Home Cars 14 Best Classic Chevy Pickup Trucks You’ve Probably Never Heard About

14 Best Classic Chevy Pickup Trucks You’ve Probably Never Heard About

Vukasin Herbez December 23, 2017

Nobody knows which company was the first to introduce the pickup or a light delivery vehicle based on a passenger car chassis. But most car fans can say this vehicle class found a home in America and became popular with buyers. In fact, of all the vehicle classes in the world, only pickup trucks have stayed true to their concept and initial design for over 100 years.

Chevrolet was established in 1911 and in 1918, they produced their first true pickup truck. This means the history of Chevrolet trucks is a century old. Ever since the legendary Half-Ton saw the light of the day, Chevy has become a force to be reckoned with in the truck world. After that, Chevrolet was one of the first companies in America to truly comprehend the truck market. In fact, they have dedicated a lot of resources to producing and designing the right car for the times.

For the last 100 years, Chevrolet trucks have become one of the symbols of America as much as Levi’s jeans or apple pie. Constantly battling with the competitors in form of Ford and Dodge, Chevrolet always went the extra mile to deliver better designs, more powerful engines and new concepts. Keep reading to learn more about the 14 most legendary Chevrolet trucks from the last 100 years.

1. Chevrolet 490 Series Half-Ton Pickup

Chevy introduced the Half-Ton pickup in 1918. They based it on the new 490 Sedan, so the Half-Ton was the first specially designed pickup in the world. This means that Chevrolet intended to present this model as a light-duty delivery vehicle and not just a chopped-off sedan body. The power came from the four-cylinder engine, which was standard in the range.

Interestingly, this first truck came from the factory without the body. Customers were supposed to buy their own cab and truck bed according to their needs. Chevrolet sold a running chassis with the engine, transmission, wheels, hood and fenders. Buyers then looked for the rest.

In those days, there were many local body shops providing services and constructing open or closed trucks per customer specifications. Some trucks even had a few bodies they could switch for different applications. The 490 Series truck stayed in production for over 10 years. Chevrolet produced a big number of them, influencing other truck manufacturers to start designing similar models.

2. Chevrolet International Series LD

Just 10 years after the revolutionary Series 490 truck, Chevrolet introduced a brand new International Series LD pickup in 1929. Again, they based it on the passenger car model. This pickup had a few improvements that made it the best Half-Ton truck on the market. The chassis and suspension were more durable due to the intended purpose of the vehicle.

For the first time, Chevrolet offered a closed cab directly from the factory. Interestingly, aside from mechanical and engineering improvements, Chevrolet offered several different colors to the customers. This was the first chance customers had to order a working truck in a color different than black. Automotive historians claim this was also the first time a major truck maker paid attention to the style of the trucks.

  1. Chevrolet Half-Ton

In 1938, Chevrolet introduced another revolutionary model they called the Half-Ton. Under the hood was a potent six-cylinder engine with a chassis and suspension Chevy designed to withstand tough everyday use. In those days, Chevrolet was famous for quality and dependability. They already had 20-year old reputation for making the best work vehicle in America.

The 1938 Chevy truck was also important since it was one of the first trucks to feature its own design. Chevrolet recognized the truck segment as one of the most important segments of the car market. So they did their best to present the fresh and recognizable look for their products. The new Half-Ton also featured a better interior, more comfort and the option of a car radio, which was a big deal in the late 30’s and a sign of ultimate luxury.

  1. Chevrolet AK Series Truck

Chevy introduced the AK Series truck in 1941. They based the AK Series on Chevrolet’s passenger car platform, but with suspension modifications to improve towing capacity and payload. It was available with two six-cylinder engines, 216 and 228 cid, and with a three-speed manual transmission.

Its mechanics were simple but dependable. The AK Series had a few body variations, such as a regular truck and a Suburban van. Another option was the interesting Cab Over design with the passenger cabin spreading over the engine bay. In 1942, they ceased production of civilian models because of WW2. When they resumed in 1945, this generation was rarer than the later models.

  1. Chevrolet 3100

Despite the fact that all of America’s car industry was involved in the war effort from 1942 to 1945, Chevrolet’s designers planned ahead. So in 1947, Chevy introduced the 3100 series truck. It one of the first truly modern vehicles presented in post-war America. The 3100 was a revolutionary model in many ways.

