The pickup truck is a true American icon, embodying versatility, ruggedness, and dependability. It traces its roots to horse drawn farm wagons and delivery vehicles and has evolved into the motor age’s workhorse.
Early pickup trucks were often modified passenger cars with makeshift beds replacing the body’s rear section. The Ford Motor Company was an early player in the pickup truck market with its Model T-based light truck models. By the late 1930’s, many of the major U.S. automakers offered light-duty commercial vehicles.
After World War II, pickup trucks began evolving from basic utility vehicles to a new mode of personal transport. Manufacturers invested more resources in commercial vehicle styling, and pickup trucks grew more comfortable and refined. Chevrolet’s Cameo Carrier debuted in 1955 as a “luxury truck” featuring two-tone paint, fiberglass bed panels and a long list of standard features.
The truck market continued to expand in the coming decades, including car-based trucks (Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero) and performance/specialty trucks (Ford F150 Lighting, GMC Cyclone, Dodge Ram SRT 10.)
The pickup truck is a common sight on American roads and remains the world’s top-selling passenger vehicle. Once a simple tool of labor, today’s pickup trucks range from spartan work vehicles to luxurious boulevard cruisers.
About this Series
Keep on Truckin’: The American Pickup Truck was on display at the Museum from 2017-2018. This series of articles comes for the displays from that exhibition.