6 classic workhorse trucks and SUVs you need to drive
It’s hard to imagine a modern world without help from trusty vehicles that are capable of doing our heavy lifting. Without trucks and utility vehicles, we wouldn’t have the means to transport food products, medical supplies, or fuel. High-rise buildings wouldn’t exist, roads would crumble, and some locations would no longer have access to fresh drinking water. We wouldn’t have UPS or FedEx deliveries, and fire trucks and ambulances would have a much harder time coming to our rescue. So let’s take a moment to honor the workhorses of yesteryear. Here are six classic utility vehicles whose legacy of grit and toughness we still admire today. We’ve even picked out a few examples you can rent yourself through DriveShare.
The introduction of the F-Series in 1947 marked Ford’s first truck-specific heavy-duty chassis. The manufacturer offered eight variations through 1952, with the F-1 being the lightest-capacity and the F-8 being strictly for heavy commercial use, such as hauling large loads for long distances. Ford’s second-generation civilian F-series trucks were simplified into three models beginning in 1953: The half-ton took the F-100 moniker, the F-2 and F-3 became the ¾-ton F-250, and the F-4 was re-named as the one-ton F-350. The F-150 came along in 1975 for the pickup’s sixth generation, and then the F-100 dissolved in 1983. As of December 2019, the Ford F-series line is on a 43-year streak as the best-selling pickup in the U.S. The late-’40s trucks that started it all, though rare, can still be found today, and you can experience a piece of history yourself with this sweet ‘47 F-1.
AM General Humvee
The AM General Humvee represents how a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) should be built. The combination of its high ground clearance, low silhouette, forward visibility, relatively low weight, and resilience withstood over 600,000 miles of testing over rugged courses that simulated global combat environments. Drivers from the Army and AM General drove them over rocky inclines, through deep sand and thick mud, in water up to 60 inches deep, through desert heat, and Arctic cold. Despite pushing the vehicles to their limits in an attempt to make them fail, the Humvee endured.
Beginning in March of 1983, AM General built 55,000 examples consisting of 15 different configurations, and the vehicles later became an integral part of Operation Desert Storm in 1990. The HMMWV’s positive press turned it into an American icon. Road-legal decommissioned examples can still be found today, such as this Los Angeles-based example from 1987, equipped with its original 6.5-liter V-8 diesel engine.
The Willys Jeep was the first mass-produced four-wheel-drive vehicle available to civilians, and as such, it jumpstarted the market for 4WD recreational vehicles. The first model, known as the Willys MB or the U.S. Army truck, became an iconic vehicle of WWII for its toughness, durability, and versatility on any terrain. Every Jeep brand vehicle links back to the Willys’ rich heritage, like this 1978 J-series truck in Indiana, a more modern full-size pickup manufactured from 1962-1988. The J-series dates back to the original Jeep Gladiator, and its platform remained in production for 24 years, virtually unchanged. Three decades after Jeep discontinued the model, the manufacturer gave in to its consumer’s cries for another pickup and released the Jeep Gladiator in April 2019, which resulted in over 40,000 units sold by the end of last year.
Speaking of military vehicles, the 1954 M37 was Dodge’s successor to the W.C. Series utility trucks of World War II. Introduced in 1951, The M37 shared plenty of drivetrain and powertrain bits with the civilian Dodge Power Wagon, which was also based off the W.C. Series and launched in 1945 as America’s first four-wheel-drive pickup truck.. Strong transmissions and ultra-low axle gearing made these vehicles so unstoppable that the only thing that could kill them over time was rust. The historic W.C. Series, M37, and classic Power Wagon models DNA lives on in the mass-produced Dodge Ram pickups and then the modern-day RAM trucks of today.
Chevy Advanced Design trucks
Chevrolet introduced a new line of commercial trucks after the Second World War, which helped spur a booming post-war economy. The ray of sunshine we speak of is the Chevrolet Advance-Design Series, first released in 1947. It was built larger and stronger with the sleek large-fender design often recognized on late-’40s and ‘50s trucks. A rugged six-cylinder engine meant reliability for the consumers who depended on it. This 1953 Chevrolet 3100 for rent in Illinois is an excellent example of the marque. Other models included the 3600 (¼-ton), 3800 (1-ton), and the commercial Loadmaster and Thiftmaster. In fact, Chevrolet trucks held the top position for sales in the states from 1947 until 1955, when Ford reclaimed its place on the pedestal.
Ford Model T pickup
An article about iconic trucks would not be complete without mentioning the Ford Model T because, without this early 20th-century technology, it’s possible that none of the vehicles listed above would exist. It put the world on wheels when Americans were seeking a more straightforward way of hauling large materials that otherwise wouldn’t fit easily into a traditional motorcar.
Ford Motor Company’s release of the Model T in 1908 changed the auto industry and introduced new car production methods. With over 15 million produced, it was the first mass-produced vehicle that rolled off of moving assembly lines with interchangeable parts. It is only natural that the Model T influenced the pickup body style, like the one you can try out yourself here, but it took Ford several years to fill civilian needs for a truck bed. Until the first factory pickup rolled off factory lines in 1925 as the “Model T Roundabout with Pick Up Body,” independent body shops and skilled fabricators chopped up standard models to create the pickups that the public desired. Despite its 20-hp engine and lack of towing capacity, the Model T had big ambitions. Sales numbers proved the pickup was in demand, and Ford never looked back.
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