It featured modern styling with integrated fenders and a tilted windshield. It also had a bigger truck bed and wider track for better stability. Besides that, the 3100 offered three engine choices and three payload sizes of the truck. The buyers could choose three engines, again all three six-cylinder units: 216,235 and 261 cid and three payload levels: half ton, three quarter ton and one ton. There were short and long wheelbase versions and a panel van option.

All of that gave it the nickname “Advanced Design,” which showed how innovative those trucks were. The Advanced Design Chevy managed to outsell Ford trucks several years in a row, too.

  1. Chevrolet Task Force

After the successful Advanced Design generation, Chevrolet presented the Task Force in 1955 and continued to improve the product with more options and better design. Capturing the essence of America’s 50’s styling, the Task Force was bigger and better with the introduction of two V8 engines, 265 and 283 cid, and automatic transmission as an option.

The venerable 235 cid six cylinder was standard and buyers could get three truck bed lengths and various trim levels. They included a basic working truck to the more luxurious Apache with four headlights, a heavily chromed grille and two-tone exterior. The Task Force generation showed that Chevrolet looked at the truck segment as fully equal in importance to the passenger car line up. They invested heavily in design, equipment, engines and options.

  1. Chevrolet Cameo

An interesting, influential model Chevy introduced in 1958 as a part of their Task Force generation was the Chevrolet Cameo. This was the first Fleetside truck and the Fleetside construction was revolutionary in many ways. First, the truck bed looked more elegant and flush with lines of the cabin and the whole design of the truck. Second, Fleetside allowed the maximum width of truckbed, thus making the truck more capable to carry wider loads. Third, the innovative construction was more durable and stronger than before.

The first model featuring this construction solution was the Chevrolet Cameo, but it wasn’t so successful at first. The Cameo was an upscale version of the standard Chevy truck. It featured a V8 engine, updated equipment and a higher price. Some earlier versions even featured a fiberglass Fleetside bed instead of steel. They discontinued the Cameo as a model in 1958, but the Fleetside style continues to this day and soon all truck manufacturers accepted it.

  1. Chevrolet El Camino

In 1957, Ford introduced the Ranchero, a half car-half truck built on their passenger car chassis and design. It was an interesting alternative to a regular truck since it offered decent payload but drivability and size of standard car.

Chevrolet was caught by surprise and didn`t have a ready answer for this model. The Ranchero became relatively popular and Chevy needed something to fight Ford. The answer came in 1959 in form of the El Camino. The beautiful truck was built on Impala`s frame and featured the same looks, engine and cabin. It was immediately well received by the customers since it offered all the goodies of Chevrolet main passenger lineup with half ton capacity.

The El Camino was even more upscale than the Ranchero and featured better option list as well as more powerful engines. The straight six was standard but many customers optioned for V8.

  1. Chevrolet C/K Trucks

Introduced in 1960, the Chevrolet C/K was a revolutionary truck in many aspects. It offered a new chassis and body design. It also came with a vast number of options, engines, drive train and body configurations. But there was one important feature: four-wheel drive. In fact, this model introduced new truck designations. For example, “C” indicated the vehicle was is rear wheel drive and “K” indicated it was in all wheel drive.

With this option and powerful V8 engines, the new C/K Chevrolet trucks leaped from basic work transportation to capable all-terrain vehicles. Although other truck makers offered all-wheel drive before, such as Jeep on their Jeep Willys Pickup, Chevrolet was the first major truck manufacturer to present it to a wider audience in a mass-produced model. The first and second-generation C/K trucks stayed on the market until 1973 model year and were considered big success for Chevrolet against Ford and Dodge models.

  1. Chevrolet Greenbrier Rampside

In the late 50’s, Chevrolet presented the Corvair, a revolutionary compact car with a rear-mounted air-cooled flat six engine. Despite the promising sales and initial reception, in the mid-60’s they discovered the Corvair was unstable. This killed its sales and gave Chevrolet bad press. However, before that happened, Chevrolet introduced the Greenbrier, a van they based on the Corvair. Using the same floorplan, engine and drivetrain, the Greenbrier was a cool-looking and decent performing compact van.

