A car is ideal for a nice long ride, a truck is a go-to choice when cargo needs to be moved but what if you only have the budget for one, but your lifestyle requires both? To solve this dilemma of the modern man, who wishes to keep functionality and luxury in balance, the modern day pickup trucks were introduced. These lightweight vehicles have an enclosed cab area that seats 4-5 people for a comfortable ride while the back contains ample cargo area with low sides. An example of a party in the front and business at the back, the cargo area can be used as creatively as possible. If not transporting cargo, you may have spotted pick up trucks being used to seat additional people, a seating spot to enjoy the open air (e.g., on trips) or adventurous people preferring to sit in the open-air cargo area to make the most of their ride.
It is still unknown, from where the term ‘pickup truck' came into being. The word was famously used in 1913 by an American automobile manufacturer Studebaker Corporation, and by 1930 it was introduced in the regular colloquialisms in America. In New Zealand and Australia, they were UTE (an abbreviation for utility) is used instead of pickup trucks, and bakkie in the South African region. Initially, the primary purpose of all these cars (pickups, bakkie, ute) remained to be to haul, transport loads. However, consumers now buy pickup trucks outside work purposes, as passenger vehicles or as a way of life purposes.
Early Pickup Truck Concepts
In the early period of vehicle manufacturing, vehicles used to be sold only as chassis (a vehicle frame on which the vehicle body is mounted). In 1917, Ford had built a vehicle to haul heavy loads, etc., known as the Model TT chassis. The truck bed didn't come with the model TT, and one would have to either build it or have another company install it. The model cost around $600 and had sold 209 units in the first year alone. This was the beginning of the pickup truck ideology
Not far behind, Chevrolet (American automobile manufacturer) developed their concept of a pickup truck in 1911. The Model 490 had a cost of $490 (hence the name) and was a chassis body with the option to attach a truck bed, such as the Ford TT.
Why couldn’t early cars be converted into pickup trucks?
During the early years of automobile manufacturing (Early 1930), regular or conventional cars were manufactured lower to the ground. Hence due to this reason, it became difficult, or impossible to add truck bodies or beds onto the back of the car. Trucks (with chassis not too close to the ground) had to be purchased separately.
First Pickup Truck
Henry Ford produced the first pickup truck to be sold (Founder of the Ford Motor Company), was ‘Ford Model T – Runabout with Pickup Body' and it was sold for $ 281, while 34,000 of such models were manufactured at the time. Back in 1925. The company was producing the vehicle offered people the option to attach a truck bed to their motor, hence forming a pickup body or pickup truck. In the history of humanity, the first time a factory-built pickup truck was offered to the people, and it revolutionized the automobile industry in terms of pickup trucks. 33,800 such trucks were sold in the first year.
Thus began the race of different automobile industries to make their specific pickup truck model dominant in the market
The idea of the built-in attachable truck bed had entered the market (instead of only selling chassis) and thus began the development of sturdier vehicles for hauling or transporting purposes. In 1929, Dodge (an American brand of automobile manufacturers) built the Merchant Express atop, with a sturdier and heavy duty frame, which was more fitting for hauling and pickup purposes. The price tag was $525, with a 45 horsepower engine (there was the least expensive automobile chassis offered by Dodge at the time).
Automobile manufacturing industries were focusing more on heavy and sturdier pickup trucks at this point, that could stand up to the abuse it had to face during the usage of the vehicle. Hence, from 1932 to 1934, Ford introduced the Model B, Model 18 and Model 40. The engine offered was V8, which provided 65 horsepowers as compared to V4 and V6 engines, thus offering a more powerful engine for work purposes. Sturdier truck bed could be installed, and in Europe, the vehicle was built a little longer.
Toyota introduced its first pickup truck vehicle, thus entering the race with other automobile manufacturing companies. The Toyota G1 was the first truck built by the company, and it could carry 1.5 tons (and was 20ft long). The total cost of G1 was several times the annual profit of the company. Hence several loans had to be taken in order to begin the production of G1 (At that time, the company was Toyoda). Since this was Toyota's first production vehicle, the vehicles had several faults that needed to be dealt with, which were done for free by the company in order to rectify for the test model. By 1947, the entire series was replaced with BM trucks.
