1947-1955 Chevrolet Trucks


The 1947 Chevrolet truck, Chevy's first new   thoroughly modern for its time. See more pictures of classic cars.

Chevrolet, America's top-selling truck brand in the Forties, was the first to get an all-new line of commercial vehicles on the market after World War II when it introduced its Advance-Design line in the summer of 1947. It's been a reliable favorite ever since that 1947 Chevrolet truck.

America's automakers stopped building cars during World War II, but they never stopped making trucks. Truck production continued at a strong pace throughout the war. From late 1939 through 1945, U.S. truck manufacturers turned out 3.2 million military transport vehicles, many of them quarter-ton jeeps, and pickups in half- and three-quarter-ton sizes. Chevrolet alone built more than 56,000 pickups between March 1942 and August 1945.

All General Motors-built pickups produced during the war years were basically 1941-1942 models. Those same designs continued with some upgrades after the war, but by mid 1947, Chevrolet and GMC introduced entirely restyled truck lines. These became the first rebodied General Motors vehicles produced after the war, and they arrived six months before any of the Big Three manufacturers -- GM, Ford, and Chrysler -- applied major styling changes to their postwar passenger cars.

Chevrolet's and GMC's so-called "Advance-Design" trucks entered production in May 1947 and officially went on sale on June 28, 1947. Contrast that date with GM's first restyled passenger cars, the 1948 Oldsmobile and Cadillac, which didn't reach dealerships until February and March of that year, respectively.

The same thing happened at Ford and Chrysler. Ford's restyled trucks became available in January 1948, while the first all-new postwar Ford Motor Company cars, the 1949 Mercurys and Lincolns, had to wait until April 1948. Redesigned postwar Dodge trucks became available in December 1947, while the first redone Mopar passenger cars didn't go on sale until February 1949.

Which brings us to an intriguing question: Why this rush to restyle America's postwar trucks before its cars?

Taylor Vinson, of the Society of Automotive Historians, suggests that, because truck production did continue through the war, the body dies were probably well worn by VJ Day. Most had been used since before the war, and they'd most likely been patched and repaired many times. So, instead of continuing with the old dies, the manufacturers probably decided that it was cheaper and easier to design and create entirely new sets.

The 1947 Chevrolet pickup design had been in the works in Harley Earl's GM Styling Section since at least 1942. Harley J. Earl was GM's first vice president of design and the undisputed trend leader in American vehicle design. Precisely who was involved in the 1947 truck designs is uncertain. However, several clay models from 1943 showed the beginnings of the 1947 design: headlights integrated into the front fenders, tall hood, and split windshield. But these clays also had more sedanlike grilles and bumpers. Where the final production grille and interior came from also remains a mystery.

There was no identifiable truck studio within GM Styling during and just after World War II. GM's first dedicated truck and coach studio, under Luther W. Stier, came into being on November 21, 1949. However, Lu Stier had previously been a member of the Chevrolet passenger-car studio, so it's possible that he'd been one of the designers working on the new look for Chevy's 1947 trucks.

Fisher Body, the General Motors division that produced sheetmetal stampings for GM automobiles, had nothing to do with truck bodies. For the corporation's trucks and commercial vehicles, body engineering and production were done internally by the Chevrolet and GMC divisions. Chevy and GMC likewise de­signed and created their own body dies.

Stampings were produced in GM's Indianapolis, Indiana, facility and then shipped out to Chevrolet and GMC truck assembly plants in Janesville, Wisconsin; Nor­wood, Ohio; Flint, Michigan; Oak­land and Los Ange­les, California; Tarry­town, New York; St. Louis, Missouri; Kan­­sas City, Kansas; Atlanta, Georgia; and Bal­timore, Mary­land.

The light-duty Advance-Design trucks that are the focus of this article came in three series, all of them designated as "Thrift-Master" models. The 3100 series denoted half-ton trucks; three-quarter-tonners made up the 3600 series; and one-tons were in the 3800 range. (New Chevy trucks with 11/2- and two-ton capacity ratings were dubbed "Load-Master.") Common to all three light-duty lines were pickups -- the most popular of all truck styles -- as well as cab-and-chassis, cowl-and-chassis, and cowl/windshield-and-chassis versions intended for the mounting of specialized aftermarket bodies.

