History and histories

Pick-ups. Who wouldn’t want one please raise your hand

Photo credit: Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, Wheelsage

Pick-ups are widely regarded as a symbol of the “Land of Liberty”. Among the many vehicles on the roads, they are by far the closest ones to the horses used to conquer America. And just like horses, they are suitable for transport but also for the needs of the countryside and life out in the open. Almost immediately these small vans – half car and half truck – appeared on the US market, but their unmistakable charm manifested itself fully at the beginning of the post-war period. 

1941 Dodge Job-Rated
Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, the first pick-ups with the form that made them famous were launched in America. This is the 1941 Dodge Job-Rated

The three large American groups have produced millions of these vehicles, often saving the name but changing the style completely along with the engine. The Ford S Series, a legendary object first launched in 1948 that everyone knows, has had infinite variations and improvements, including the introduction of the fascinating wooden models, the development of a more squared off shape in line with changing fashions and also more muscular versions with larger and more powerful engines.

1946 Chevrolet Pickup Truck
An excess of chrome for the 1946 Chevrolet Pickup Truck

At the start of the post-war period, the still antiquated-looking Dodge VC was transformed into a fascinating working vehicle in the 1950s, and from the beginning of the 1980s it made a leap in size and performance until becoming, with the RAM, an absolute monster complete with the powerful V10 from the Viper sports car. Crazy enough to leave half of the rear tyres on the street at every traffic light.

Ford F-Series
The Ford F-Series has always been a legendary vehicle, a model name that has accompanied the history of pick-ups from Detroit since 1948

In terms of charm, Chevrolet is up there with the very best: launched in 1939, its Silverado pick-up, made even more charismatic with their steering wheels in the same colour as the body, was available in single or twin cabin version capable of satisfying every need. In short, for those looking for a modern-day horse, there is only one choice with prices that, in collecting terms, have risen sharply.

Hudson also produced pick-ups in the 1940s, and was important enough to be mentioned in the movie “Cars” as the character Smokey

Just how much pick-ups are a part of everyday life in America – but not only there as we’ll see next week when we look at what Europe and the Far East have to offer – can be summed up by the scenes in the film “Cars”: the now elderly Smokey, a Hudson pick-up truck from 1939 and veteran of the Piston Cup, becomes a useful companion for Lightning McQueen while Dexter Hoover, unable to compete, becomes is a skilled race official and flag waver on the track.

Let’s face it: we’ve all been tempted by the thought of having a pick-up at some point in our lives. There’s still time…

1969 Ford Bronco
Somewhat less successful but a perfect template for future generations of pick-ups, the Ford Bronco from the late 1960s
Piston Cup
Smaller pick-ups adapt to everything, even becoming a flagman in the “Piston Cup” races in the movie “Cars”
1980s pick-ups
In the 1980s pick-ups changed significantly in appearance, combining eclecticism with automotive refinement and large dimensions
2004 Ford F-150 SVT Lightning
With its powerful supercharged V8 engine, the Ford F-150 Lightning from the late 1990s transformed the American farmer into a burnout apprentice
Viper V10 engine
Pick-ups in the USA no longer have performance limits ever since Dodge proposed its RAM with the Viper V10 engine