The 1940s (Post World War Period)
With the end of the world war, vehicle manufacturing companies were in top gear to show off their newly engineered designed vehicles, increasing the efficiency of automobiles. Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet began launching their post-war series of pickup trucks. Chevrolet had designed their post-war light pickup truck series with a valve 6 cylinder engine and chrome from the window grill to the trim. Dodge had taken a massive leap into the vehicle market industry with its new design. The Dodge B series was introduced with a new innovative design model, with a new cab design and few blind spots. At the same time, Ford launched its F-series pickup truck, the first of its generations.
By 1950, the general consumer began purchasing and using pickup truck vehicles for lifestyle purposes instead of utilitarian purposes. In the American region, most Americans had moved towards the suburbs during the 1950s. However, jobs still remained within the city, and hence it required long and sturdy drives. By 1956, the interstate highway had allowed the use or personal trucks for the highway, and hence increasing the demand for new pickup trucks in the model. In these years, several new innovative ideas, with powerful engines (such as the V8) were introduced in the market.
The most standout pickup truck during this year was the Dodge sweptline pickup series. By 1960s, dodge only had 6% of the truck market share during the time. To tackle this issue, it introduced its new sweptline pickup truck series, with a lean towards passenger car styling. The new series had introduced cab wide smooth side cargos with a new grille design.
Also during that time, GMC (American Automobile manufacturer) had introduced a new pickup design, trying to break into the market, which had a full-width hood, stream unit grilles, and a pinched waist body crease. Dodge and Ford introduced a cab designed pickup truck, and Datsun and Toyota launched the new innovative compact pickup truck. During this time frame, pickup trucks were made into a sturdier model, capable of traveling long distances with ease. The trucks could reach higher speeds during travel, and the new body designs were able to withstand carrying heavier loads.
By 1970, the US government had implemented the Corporate Average Fuel Economy, to improve the average fuel economy of vehicles such as cars and light pickups. Thus, the pickup industries had to bring innovative changes to the market. This led to the development and released of a minivan, sport utility vehicles (such as SUVs). Thus, pickup trucks were replaced muscle cars as the vehicle for a performance of choice. During these years, Dodge introduced the lifestyle pickup trucks, and the Dodge D200 camper allowed a special slide on camper body to be attached. GMC finally presented its first crew cab, focusing more on the trucks ability to be sturdier and be able to pick up heavy loads. The new camper pickup trucks and SUV were soaring in the market since the general Americans were more into the idea of long travels and road trips.
The pickup truck industry was booming in the international market. The Japanese had already manufactured and produced new compact pickup trucks, produced and distributed by Datsun and Toyota. Hence, the American Automobile manufacturing industries had to focus on developing more compact pickup trucks to compete with the international market. Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge introduced new compact/smaller pickup trucks. The compact Mazda B-Series, Mitsubishi Sport, and Isuzu faster were also presented during these years. Chevrolet also introduced the extended S-Series extended cab model, while the GMC introduced a new innovative series of pickup trucks, with improved engineering designs and efficiency, included but not limited to more aerodynamic and streamlined. This once again revolutionized the pickup truck industry the same way the introduction of the compact pickup truck did in the 1960s.
During the 1990s, Ford had dominated the pickup truck industry, with the introduction of its new pickup truck series line. The 8th, 9th and 10th Generation of Ford F-Series had revamped the market of pickup trucks. Due to the development of engineering experimentation and designs, the Ford F – series better fuel economy and advanced aerodynamics, all the while offering more spacious for passengers within the truck. Dodge also introduced the T-300 series, offering more space for passenger and storage, competing with the spacious Ford F – series. During these years, minivans also became more common in the pickup industry, pickup trucks market were slightly further eroded due to the rising popularity of SUVs.
GMC had been focusing on raw power, with their pickup trucks. Hence, it introduced the Duramax Diesel engine, which offers more driving power to the vehicle. However, the company also tried to break into the lifestyle appeal of the pickup truck market, and began developing luxury pickup trucks, and released the GMC Sierra 1500 Denali Pickup. The Denali appealed toward the luxury buyers by offering large chrome grille, deep bumper, and crew cab.
Ford released the latest version of F150 series. New features included super duty grilles, elimination of manual gearboxes and making the vehicle 2 door instead of the standard 4 door vehicle.
2015 – Present
Due to the discovery of new metallurgy and its improved efficiency and features, Automobile industries began replacing steel with new metallurgy designs to increase the efficiency of pickup trucks further. Ford introduced a new heat-treated aluminum body in the F-150 Series instead if the steel body.
