Can we please bring back pickups with fold-down bedsides?
The best pickups are real let-downs. And by let-downs, I mean they have fold-down bed sides. They’re not only practical, but some of them—particularly 1960s classics—are just flat-out cool.
I don’t own a classic pickup (I hope to someday), but I can vouch for the convenience of fold-down sides. Scoff if you want, but a few years ago I bought one of those sweet landscape wagons with the fold-down sides to use for yard work, and that thing has been worth every nickel. Keep the sides up for toting sticks, leaves, and other lawn debris, drop the sides down when hauling oversized items.
Obviously, automotive designers had the same thing in mind in the 1950s and ’60s, when they introduced partial or full drop-down sides on pickups. Volkswagen started it all when it rolled out a pickup version of its Type 2 Transporter in 1952. The sides of the truck bed were hinged and could be folded down to make loading easier, and they could remain that way if a flatbed was needed. The Type 2 pickup also offered additional covered storage under the bed. A double-cab version arrived in 1956.
Unfortunately, the “Chicken Tax”—a 25-percent tariff on light trucks that President Lyndon B. Johnson imposed on West Germany in 1964—was the beginning of the end for the cool VW Transporter pickup in America. They’re highly collectible today; a beautifully restored 1961 example went for $64,400 at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island Auction earlier this year.
In an effort to compete with the Type 2 pickup, Chevrolet offered the Corvair 95 Loadside and Rampside models beginning in 1961. Loadside models had a standard rear gate, but Rampside trucks offered a drop-down side ramp on the passenger side for easier loading. The bed was longer than in conventional trucks, but the floor was uneven—raised in the rear to allow room for the truck’s six-cylinder engine. Still, the Rampside was more popular and lived longer than its Loadside sibling. The Bell Telephone Company found the drop-side feature particularly helpful for loading large spools of cable, which helped reach a total of 18,342 Rampside pickups built from 1961–64.
Among the Japanese automakers to give the drop-side idea a try was Honda, which introduced the tiny Honda T500 in 1964.
Which brings me to the 1977 Fiat 900 Coriasco that I saw on Bring a Trailer and can’t get out of my head. I can’t afford it, plus it’s in Italy, but I find myself going back again and again just to look at the photos. Fiat produced the little two-door pickup from 1976–85 and, yes, it has those drop-down bedsides that are my Kryptonite. The 900 Coriasco is the pickup truck that now haunts my daydreams.
I know, I know. There are more modern trucks out there with drop-down bedsides. The Kei truck immediately comes to mind. And the Subaru Sambar SC. In the U.S., e-ride Industries currently offers an electric-powered pickup with fold-down sides that it calls the EXV2 Patriot. None of them hold a candle to the Fiat.
You see, I don’t love drop-side pickups just because they’re drop-side pickups. I want something with some character and style, like a Transporter or a 900 Coriasco. In the meantime I’ll keep dreaming and hitch my wagon to… my wagon. Now where’d I put that rake?