The 3100 and 3800 series also included fully enclosed panel and open-sided canopy express variants. The former featured twin side-hinged rear doors, while the latter, a descendent of one of the oldest light-truck styles around, sported a low rear tailgate and waterproof roll-up curtains on the back and sides. Another panel truck variation was the Carryall Sub­­urban, an all-steel eight-passenger sta­tion wagon restricted to the 3100 line. Stake-side and flatbed platform models were offered in the 3600 and 3800 ranges.

Cosmetically, GM's 1947 Advance-Design models looked unlike anything built to that time. "Round and juicy" is the way retired GM design vice president Charles M. "Chuck" Jordan describes them. GM's new trucks created quite a stir when they broke cover in mid 1947. Their overall shape and detailing were thoroughly modern at the time. They looked surprisingly simple, yet these trucks had a rugged elegance that was wholly without precedent. (The design has become so indelible that Chevy plays off of it for the retro SSR pickup, built in the 2004-2006 model years.)

On the practical side, the new cabs were larger, more comfortable, and more user-friendly than Chevrolet's previous models. According to truck authority Don Bunn, writing on the Website Pick-upTruck.com, Chevrolet queried fleet owners before establishing the dimen­sions and amenities for the Advance-Design trucks. Surveys showed that drivers wanted more interior space, a seat wide enough for three adults instead of two, better outward vision, and easier entry and exit.

Chevrolet's truck engineers, under the direction of John G. Wood, made the all-steel cab wider by having the bodysides overhang the frame siderails. This moved the doors outward several inches so that their outer surfaces came down almost parallel with the perimeter of the running boards. As a result, three adults could indeed sit side by side in the cab.

Ventilation was improved, too. Chev­rolet said it had "the cab that breathes," though the windshield no longer could be cranked open at the bottom. Fresh air was taken in through a louvered cowl vent on the passenger's side and a flip-open vent on the driver's side, as well as through a cowl-top vent. Air continually entered the cab through the right-side louvers (which also fed the optional heater/defroster when ordered) and was then ducted into the interior through slots behind the base of the windshield. Air circulated through the interior exiting via a long slot at the bottom of the rear window on cab models.

The driver could also open the cowl vent on his side, from which air entered through openings in the kick panel. To further improve sight lines, glass area was enlarged. Curved "Nu-Vue" windows could be ordered for the rear corners of cab models.

Much attention went into the bench seat design. The bottom cushion could easily be lifted up and out to give access to a toolbox under the floor. The seat it­self, upholstered in dark maroon leather­ette, could be adjusted for height and leg room by sliding it up and back on wedge-shaped floor runners. Moving the seat forward simultaneously angled it up­ward, automatically adjusting it to the driver's height so that a short person could see out just as easily as a tall one.

Cab models had a single bench seat. Suburbans used a short bench wide enough to accommodate the driver and middle passenger, plus a separate seat for the right-side passenger. This seat slid forward to allow access to the removable middle- and third-row benches. Panel and canopy models came standard with a single seat for the driver, but a matching passenger seat could be ordered.

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1947 Chevrolet Truck Changes

Suburbans, unlike the Chevy pickups, came                              in two-tone paint for 1947.
Suburbans, unlike the Chevy pickups, came in two-tone paint for 1947.

Chevy's trendsetting 1947 instrument panel placed two gauges in front of the driver, with a chrome speaker grille in the center. Hidden among its horizontal chrome bars, the driver could find a pop-out ashtray, as in 1939-1940 Cadillacs. It can be considered "trendsetting" because the 1947 truck dashboard seems to have set the tone for the 1951 Chevrolet passenger-car panel.

The wiper switch, choke, a pull-out throttle, and the ignition switch stood in a vertical line to the right of the gauge cluster. If a buyer ordered the optional Delco AM radio, the dealer installed it above the speaker grille. Ahead of the passenger was a capacious glovebox. Inner doors were exposed metal except for a small, rectangular, maroon leatherette trim panel screwed to the upper half. The headliner was cardboard, finished in the same slate gray as the instrument panel.