With the increasing concern for the environment regarding fuel emission and the greenhouse effect and recent releases of electronic cars by the Tesla Corporation, it doesn't come as a surprise that someone released the same for pickup trucks. Hence in 2017, Kawei (a Chinese manufacturing company) unveiled the Kawei EV7, as the first pure electric full-sized pickup truck.
The 2019 update to Chevy’s Silverado will offer the cab being made from new lightweight steel composites.
MOST POPULAR PICKUP TRUCKS (OF ALL TIME, ACCORDING TO UNITS SOLD)
- 1950 Chevrolet
The 1950 Chevy truck models were a reliable and rugged, and the truck stood out from the pack, for obvious reasons. Despite the fact that the US population was half of what it is today, the company sold 494,753 such pickup trucks, which is an impressive feat.
- 1978 Chevrolet
The 1978 Chevy was the first modern truck to be introduced. It was rugged, comfortable and compatible for long trips and drives. The 1978 Chevy was the highest point for Chevy (and probably any truck ever produced), as, within 5 years of release, about 1,317,466 trucks were sold into the market.
- 1979 Ford
Ford was releasing its 6th generation F – series, and with the F – 100 and F – 150, Ford managed to sell over 985,310 trucks that year.
In the catalogue of jeeps, they were never a powerhouse when it came to the pickup truck industry, and sales usually topped 30,000 a year by a single manufacturer. However, the 1987 Jeep Comanche sold 38,000 manufactured products that year, making it an MVP in the jeep pickup industry.
- 1997 Toyota Hilux
The Toyota Hilux is a multipurpose pickup truck, that’s very common outside North America. The Hilux was a continuation in the compact pickup truck that Toyota had introduced; hence it was a midsize truck. The truck was as popular all around the world as in America. To give an idea, in 1997, Toyota sold 500,000 such trucks in South Africa alone.
- 1999 Dodge Ram
The T-300 Dodge Ram had already introduced more space for passengers and storage, as well as the extra interior room. However, the Dodge Ram also offered the ‘Quad Cab' rear doors, making the hauler more practical. The company sold 428,929 such products in 1999.
- 2004 Ford F – Series
The F – Series had severely improved by 2004, by new engineering designs and aerodynamics. 2004 For F – Series were the most sold for pickup trucks (yearly) in the 21st century, with over 939,511 trucks sold.
- 2005 Chevrolet Silverado
The pickup truck quality was declining after 2000 since new innovative metallurgy was being tested to replace the current steel bodies. Even then, Chevrolet managed to sell 705,980 truck in 2005, making it the Chevy’s best sales in a year (Regarding pickup trucks) in the 21st century.
- 2016 Ram
The Ram didn't see much manufacturing and its design changes over the years, however, it remained one of the iconic pickup truck series. In 2016, 489,418 vehicles were sold in the market.
10 STATES (US) WITH THE MOST PICKUP TRUCKS CURRENTLY
- California , with 4,679,924 pickup trucks
- Texas, with 4,133,212 pickup trucks
- Florida , with 2,086,729 pickup trucks
- Georgia , with 1,459,205 pickup trucks
- Ohio, with 1,384,716 pickup trucks
- Michigan, with 1,278,188 pickup trucks
- Pennsylvania , with 1,236,430 pickup trucks
- Illinois, with 1,135,143 pickup trucks
- Alabama , with 1,050,333 pickup trucks
- Louisiana, with 1,041,749 pickup trucks
The values were taken from the US transportation and Highway federation.
Uses for pickup trucks
Pickup trucks have had several usages after its introduction in 1935. In the United States and Canada, the main purpose of pickup trucks remains to be for passenger transport, agriculture and commercial usage. The trucks were also used by law enforcement agencies, military, fire department as well as ambulances in certain regions.
A new trend of racing known as pickup truck racing also came into being when the popularity of pickup trucks had soared. These racing include modified and a custom version of pickup trucks that have to compete for each other in an oval track.
Monster truck, a form of pickup trucks became a fashion statement in the US. However, they were mostly used in competitions and Sporting events and entertainment (such as motocross, tractor pull, car-eating robots).
Slide in campers and attachable camper shells, as well as SUVs, became famous for long travels and camping purposes. These trucks or ‘trailers' provide a small living space for camping.
Modified pickup trucks have also been used as improvised, unarmed combat vehicles (called technical).