The engine was underneath the cabin or truck bed, if you chose the pickup version. It could carry up to nine people or half a ton of weight. Since the floor was flat, Chevrolet introduced a practical Rampside version with a side ramp for easier uploading of the cargo. However, they only offered the Greenbrier for four years, from 1961 to 1965. Despite its qualities, the market simply favored more conventional models from Dodge and Ford.

  1. Chevrolet C/K “Square Body”

Chevy introduced the third generation of their popular C/K trucks in 1973. It was one of the biggest, most important trucks in their history. Not only it was advanced and well-engineered, it also featured many firsts for Chevrolet and for the entire truck segment, as well. Chevy called it the “Square Body” for its boxy design.

This third generation C/K featured a computer-designed body with more space and comfort than ever before. The truck was bigger and tougher due to the new platform, revised suspension and tougher axles. Customers had numerous cab configurations, special editions, engine options and details to choose from, too. This made the third generation C/K one of the best trucks in the world at the time.

Chevy produced the C/K from 1973 to 1991 in the U.S. They also produced this model was in Argentina, Chile, Mexico and South Korea. During the long production run, Chevrolet introduced a diesel engine as an option. This proved to be a highly popular choice in Europe and South America.

  1. Chevrolet C30 One Ton Dually

Officially, this truck is the part of the third generation C/K model. However, it is so important it is a separate entry on this list. Chevy introduced it in 1973 as a part of big Chevrolet`s offensive on the global truck market. The C30 One Ton Dually was the first crew cab they dually offered for sale. It is also inarguably the first heavy duty truck ever.

Today, all manufacturers in various configurations produce heavy duty trucks. But back then, nobody offered a dually model with space for six passengers, heavy duty components and a long bed. In 1973, Chevrolet offered the exact model, which soon become popular and influential. This truck came with Chevrolet’s biggest gasoline 454 V8 and with a four-speed transmission, but the automatic was also available.

  1. Chevrolet El Camino SS 454

For the end of the 60’s muscle car madness, the El Camino got the proper firepower and one special trim level, called the SS. Chevy first introduced the El Camino SS in 1967. The “SS” stands for 396 V8 engine with 325 HP. That was plenty of power for a mid-size compact truck, so delivered some a serious performance. However, the first rule of the muscle car culture is that bigger is always better. So for 1970, El Camino SS got its ultimate version with a brutal 454 V8 engine.

The mighty 454 V8 LS6 was a 7.4-liter Chevrolet big block engine with a 450 HP official rating. The engine delivered around 500 HP in real life. It was a fire-breathing beast and one of the best engines of the muscle car era. In the El Camino SS, this engine provided significant performance figures close to the best regular muscle cars of the day.

The biggest problem was the lightweight rear end. This meant hard launches off the line were accompanied by much wheel spin and smoke. The El Camino SS 454 was one of the first vehicles car fans recognized as collector models. They became sought after and desirable. Today, finding a true El Camino SS 454 is hard and expensive, too.

  1. Chevrolet 454 SS

After almost two decades of low compression engines, safety and environmental laws, and slow performance, in the early 1990’s, U.S. manufacturers started to produce faster, more powerful models. The wave of this new-found performance was so overwhelming, every pickup brand had its fast model, special version or limited edition. However, one of the most menacing and powerful was the mighty Chevrolet 454 SS. The basic idea behind this model was to offer the biggest available engine in the lightest full-size truck. It was basically muscle car philosophy in truck form.

That is why Chevrolet’s engineers took the ordinary 1990 Chevy 1500 pickup truck with the short bed option and added a massive 454 V8 engine. The enormous 7.2-liter V8 was powerful enough for 230 to 255 HP, which was a diminutive number. But it also had 385 lb-ft of torque, which made it fly down the road. They borrowed the big block engine from Chevrolet’s heavy duty truck lineup. It was a durable, but also a thirsty machine.

On the outside, the 454 SS was low key without any wild graphics or color choices. On the back of the bed, there was a model designation. The only difference was the blackout front grille. However, despite the big torque numbers, the 454 SS wasn’t that fast. It couldn’t beat sports cars like the GMC Syclone did, for example. Still, it was one of the fastest trucks around and a cool looking vehicle.

These are the best classic Chevy pickup trucks available today. Some are rare finds while others are waiting for you on the dealership lot. Chevy trucks are durable and stylish, making them one of the best truck makers in the world.

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