Pickup trucks have been around for about a century now, and they’ve changed a lot over the years. Sure, you’ll find plenty of variety just by looking at the models populating a used truck dealership in your area, but spread your scope out to classic car shows and even museums, and you’ll find a wider range of styles, forms, and functions. Some trends have stuck around and influenced the industry for decades to come. Others were passing fads that had a quick moment and then faded into the annals of history.
Today we’re going to take a look at ten models that span just as many decades. These trucks tell a story of advancing technology and shifting tastes. Some of them are important touchstones, and some of them are just plain cool. Let’s dive in and explore the evolution of the pickup truck through the years. Here are ten cool and noteworthy trucks from decades past.
#1. 1925 Model T Roadster
The very first factory-built pickup was a perfect example of “giving the people what they want.” Henry Ford knew that farmers were buying his popular Model T and then modifying it in order to make it more useful for fieldwork. So when Model T Roadsters with pickup bodies started rolling off of production lines, there was already a market for them. This model is said to be the origin of the term “pickup” as well. Over 100,000 Model T pickups were sold before the vehicle became outdated, and the Ford company moved on to making a bigger and more powerful nameplate called the Model A.
#2. 1936 Chevrolet Canopy Express Pickup
As pickup trucks continued to get produced and purchased, people found more uses for them, and they spread beyond the farm. Chevy’s Canopy Express body style, for instance, was perfect for vendors who wanted to bring their wares on the go. The canopy roof and side curtains protect the seller’s wares from the elements but are easy to open up for access to the goods in the bed. On the mechanical side, the truck is powered by a 79-horsepower inline-six engine, has a three-speed manual transmission with rear-wheel drive, and features a new standard feature: four-wheel hydraulic brakes.
#3. 1946 Dodge Power Wagon
Of course, we all know that the story of the pickup truck is one of constantly increasing power. A big step on that journey is the advent of four-wheel drive, which made its debut as a factory-installed feature on the Dodge Power Wagon (any 4WD pickups that came before had been modified by third parties). Like so many technological advancements, we have the military to thank for this one. The Power Wagon was a one-ton truck built for the war effort, followed by the Willys-Overland Jeep pickup in 1947. This technology had made its way to civilian trucks by the late 1950s, with plenty of manufacturers offering four-wheel drive as an option on their pickups.
#4. 1955 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier
Workers and soldiers have always appreciated pickup trucks for their utilitarian function, but as time went on, the appeal of this body style began to spread. As suburban homeowners started considering getting trucks, they wanted more than just horsepower and a voluminous bed: they wanted all that in a sleek and stylish package. Chevy’s 1955 Cameo Carrier was more than willing to meet this demand, with a smooth fiberglass body, a two-tone paint job, and plenty of shiny chrome accents that made it look less like a tool designed for hard work and more like a hotrod designed to make an entrance. The interior offered more luxury as well, with dual sun visors, armrests, and stylish upholstery that matched the exterior. The model’s success influenced other automakers, including Ford and Dodge, to make their own smooth-sided pickups.
#5. 1965 Toyota Stout
The Stout was the very first Toyota truck to be imported to the United States. It certainly wasn’t an instant success. In fact, during its first year selling the Stout in the U.S., Toyota only managed to move a grand total of four units. However, this was the start of what would go on to be a monumental legacy since today, Toyota is well known for its compact pickups. The Tacoma is a popular midsize truck that can trace its roots all the way back to the square-rigged, 85-horsepower truck that hit the American market in 1964.
#6. 1973 Dodge Club Cab
First and foremost, pickups are made for hauling cargo, but sometimes you need to take some extra passengers along for the ride as well. The first model to offer an extended cab was the 1973 Dodge Club Cab, which provided drivers with a two-door cabin that was 18 inches longer than the standard version, with a compact back seat. The idea caught on quickly, as Ford introduced the SuperCab close behind in 1974. Today, you can find cabs that offer backseats that might even have some decent legroom, plus a dedicated set of doors for entering and exiting the back row.
#7. 1981 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler
While much of the history of the pickup has seen trucks getting more refined, with extra comfort features designed to appeal to suburban dwellers and city drivers, there are still plenty of people in the market for a rough-and-tumble truck that can handle the great outdoors. While adventurous drivers today might opt for the Jeep Gladiator when looking for a truck with the capability of a Wrangler, off-roaders in the ’80s turned to the CJ-8 Scrambler, a vehicle with a CJ chassis and a five-foot bed that looks like it’s ready to go on safari. It could be fitted with either a hard or soft top, black or white wheels, and a variety of sticker packages for different aesthetics.
#8. 1991 GMC Syclone
GMC’s Syclone may have been a flash in the pan, with less than 5,000 units produced, but with an emphasis on “flash.” It’s still remembered by enthusiasts today for being the first compact muscle truck and for being incredibly fast for its time. With a turbocharged V6 under the hood, full-time four-wheel drive, and a lowered suspension, this truck was able to go from zero to sixty in just 5.3 seconds, beating out a then-new Ferrari 348 ts in tests conducted by Car and Driver.
#9. 2007 Chevrolet Silverado 1500
For the 2007 model year, Chevy completely redesigned its bestselling Silverado 1500, improving the chassis, giving it bold new exterior styling, and making the interior more upscale and quiet. The 2007 Silverado gives buyers plenty of options, with different trim levels, bed lengths, cab sizes, and powertrains to choose from, so that each driver can get a truck that’s perfectly suited to their needs. As we’ve seen, the appeal of owning a truck has spread to more and more types of people over the years, so it has become a good idea for automakers to make their trucks easy to customize so that people with varying needs, budgets, and driving habits are able to get what they’re looking for.
#10. 2015 Ford F-150
For the 2015 model year of the F-150, Ford made a bold and controversial move: they switched from a steel body to one largely made of aluminum. Some components remained steel, like the frame, latches, hinges, body rivets, mounting studs, and cross-door side-impact beams, but over 90% of the cab and the entirety of the bed switched over to aluminum. While some criticized the decision as one that made the truck weaker, the overhaul shaved hundreds of pounds off the F-150, and aluminum is more resistant to corrosion and rust than steel. Ford has continued to make the F-150 out of aluminum, and the F-150 has remained a popular and beloved truck, so while the company certainly had to endure some beer-can punchlines, it all worked out for Ford in the end.