevy is always quick to note it still gets requests and suggestions from all over the world to bring the El Camino back.
4. 1967 C-10 Pickup
The new-for-1967 Custom Sport Truck Package was a trend-setting option that included deluxe carlike upgrades inside and out. The package could even be ordered with bucket seats, unheard of for a pickup truck. The new exterior design had a lower-silhouette cab and much larger wheel openings, and the new chassis had coil springs front and rear. Later, the 1969 K-5 Blazer was a pioneering SUV built off a shortened half-ton pickup truck platform.
3. 1973 Suburban
We know this isn’t a pickup, but it could work and play just as hard any full-size truck on the road. Very popular with big families who lived in or traveled to remote territory, the 1973 Suburban was bigger, longer and stronger than any other station wagon sold in the U.S. That same year, Chevy became the first brand to produce and sell more than 1 million trucks in the U.S. in a single year.
2. 1999 Silverado 1500
The 1999 pickup was the first to carry the Silverado nameplate and featured many construction technology changes for GM vehicles, not the least of which included a modular, multisection hydroformed frame. Significant changes in the HD Silverados in 2001 established new benchmarks in towing and hauling. As you may remember, many of the changes in both light- and heavy-duty models made the workhorse pickups very easy daily drivers as well. And many expect another evolutionary leap with the introduction of the next-gen light-duty Silverado in the next few years.
1. 2013 Colorado
A huge departure for Chevy, the next-generation Colorado was designed and is already being built in Thailand, and it won’t begin assembly here in the U.S. (at the Wentzville, Mo., plant) for almost a year. For those who may not know, Thailand is the largest market in the world for midsize pickups, consistently selling almost a half-million models each year. This new vehicle will be very important to Chevy (and GM) as the segment has not shown much vitality here for several decades and has other big truck-makers standing on the sidelines waiting to see what happens when the new Colorado gets a full year of sales under its belt. Curiously, Chevy will reintroduce the TrailBlazer nameplate in global markets (built off the new Colorado platform), but no announcement has been made regarding production in the U.S. Likewise, no announcements have been made about production of the GMC Canyon, either.