12 Pickups That Revolutionized Truck Design

Trucks are thought of by many as being crude, primitive, agricultural implements with a bouncy ride and poor fuel economy—and they’re considered by the hybrid-driving elites as being generally inferior transportation implements. But if you live in a wood-frame house, have had plumbing or electrical work done, or have filled your tank with gasoline—among many other modern-day conveniences—you can thank pickups for facilitating the “American way of life.”

Whether from a standpoint of head-turning good looks, historical significance, or impressive engineering, we’ve picked out 12 pickups from the past century that changed the pickup game for the better.

1988 Chevrolet/GMC C/K Series
The styling of the ’88 to ’98 General Motors GMT400 trucks may seem sparse and plain by today’s “bigger is better” standards, but that simplicity and elegance is precisely why it’s one of the most popular body styles for truck customizers. Still looking modern more than a quarter-century later, the ’88 GM trucks suddenly made all of their competitors look dated overnight. Unfortunately, the boxy, angular dashboard design of the early models did not age as well as the exterior, but the clean lines of these trucks make them modern-day classics.

1994 Dodge Ram
Whether or not you’re a fan of the chunky, in-your-face styling of today’s pickups, you can thank Dodge for kicking the trend into high gear with the introduction of the ’94 Ram. Inspired by “big rig” Class 8 trucks, the ’94 model had an oversized grille and dropped fenders, mimicking the front end of big rigs. Especially among current HD trucks, the ’94 Ram’s influence can be seen in the large, prominent grilles common today. The ’94 was also significant in that it was the debut of the 8.0L Magnum V-10 in 2500- and 3500-series trucks. Its output of 300 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque is relatively modest by today’s standards, but at the time, it was the most powerful gasoline engine you could get in a truck.

1946-1947 Hudson Pickup
The Hudson brand may no longer be with us, but we can thank the icon of Detroit’s golden age for giving us one of the most stunningly beautiful pickups ever made. Following World War II, Hudson debuted its ’46 model pickup. Its sleek, low-profile lines reflected its primarily car underpinnings, and Hudson’s dedication to its car line and transition to its 1948 “Step Down” chassis marked the end for the handsome truck. The truck was also famous for its “three on the tree” column-mounted manual transmission when most trucks still had a floor-mounted shifter. Only a little more than 6,000 trucks were made in ’46 and ’47, making current-day examples extremely rare. We would love to see one of these get the restomod treatment, but we also somewhat wince at the idea of tampering too much with such an elegant design.

1999 Ford Super Duty Series
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and although the ’99 Super Duty may not subjectively be the best-looking truck on this list, it earns its spot by decisively defining the modern HD truck market. Prior to the introduction of the Super Duty, HD truck design largely mimicked that of the lighter-duty ½-ton trucks, with the only giveaways being eight-lug wheels, heavier-duty frames, and beefier drivetrain and suspension components. The Super Duty gave Ford’s HD models a completely distinct identity from the lighter-duty F-150, and a brawny look to match its capabilities. Ford debuted a V-10 of its own on the ’99 Super Duty in the form of a 6.8L V-10, a version of which is still sold in the F-650 and its cab-chassis E-Series vans. Early diesel models were equipped with the well-regarded and generally reliable 7.3L Power Stroke, based on an International Harvester engine design.

1939 Studebaker Coupe Express
The Studebaker Coupe Express was in some ways the spiritual predecessor of the ’46 Hudson with its sleek, low-slung styling. The ’37 model was attractive in its own right, but the ’39 model had a decisively more modern look, with fender-mounted headlights. Adding to the iconic look was a front-fender-mounted spare tire, rounded roof, and pontoon front and rear fenders. The M-series truck, which succeeded the Coupe Express, had a unique style of its own, but its blunter, more upright profile lacked the head-turning style of the Coupe Express.

1967 Chevrolet/GMC C/K Series
The ’67 to ’72 C/K series truck represented many firsts for General Motors’ pickups, including the first use of the renowned 350-cubic-inch Chevrolet small-block V-8 in trucks, the first GM truck to offer standard front disc brakes in 1971, and rear coil spring suspension (more than four decades before the introduction of the ’09 Ram 1500). The year 1968 marked the debut of the Chevy Blazer sport-utility based on the C/K platform, and its companion, the GMC Jimmy. The successor third-generation C/K trucks had a much longer model run than the short five years for the second-gen, but we give the nod to the ’67 to ’72 for the sheer number of innovations that debuted with that generation.