Given differences in wheelbase for each series, the steel cargo boxes on pickups stood 78, 87, and 108.13 inches long, and all were 50 inches wide by 161/4 inches deep. (The standardization of width and height meant half- and three-quarter-ton pickups gained bed space compared with earlier models, but one-tons lost cargo room.)

Floors were wood with steel skid strips. Tops of the box sides tilted outward at 45 degrees and also had a curled rim for extra strength, as did the bottom-hinged tailgate. The spare tire and fuel tank rested safely underneath the cargo bed. New bodies also lent more cargo space to panels, canopy expresses, and the Suburban.

The standard exterior color for most new Chevy trucks was Forester Green. This came with a cream pinstripe on the belt molding, across the painted grille bars, and encircling the chrome hub caps. Grille bars were body color, unless extra-cost chrome bars were ordered. Other no-cost factory body colors included a lighter green, red, white, black, orange, maroon, beige, and two shades of blue, all with contrasting pinstripes. Sub­urbans were the exception to the rule, coming in two-tone green paint (both shades of which being exclusive to the wagon) and with a chrome grille.

A Deluxe Cab package for pickups and chassis/cabs included the corner windows plus bright windshield and window garnish moldings, a seatback trim panel, driver's armrest, passenger-side sun visor, and chrome grille bars. Panel trucks could be outfitted with a similar decor option that did away with the seatback trim panel, but added chrome spears on the front and rear fenders.

Mechanically, the 1947 Advance-Design trucks remained pretty much as they'd been before World War II. The gusseted, ladder-type frame had slightly heavier and more-rigid side rails than before, and chassis dimensions increased slightly for 1947. The 3100 stood on a 116-inch wheelbase (versus 115 previously), the 3600 on a 125.25-inch frame (same as before), and the 3800 had a 137-inch wheelbase (up from 134.5 inches).

Chevrolet's tried-and-true pushrod "Thrift-Master Six" engine used a 3.50x3.75 bore and stroke, giving a displacement of 216.5 cubic inches. It had 6.5:1 compression, solid lifters, cast-iron pistons, a single downdraft Carter carburetor, and four main bearings. Lubri­cation was by a combination of splash and pressure. Horsepower came to 90 at 3,300 rpm, with 174 pound-feet of torque at 1,200-2,000 rpm.

The standard transmission was an all-synchro three-speed manual. Optional in 3100s and 3600s (and standard in 3800s) was a four-speed with a nonsynchro low gear. It had what was called a "granny low," meaning a stump-puller first gear. Top ratio in all three transmissions was 1:1, and all differential ratios were quite low: 4.11 in the half-ton, 4.57 in the three-quarter-ton, and 5.14:1 in the one-tonner. Considering that the pickups alone weighed from 3,345 to 3,845 pounds unloaded, performance was sluggish at best.

In keeping with these vehicles' overall simplicity, the clutch was a 9.13-inch-diameter single dry plate with dia­phragm springs on 3100 and 3600 trucks, 103/4 inches on 3800s. (The larger clutch was optional in the half- and three-quarter-ton series.) Gearshift and emergency brake levers rose from the center of the floor. Service brakes were specific to each series, with 159 square inches of lining area for the half-ton pickup, 178 for the three-quarter-ton, and 243 for the one-ton.

Base prices for factory-finished 1947 Advance-Design trucks ran from $1,087 for a 3100 pickup to $1,523 for a 3800 canopy express. Standard equipment included a reinforced black rubber floormat, dome lamp, rheostat-controlled instrument lighting, and twin vacuum-powered windshield wipers newly mounted at the base of the windshield. Items like oil and fuel filters, air cleaner, outside mirrors, hydraulic shock absorbers, longer running boards, chrome trim, heater/defroster, armrests, etc., were optional, some installed at the factory, others by dealers.

Because the American public was so starved for new vehicles after World War II, Chevrolet could easily sell as many cars and trucks as it could produce. For calendar year 1947, the division built 335,343 commercial vehicles of all sizes, a figure that included both the old 1946 style (which was made into May '47) and the new type, so it doesn't fully reveal the impact of the Advance-Design trucks. Chev­rolet probably wouldn't have had to update to sell as many trucks as it did, but the restyling certainly didn't hurt.

