Skip to main content

Century mark: Watch the Chevy pickup truck evolve over the last 100 years

Chevy Trucks
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Things can change a lot in 100 years, or they can remain largely the same. A pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All-Star shoes look nearly the same today as they did in 1917, and a Girl Scout thin mint cookie tastes just like it did a century ago. Put a 1918 Chevy One-Ton pickup next to a 2018 Silverado, though, and it’s difficult to see the lineage.

To see just how much Chevy trucks have changed during the last 100 trips around the sun, Rich Scheer, Chevy’s director of exterior design, takes us for a walk down memory lane:

1918 One-Ton

1918 Chevy One Ton
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The first production truck from Chevrolet was inspired by vehicles used in plants to move parts and pieces from place to place. In the simplest terms, this is an example of “form follows function.” It was a rolling chassis, featuring an open cab, an inline 4-cylinder engine, and an open frame allowing customers to install the body that fit their unique needs.

1929 International Series LD

1929-Chevy_Art_Front View_v2Final
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The 1929 was the first Chevrolet truck to feature a closed cab, which created the potential for what we know as interior design today. As with all designs, once the functional elements were defined, more comfort- and style-focused features started to become important for truck buyers. Color also started playing a starring role in consumer vehicles at this time.

1938 Half-Ton

Chevy_Series_1938_Truck_Art_front_v2
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This was the first truck designed in the newly formed “Art and Color” department, later known as the Design Center, by Harley Earl — who would become GM’s first design chief — and his team. This year also saw the designs of cars and trucks deviate, as designers realized the need for trucks to have their own identity. The proportions evolved from the earlier designs, resulting in a lower and longer truck with a styled grille and elegant, swept fenders.

1947 3100 Series

Chevy Truck 1947 Front_Art_v1
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This is one of the most iconic designs in automotive history. If you mention a vintage Chevy truck, most people will picture this model. This truck was bigger, stronger, and sleeker than anything before it. The five-bar horizontal grille is a departure from vertical grilles of the past and was the very beginning of what became a signature of Chevrolet truck design. You can see that the fenders are more integrated and the lamps are on the wide part of the vehicle instead of inboard, giving it a wider, stronger presence.

1955 3124 Series Cameo Carrier

1955 3124 Series Cameo Carrier
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Known as the Task Force truck, the Cameo Carrier was Chevy’s first Fleetside design. The bed surface is flush with the cab and fender, making for one complete, elegant shape from front to back. It was also Chevrolet’s first bumper-to-bumper truck, as styling didn’t stop at the back of the cab.

1967 C10 Fleetside

1967 C10 Fleetside
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This is a sleek design with a hint of wheel flare. Note the line that flows away from the top of the bed and the balance with the front of the vehicle. This is a feature that can easily go wrong, but the designers of the time did it so right.

The body side has a strong shoulder that tapers toward the rear. The Chevrolet bar on the front fascia connects the headlamp center with the bowtie — a design element that is still consistent today. This time period is also when metallic paint was introduced.

1973 C30 One-Ton Dually

1973 C30 One Ton Dually_Art_front_v2
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This third-generation C/K square body truck was the first crew cab dually to market, and many consider it to be the first modern heavy-duty truck. The design reflects a dramatic increase in capability, for customers who used their trucks for both work and recreation. It is simple, tough, and purposeful, similar to the earliest Chevrolet trucks.

1988 C/K1500

1988 C:K1500
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The C/K1500 was the first truck design influenced by aerodynamics. This generation had great design reach, meaning it looked very advanced for its time. That is especially true for the new interior design, with a low instrument panel, pod-like setup, and buttons that looked futuristic. This truck still looks modern and sophisticated nearly 30 years later.

1999 Silverado 1500 LT Z71

1999 Silverado 1500 LT Z71
Image used with permission by copyright holder

This was the first-generation that used the Silverado nameplate. It also introduced many of the modern design elements that customers associate with current Chevy truck design, especially the iconic Chevrolet front-end.

2007 Silverado 1500

2007 Silverado 1500 Crew Cab Short Box_front_Art_v1
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The 2007 Silverado is simple, modern, and powerful, featuring exaggerated wheel flares and a clean body side. It’s another evolution for Chevrolet trucks in creating their own identity on the road, with distinctive front and rear ends. This truck brought back the “tough truck” look and feel, even though it was still heavily influenced by aerodynamics.

Representing today’s Chevy trucks are a pair of special-edition models. The 2018 Silverado and Colorado Centennial Editions feature design elements inspired by Chevy’s most notable pickups, including a unique blue paint color, heritage bowtie emblems, and 100-year anniversary badges. Both trucks will hit dealerships in November 2017.

In addition to releasing the special-edition duo, Chevy has announced a “Truck Legends” program, which recognizes customers who own a Chevy truck with more than 100,000 miles on the odometer, or who have purchased or leased one or more new Chevy Trucks in their lifetime. These folks will receive Truck Legends-branded merchandise and access to events through Chevrolet’s partnerships (concerts, MLB games, etc).

We have only one thing to say to all that: Keep on truckin’, Chevy.

Editors' Recommendations

Miles Branman
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Miles Branman doesn't need sustenance; he needs cars. While the gearhead gene wasn't strong in his own family, Miles…
Mercedes-Benz G580 vs Rivian R2: Is the much cheaper Rivian actually better?
2025 Mercedes-Benz G580 from three quarter view.

Mercedes-Benz has finally taken the wraps off of the new "Mercedes-Benz G580 with EQ Technology." Yeah, it's a mouthful, but it's basically a new electric G-Wagon. It looks a lot like the G-Wagon you know and love, but with an electric powertrain and a battery. It's not the only electric SUV out there, however, and there are some great ones -- like the Rivian R2.

Both the Mercedes G580 and the Rivian R2 have a lot going for them, but they also approach the electric SUV slightly differently. Is one better than the other? I put the two head-to-head to find out.
Design
The approach that the two vehicles take to design is quite different -- and you might like one better than the other.

Read more
Mercedes-Benz G580 vs GMC Hummer EV: rugged EVs face off
2025 Mercedes-Benz G580 from three quarter view.

There's finally an electric G-Wagon. Mercedes-Benz unveiled the new vehicle, officially called the Mercedes-Benz G580 with EQ Technology, after months of rumors and camouflaged sightings. But it's not the only rugged electric vehicle out there. In fact, there are quite a few EVs that could be considered rugged -- like the Rivian R1S, the Rivian R2, and, of course, the Hummer EV.

But how do the Mercedes-Benz G580 and GMC Hummer EV compare? Is one a better rugged electric vehicle than the other? Here's a look at the two vehicles, head to head.
Design
If you love the look of recent-generation G-Wagons, you'll love the look of the new G580. To be sure, it isn't exactly the same as other recent models, but it's certainly close, with a squared-off design and sharp corners. It keeps the metallic ladder frame panels and the flat roofline, and it's available in a variety of colors.

Read more
The Kia EV3 could be the cheap electric SUV we’ve been waiting for
White Kia EV3

The Kia EV9 was already one of the cheapest ways to get an electric SUV, but now the company is taking things to the next level. After teasing the Kia EV3 last year, the car is now official.

The EV3 is built to be a slightly smaller, cheaper version of the EV9 -- following the path of the Rivian R2, which arrived after the Rivian R1S. It's certainly not as technologically advanced as the EV9, but it still looks unmistakably like a modern Kia, and is clearly a sibling of the larger SUV. On the outside, the vehicle has the same split taillights and very similar Tiger Face front. But it is quite a bit smaller. The vehicle will be available in nine finishes -- however only "Aventurine Green" and "Terracotta" are being announced right now.

Read more