From off-road versatility to hauling capabilities, it’s hard to imagine a world that lacks the vehicles which are capable of doing our heavy lifting. Without trucks and utility vehicles, we wouldn’t have the means to transport food products, medical supplies, or fuel. High-rise buildings wouldn’t exist, roads would crumble, and some locations would no longer have access to fresh drinking water. We wouldn’t have UPS or FedEx deliveries to look forward to, and fire trucks and ambulances couldn’t come to our rescue. For all of the above reasons and more, we are taking a moment to honor the workhorses of yesteryear. Here are DriveShare’s top six classic workhorses that changed the industry and the world.
Built Ford Tough
The introduction of the F-Series in 1947 marked Ford’s first truck-specific heavy-duty chassis. The manufacturer offered eight variations through 1952, with the F-1 being the lightest-capacity and the F-8 being strictly for heavy commercial use, such as hauling large loads for long distances. Ford’s second-generation civilian F-series trucks were simplified into three models beginning in 1953: The half-ton took the F-100 namesake, the F-2 and F-3 became the ¾-ton F-250, and the F-4 was re-named as the one-ton F-350. The F-150 came along in 1975 for the pickup’s sixth generation, and then the F-100 dissolved in 1983. As of December 2019, the Ford F-series line is the best-selling pickup in the U.S., earning a 43-year streak. The late-40s trucks that started it all, though rare, can still be found today, or you can experience a piece of history on DriveShare.
The AM General Humvee represents how a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) should be built. The combination of its high ground clearance, low silhouette, forward visibility, minimum weight and resilience withstood over 600,000 miles of testing over rugged courses that simulated global combat environments. Drivers from the Army and AM General drove them over rocky inclines, through deep sand and thick mud, in water up to 60-inches deep, and in the desert heat and the Arctic cold. Despite pushing the vehicles to their limits in an attempt to make them fail, each one passed every test with flying colors.
Beginning in March of 1983, AM General built 55,000 examples consisting of 15 different configurations, and the vehicles later became an integral part of Operation Desert Storm in 1990 as the U.S. forces liberated Kuwait. The HMMWV’s positive press turned it into an American icon. Road-legal decommissioned examples can still be found today, such as this example from 1987, equipped with its original 6.5-liter V-8 diesel engine.
The Original Gladiator
The Willys Jeep was the first mass-produced four-wheel-drive car available to civilians, and as such, it jumpstarted the future for 4WD recreational vehicles. The first model, known as the Willys MB or the U.S. Army truck, became an iconic vehicle of WWII for its toughness, durability and versatility on any terrain. Every Jeep brand vehicle links back to the Willys’ rich heritage, like this J-series truck, a more modern full-size pickup manufactured from 1962-1988. The J-series namesake dates back to the original Jeep Gladiator, and its platform remained in production for 24 years, virtually unchanged. Three decades after Jeep discontinued the model, the manufacturer gave in to its consumer’s cries for another pickup and released the Jeep Gladiator J.T. in April 2019, which resulted in over 40,000 sold by the end of that year.
The Dodge that Didn’t Die
Speaking of military vehicles, this 1954 M37 was Dodge’s successor to the W.C. Series utility trucks of World War II. Introduced in 1951, The M37 has several significant drivetrain and powertrain similarities to the civilian Dodge Power Wagon, which was also based off the W.C. Series and launched in 1945 as America’s first four-wheel-drive truck. Strong transmissions and ultra-low axle gearing made these vehicles so unstoppable, the only thing that could kill them over time was rust. The historic W.C. Series, M37 and classic Power Wagon models eventually led to the mass-produced Dodge Ram pickups in 1981 and then the modern-day RAM trucks of today.
Chevrolet introduced a new line of commercial trucks after the First World War, which also created more work for U.S. citizens during a time of need. The ray of sunshine we speak of is the Chevrolet Advance-Design Series, first released in 1947. It was built larger and stronger with the sleek large-fender design often recognized on late-40s and 50s trucks. A rugged six-cylinder engine meant reliability for the consumers who depended on it. This 1953 Chevrolet 3100 is an excellent example of the marque. Other models included the 3600 (¼-ton), 3800 (1-ton), and the commercial Loadmaster and Thiftmaster. In fact, Chevrolet trucks held the top position for sales in the states from 1947 until 1955, when Ford reclaimed their place on the pedestal.
The Beginning of an Era
An article about iconic trucks would not be complete without mentioning the Ford Model T because, without this early 20th-century technology, none of the vehicles listed above would exist. It put the world on wheels when American’s were seeking a more straightforward way of hauling large materials that otherwise wouldn’t fit easily into a traditional motorcar.
Ford Motor Company’s release of the Model T in 1908 changed the auto industry and introduced new car production methods. With over 15 million produced, it was the first mass-produced vehicle that rolled off of moving assembly lines with interchangeable parts. It is only natural that the Model T influenced the pickup body style, but it took Ford several years to fill civilian needs for a truck bed. Until the first factory pickup rolled off factory lines in 1925 as the “Model T Roundabout with Pick Up Body,” independent body shops and skilled fabricators chopped up standard models to create the pickups that the public desired. Despite its 20-hp engine and lack of towing capacity, the Model T had big ambitions. Sales numbers proved the pickup was in demand, and Ford never looked back.