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1948-1949 Chevrolet Truck

By 1949, the Chevy truck still looked much the same as the '47, at least on the outside.
By 1949, the Chevy truck still looked much the same as the '47, at least on the outside.

Apart from some functional changes to the 1949s, the 1948-1949 Chevrolet truck was similar to the 1947 model, and in fact Chevy's 1948 trucks were nearly identical to the '47s. To make more leg room for center passengers in 3100s and 3600s, the gearshift lever migrated from the floor to the steering column, and the parking brake was activated by a pedal operated by the driver's left foot, as on Buicks. At midyear, inside-door-handle action was reversed: You now pulled up to open the door.

A switch from poured to precision main bearings was made to increase engine durability, half-ton models got stouter front leaf springs, and the four-speed transmission was now fully synchronized. Otherwise, with Advance-Design trucks selling briskly, there was not much incentive for change.

Since the frame-mounted fuel tank interfered with certain body types on the 1947-1948 chassis, for 1949, Chevrolet moved it inside the cab on pickups and chassis/cabs. The new tank was long and thin, and stood upright behind the seat.

The cab itself, which had previously been attached to the frame at three points via shackle bolts and rubber mounts, was now mounted at four points. The idea of the three-point system was to let the frame flex without affecting the cab. This worked well, but the single forward mount put too much stress on the front frame crossmember, so two smaller shackle mounts were set on the forward chassis rails instead. The cab was still unaffected by frame flexing thanks to the lessened tension of the shackle bolts.

Frame flexing had caused other problems as well. There'd been complaints, for example, that the 1947-1948 radiator support in the 3100s tended to twist and shake loose after many miles on rough roads. This caused splits in the radiator core, and cracks in front-end sheetmetal. For 1949, Chevrolet added X-bracing to the radiator support frame, reinforced the bottom channel, and mounted the entire assembly more rigidly.

Hood shake had been another complaint, so a set of cross braces was installed. These ran diagonally across the inner front corners of the hood.

Under the hood, compression ratios went up by 0.1 point to 6.6:1 in the 216.5-cubic-inch Thrift-Master Six. To prevent stalling when the engine was cold, the carburetor received a fast-idle cam for the hand choke. The carburetor accelerator pump got moved down into the float bowl so the leather piston would stay wet.

The previous standard tool set was discontinued for 1949 (except for the jack and lug wrench), and more-durable Vinylite sparkplug nipples replaced the previous rubber ones. Engine-timing gears were now pressure lubricated, and the ignition switch was modified so it no longer had a keyless start position.

Door weatherstrips now slid into channels instead of being held onto the sheetmetal with screws. The 1949 taillamp was brighter, brakes got riveted rather than bonded linings, and wiring junctions now used tubular slip connectors instead of the bayonet type. New options included a combination fuel/vacuum pump for more consistent uphill windshield-wiper action. A nine-leaf rear spring was available optionally for heavier loads.

Cosmetically, the inner surfaces of all grille bars were painted white for 1949, and there were no more pinstripes across the outer bars. Also, series were identified by four-digit chrome numbers on both sides of the hood.

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1950 Chevrolet Truck

1950 would be the last year of the rear bumper on this generation of Chevy trucks.
1950 would be the last year of the rear bumper on this generation of Chevy trucks.

The 1950 model year brought about the end of the postwar seller's market. Now, suddenly, America's insatiable appetite for anything on wheels came to an abrupt halt. Buyers were starting to pick and choose again (though they would make 1950 a record-setting year for car and truck purchases, spurred on to some degree by the start of war in Korea). Trucks had sold well during the previous four years, and Chevrolet had topped the market; total Chevy truck registrations had reached 345,519 by '49. But with buyers now in control, Detroit recognized that the sales race was about to heat up.

