The 1955 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier was a light-duty truck designed with the flair of a passenger car. As Chuck Jordan remembers, "In our earliest designs, the bodysides ran back flush into the pickup box. The cab and the box were all tied in. There was no seam, no gap. But then Chevrolet came along and said, no, you can't do it that way, because there'll be too much body torquing, and tying the whole thing together will wrinkle the sheetmetal.
"So we redesigned it and put in that gap between the cab and the box. There's a kind of overlapping flange and a chrome strip that fills in the seam. I think they told us we had to have ¾-inch of clearance. The gap looked huge to us, but when the average person sees the truck, he probably doesn't really notice the gap.
"Anyway, the Cameo turned out to be something extra, something beyond the ordinary. It was the first time Chevrolet had done anything like it. And we knew this would never be a high-volume seller. We didn't expect to sell a lot of Cameos, and low volume meant fiberglass. That's how they got into the fiberglass parts. Fiberglass let us afford the program. We had the Corvette to thank for that. The Corvette blazed that trail."
The smooth-sided Cameo Carrier carried a conventional steel stepside box hidden inside fiberglass outer skins. The fenders, tailgate, and spare-tire carrier were all formed from fiberglass and attached with concealed fasteners to the exterior of the pickup box. The faired-in vertical taillamps were unique to the Cameo, and the tailgate swung down on cables that retracted via hidden, spring-loaded pulleys.
All fiberglass pieces were supplied by the same company that fabricated the Corvette body: Moulded Fiberglas of Ashtabula, Ohio. And like early Corvettes, the Cameo Carrier came in only one color scheme: Bombay Ivory with Commercial Red window accents, and a red-and-beige vinyl interior. The inside walls of the pickup box were also painted red.
Chevrolet continued the Cameo Carrier into early 1958. Depending on the year, prices ranged about $350 to $475 higher than those of Chevy's basic ½-ton pickups, and total Cameo production came to 10,321, approximately half of which was sold during the short 1955 season.
But the significance of the Cameo Carrier wasn't its sales record; it was the halo effect it had on all Chevrolet trucks. The Cameo Carrier was to Chevrolet trucks what the Corvette was to passenger cars -- an attention getter and brand focal point.
Observes Jordan: "Of course, the influence of the Cameo was considerable. Shortly after we introduced it, Dodge brought out a pickup with a fleetside box [for 1957], and from then on all trucks became available with smooth sides. So the Cameo, which didn't sell in great numbers because it carried a relatively high price, started the trend toward flush-sided pickup boxes."
To read about more 1955 Chevrolet truck models, see the next page.