1940-1941 Ford Pickup
Debuting just before the onset of World War II, the ’40 and ’41 Ford pickups were a meaningful improvement over their predecessors, with a wider cab, sealed-beam headlights, and mattress-type seat springs for improved comfort. Although still nominally based on Ford’s car models, the trucks’ frames were made from heavier 10-gauge steel. Most of these trucks were equipped with Ford’s 90hp flathead V-8, although some models had a four-cylinder tractor engine, and some a straight-six from Ford’s car line. The handsome styling of E.T. “Bob” Gregorie’s iconic design makes this truck especially sought after among both vintage collectors and customizers. Due to the disruption of World War II, the pickup carried on largely unchanged until the introduction of the F-Series in 1948.

1946 Dodge Power Wagon
When you say “Power Wagon” among millennial truck enthusiasts, the ’05 model immediately springs to mind. No disrespect to the modern-day rendition, which is also among one of our favorite trucks, but it’s not the original. That distinction goes to the ’46 model, a civilian adaptation of the Dodge WC-series military trucks. Powered by a 230-cubic-inch flathead six-cylinder, the Power Wagon certainly won’t win any pink slips at the dragstrip, but with its low-range transfer case and four-speed manual transmission, there were few trails the Power Wagon couldn’t conquer. The original WM-300 series model sold into the early ’60s, when it was replaced by the “sweptline” body. In addition to the pickup, ambulance, “carryall,” and other variants were produced, making the Power Wagon suitable for almost any utilitarian purpose.

1955 Chevrolet/GMC “Task Force” Series
The ’55 Chevrolet and GMC trucks made our list for being one of the most popular body styles among classic truck restorers and customizers—and for being the first GM truck to offer the venerable small-block V-8 from the factory. This generation also saw the debut of factory air conditioning and a factory-installed four-wheel-drive conversion. Among the memorable variants of this generation are the Chevrolet Cameo, GMC Suburban Carrier, and Chevrolet Apache. The Cameo is credited with introducing the “fleetside” flush-mounted outer bedsides, concurrently with the Ford “styleside” to the truck market.

1956 Ford F-100 “Big Window”
Although the Ford F-Series itself dates back to 1948, the second-generation model deserves credit for setting the stage for the future of the F-Series lineup. The second-gen F-Series marked the beginning of the use of three-digit numerical designations for trucks, such as the F-100, F-250, and F-350. It also marked the transition from Ford’s well-proven flathead V-8 to the new “Y-Block” overhead-valve V-8. One of the most sought-after examples of this generation is the ’56 model, known by many as the “big window” version, for its large wraparound rear window. Seatbelts were also first offered as an option on the ’56 model.

2015 Ford F-150
The 2015 F-150 gets a place on our list for being the first all-aluminum-bodied truck, a radical change in the traditionally conservative segment. The only non-aluminum piece of the body of any significance is the firewall. Showing Ford’s confidence in its choice of material, all the outer fenders, as well as the bed, are made of military-grade aluminum. Incognito testing in some rough environments like mining and oil fields proved the ruggedness of the material. The new F-150 is also significant for having the smallest-displacement engine of any fullsize truck in recent history with the 2.7L EcoBoost V-6. We were initially skeptical when we heard of Ford’s plans for this engine, wondering if it had the moxie to move a fullsize truck. We were pleasantly surprised by the announcement of its 325 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque—and even more surprised by its seat-of-the-pants performance—delivering a 0-60 time of less than 7 seconds in many instrumented tests. Towing capacity with the smaller EcoBoost is still a respectable 8,500 pounds.

1978 Toyota Pickup/Hilux
The lone import on our list earns its spot by being the model that singlehandedly forced General Motors and Ford to develop a smaller pickup of their own. Introduced to the U.S. market in 1978, the simple, rugged pickup offered no-frills functionality and soon established a well-deserved reputation for bulletproof reliability. Toward the end of its production run in 1983—just before the introduction of Toyota’s fourth-generation truck—the 2.4L 22R engine debuted. With a carburetor, it produced 98 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque, very respectable numbers for its day. The engine received fuel injection in the fourth-generation truck to become the renowned 22RE. It would be five years before Chevrolet came out with the S-10, and Ford with the Ranger. Chevrolet offered the Isuzu-based LUV compact truck starting in 1972, but it was the Toyota pickup that was the real game changer for the segment.

Read more at: http://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/autos-trucks/12-pickups-that-revolutionized-truck-design/ar-AAbI0eu#page=13

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