Even so, not much changed on 1950 Chev­rolet trucks. Horsepower and torque did increase by two on the Thrift-Master, to 92 horsepower at 3,400 rpm and 176 pound-feet at 1,000-2,000 rpm, thanks mainly to a revised Rochester carburetor and slightly bigger exhaust valves. Tubular rear shocks became standard, and the three-quarter-ton pickup now used eight-leaf front springs.

On panels and canopy expresses, a new single-sheet plywood load floor replaced multiple-board construction for better dust sealing. The Suburban resorted to single-tone standard paint and made available panel-style rear doors, marking the first time since 1946 that customers could choose between side-hinged doors or a top-and-bottom tailgate.

In 1949, Edward H. "Crankshaft" Kelley became Chevrolet's chief engineer. He continued to make minor improvements in the division's trucks, but he concentrated on his main areas of expertise, namely economy of manufacture and plant efficiency. Under Kelley's direction, Chevy's 1951 pickups lost some of their previous standard equipment, notably the rear bumper and spare-tire locks. But he did add conventional door-window ventipanes to replace the cowl vent on the driver's side.

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1951 Chevrolet Truck

The 1951 Chevrolet truck got a more-durable and wider "double-decker" seat. This used two layers of springs, one atop the other. The seat adjuster went to a combination of ball and roller bearings instead of the former double rollers on a central shaft.

Another 1951 upgrade was the addition of self-energizing Bendix brakes. Here, as in passenger cars, the rotation of the drums provided some of the energy needed to force the shoes outward against the drums. This meant that the driver didn't have to push so hard on the pedal; the self-energizing action kicked in automatically whenever the driver touched the brakes.

The front stabilizer bar now bolted farther inboard on the front axle beam and attached via an articulating link, and the front stabilizer bushings mounted directly to the chassis frame. This improved cornering stability and cost less to manufacture.

Chief engineer Edward Kelley's team also adopted a swing-down spare carrier that nestled underneath the rear of the pickup bed. The new carrier moved the tire farther forward, and without the rear bumper, the tailgate could drop straight down. In the past, the unchained tailgate came to rest against the bumper.

All 1951 pickup boxes were reinforced by welding the cross sill to the stake pockets at two spots on each side. Before, heavy loads could spread the side panels so that the tailgate wouldn't lock. There were also now eight slightly wider boards for the pickup floor instead of nine, along with one fewer metal rub strip.

New accessories included a windshield washer, grille guard, plus a handheld spotlight that plugged into the optional cigar lighter. Due to the Korean military action, chromium became a rare commodity in 1951. Most Chevy trucks came with the standard painted grilles. Then for 1952, chrome plating disappeared almost entirely. A bright grille no longer was offered, even for Suburbans, and series badges disappeared from the hood sides of half-tons. Because the Korean conflict also put a hold on copper, radiators became lighter and less robust, too.

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1952 Chevrolet Truck

You had to look carefully to tell a 1952 Chevrolet truck from a ’51. The major visual clue was the outside door handle. Chevrolet trucks had used the twist type through 1951, but switched to the pushbutton style for 1952. One-ton models adopted the floor-pedal parking brake. Thistle Gray became the new color for inner grille bars.

Despite this seeming sameness, activity was taking place inside Lu Stier’s styling studio located in Fisher’s Plant Eight facility during 1952. Plant Eight was located a few blocks away from the Argonaut Building, where Harley Earl officiated over the GM Styling Section.

One member of Stier’s design group was Chuck Jordan, who would eventually rise to the position of vice president of design. Now retired to Cal­ifornia, Jordan joined GM in 1949. All design interns started in the orientation studio, which happened to be on the fourth floor of Plant Eight, next door to Stier’s truck studio. Jordan had always been fascinated with trucks -- he’d learned to drive one at age 12 on his father’s orange ranch -- so when it came time to pick a studio in which to work, he chose Stier’s.

In addition to chief designer Stier, members of the studio at that time included designers Bob and Al Phillips (who were not related), modeler Clark Whitcomb, and woodworker Frank Wagner. There was no assistant chief designer, says Jordan, because it was such a small studio.

When he got there, recalls Jordan, “We were working on a facelift of the original 1947 truck, and we did a lot of sketches knowing that we could only do a grille and ornamentation. I think we also did an instrument panel. So we were all working on that project and, as a first experience, it was wonderful, because Lu Stier didn’t act like a big boss. He was one of us, just a low-key guy, always pleasant, never temperamental, never dictatorial; just did what he had to do to run the studio. And he also worked with us as a fellow designer.

“We’d talk about things as we put them on the wall, and he just moved right ahead. We didn’t have any program or any rules or anything. When we saw something that was good, we tried it. It was a wonderful environment.”

Stier’s immediate boss was Al Boca. Boca came into the studio occasionally, but Jordan doesn’t feel he had much authority or influence. He acted more as a liaison between the studio and Chev­rolet engineering. Engineers would visit often since the truck bodies were all engineered by the division. That put Jordan in his element, considering he’d taken his Massachusetts Institute of Technology degree in mechanical engineering, though he knew all along that he wanted to devote himself to styling and body design.

According to Jordan, Earl did not visit the truck studio very often. “No one came to give us instructions. Everyone pretty much left us alone. But there was one time when Harley Earl did come in. It was on a Saturday. We were all working overtime ... so here we were, all in jeans and T-shirts on a Saturday, and here comes Harley Earl walking in bigger than life. I’d seen him before, but I’d never been in a working relationship with him.

“So we’re all standing there with our knees knocking as he came in. ... He walked into the studio and always worked in front of a full-sized board. He worked on line. He couldn’t sketch. He’d look at sketches, but on this particular Saturday, he’d come over with an idea.

“He said, ‘Fellas, I g-g-got an idea,’ the way he stuttered, and he sat down in front of the board with his legs splayed out, and we’re all standing behind him, wondering what was happening. He said, ‘Now here’s what I want to do,’ and he described an early version of an El Camino pickup.”

According to Jordan, Earl spent several hours in the studio. Jordan was asked to modify the roofline, lowering it an eighth of an inch. “I tell you, that was one of the hardest things I ever did, because my hands were shaking. That was my first experience with Harley Earl,” he says.

The passenger-car-based pickup was to have been built on a 1952 Chevrolet sedan base. It seemed like a great idea, and it excited everyone in Stier’s studio. But Earl later lost interest in the project. Jordan doesn’t know why. The early “El Camino” was never modeled in clay or built as a prototype. But the idea was resurrected, of course, for 1959, and the resulting production El Camino was the first of a successful line.

Then, too, in May 1952, Edward N. Cole became Chevy’s chief engineer. Cole immediately focused on the 1955 line of cars and trucks, particularly the development of Chevrolet’s small-block V-8. While he did tweak the 1954 cars and trucks, these changes were overshadowed by work on the V-8 and the totally changed 1955 models.

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1953 Chevrolet Truck

Tinted glass was available on 1953 Chevy trucks.
Tinted glass was available on 1953 Chevy trucks.

The minor differences that appeared in Chevrolet's 1953 truck line included new paint colors, restyled hoodside series designation plates (created by future design vice president Chuck Jordan, his first design element to reach production), slightly heavier front shock absorbers, modifications to the three-speed transmission to keep it from popping out of high gear, and a lower horn note. Hubcaps were now attached to the wheels by three wide clips instead of six narrow ones, and the parking-brake release handle was repositioned farther to the left to make disengagement easier.

New 1953 options included tinted glass and a sidemount spare-tire carrier between the cab and the left rear fender. The accessory oil filter was fed through a flex hose instead of metal tubing.

Ed Cole put on a relatively big push to improve Chevrolet's 1954 truck lines, but his main effort still centered on the V-8. He realized that the new engine would completely transform Chevrolet, both in its passenger cars and in its trucks. So the 1954 changes came in anticipation of an entirely upgraded range of 1955 trucks.

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1954 Chevrolet Truck

The 1954 Chevrolet pickup had a lower loading                              height and horizontal rails on the bed.
The 1954 Chevrolet pickup had a lower loading height and horizontal rails on the bed.

Although a complete makeover was in the works for the following year, the 1954 Chevrolet truck did get a facelift, including a switch to a one-piece curved windshield. Chief engineer Ed Cole also discontinued the 216.5-cubic-inch Thrift-Master Six and replaced it with the 235.5-cubic-inch engine from Chevy's larger Load-Master trucks.

According to designer Chuck Jordan, the 1954 facelift involved "choosing sketches off the wall, but we had [to continue] the front-end sheetmetal that Chevy gave us. We mounted [a complete production 1953 front end] on legs and tried different grilles. We had to use the same hood, same fenders. ... [O]ur job was to just fill the hole," he says. Designer Lu Stier's crew wound up with a single thick horizontal bar bisected by a stubby vee'd center bar, low rectangular parking lights, a new hood ornament, and hubcaps sporting Chevy "bow ties."

In addition to the visual revisions, Cole's group reduced the rear frame kickup to give the pickup bed a lower loading height. This allowed for pickup bed sides to be raised 2.25 inches on all models -- and three-quarter-ton pickups gained even more cargo capacity by a three-inch stretch of bed length to 90 inches. The new pickup boxes also now incorporated horizontal top rails. (This box design would go on to serve Chevy pickups into the Eighties.)

The truck engineering team beefed up the frame crossmember behind the engine, increased standard clutch diameter from 9.13 to 10 inches, and made four transmissions available: an all-synchro three-speed (standard in 3100s and 3600s); a four-speed all synchro gearbox with floorshift (standard in 3800s, optional in others); a heavy-duty all-synchro three-speed; and, for the first time, GM's four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic. The heavy-duty three-speed and Hydra-Matic could be ordered for any light-duty truck model. A 3.9:1 axle ratio was used in 3100s for greater fuel economy.

The 235.5-cubic-inch engine had been extensively tweaked for 1953, and was even more so for 1954. The head got a tighter 7.5:1 compression ratio, up from 7.1:1. Horsepower jumped to 112 at 3,700 rpm, torque was now 200 pound-feet at 2,000 rpm, and refinements included full-pressure lubrication, aluminum pistons, stronger connecting rods, a built-up crankshaft for greater stiffness, thicker bearing bulkheads for a beefier crank-case, bypass cooling, and improved distributor insulation.

A redesigned dashboard featured twin instru­ment dials that were slightly recessed, the speaker grille bars were now vertical instead of horizontal, and the upper portion of the dash bulged out slightly over the working section. Finger grips were added to the steering wheel. The seat was upholstered in brown leatherette, set off by beige trim and paint. Defroster openings extended fully beneath the one-piece windshield.

Dealer-installed accessories included turn signals, multicolor seatcovers, a dash-mounted clock, radio, heater, non-glare inside mirror, cigar lighter, and two types of grille guards. One of the more popular factory options was the Deluxe Comfortmaster Cab, which included maroon-and-gray fabric and trim, Nu-Vue corner windows, chrome window moldings, a passenger-side sun visor, driver's armrest, cigar lighter, and dual horns. Panel trucks could still be had with a deluxe package, as well. Also listed as options were electric windshield wipers and a foot-operated windshield washer.

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1955 Chevrolet Truck

Early 1955 Chevy trucks were the last of the                              stalwart post-war designs.
Early 1955 Chevy trucks were the last of the stalwart post-war designs.

The early 1955 Chevrolet trucks, generally called "First Series" '55s, were sold through March. At that point, they were replaced by completely re-engineered and restyled "Second Series" '55s, which promptly set a new standard for American trucks.

On the surface, the First Series trucks looked like a straight continuation of the 1954 models, but there were differences. For appearance sake, new hoodside series badges were applied, and grille bars adopted Bombay Ivory as the standard color. In the technical department, an open drive-shaft replaced the torque tube that had been a Chevrolet engineering staple. The early '55s also marked the end of the line for the canopy express; new shopping habits were ringing out the era of wares sold door-to-door from "peddler wagons."

Time had surely run out on the Advance-Design trucks by '55, considering Ford had totally redesigned its trucks for 1953 and Dodge had followed suit the following year. But these hardy Chevys were sales champs throughout their long run. Today, many of them still soldier on with grace and dignity, adding testimony to the durability and ruggedness -- the correctness -- of their design and engineering.

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