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A silver 2022 GMC Sierra 2500HD is shown parked on a road with a mountain view.

GMC’s Iconic Truck Emblem: Arguably the Best-Ever

There’s just something glaringly ardent and inherently cool about the brazen ‘GMC’ emblem on the fascia of GMC trucks. Now, you might be thinking that statement is, in essence, an oxymoron. It is — and by design. Confident, impassioned, zealous, hot-blooded, and demonstrative are among the emotions and feelings associated with the archetypal badge. And as far as cool goes, the century(plus)-old emblem has and continues to exude a certain intrepid quality about it — helping it stand among the very best in automotive history. With trucks now being all the rage, a 2022 GMC Sierra 2500HD vs 2022 Ford F-250 fascia showdown is in order. Fair warning: the audacious look of the Sierra, and its esteemed badge, might be hard to beat. But more about that later: For now, let’s delve into the backbone of this immodest logo, which also happens to represent a true American success story.

It’s in the Roots

Most probably know that General Motors Corporation (GMC) is America’s oldest automaker, but how the GMC badge came into existence makes for an interesting read. Way back in the early 1900s, Max and Morris Grabowsky had visions of a truck that could satisfy a growing need for utility vehicles that could be used in a commercial application. In 1902, the forward-thinking brothers began doing business as the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company (RMVC) in Detroit, Michigan. Speaking of an oxymoron, their first couple attempts at truck prototypes were anything but “rapid,” besting a tepid 10-15 mph. Later that year, another GMC root began life as the Reliance Motor Car Company (RMC). Meanwhile, the reformist-minded Theodore Roosevelt was POTUS, and he had a keen eye on the American industrial landscape. The time was ripe for innovation and industrial progression, and the platform for what would eventually become General Motors Corporation (GMC) was now in place.

In 1907, a new kid on the block appeared in the Randolph Motor Car Company (RMCC). The following year, William C. Durant famously founded General Motors Company (GMC) and took over operations of Rapid shortly thereafter. Durant also added Reliance and Randolph to the GMC stable. The genesis of the GMC brand was, therefore, recognized for decades as being rooted in the “3-R’s.” By 1911, a pivotal restructuring saw the DuPont family gain control of GMC. In July of that year, an official truck designation was added to the acronym, and ‘GMTC’ was on the scene.

A black 2022 GMC Sierra 2500HD Denali is shown driving on an empty highway.

The Rest is History

As August rolled around (in 1911), a copyright was filed for the GMC acronym to be used in branding future trucks. For the first time, the GMC title was now linked to vehicles in production. While the overall operation was a bit splintered, the now celebrated GMC moniker was about to make its debut.

In January 1912, the new and stunningly exquisite Grand Central Palace — born of the much-lauded Beaux-Arts architecture (made famous in Paris) — was about to showcase the International New York Auto Show. For the first time in history, the General Motors Company logo and brand name was to be publicly unveiled.

It was an intriguing time in America’s largest city. Mighty ocean liners stood moored in New York Harbor, and immigrants were arriving at docks across the way. The New York Highlanders were in their last year before becoming exclusively the Yankees. Railcar tracks lined the streets, and horse-drawn carriages were sharing roads with automobiles.

The Auto Show at Grand Central Palace created quite the buzz and was highly anticipated. As the GMC line of gasoline and electric cars rolled out to the delight of the crowd, they not only carried the GMC emblem — for the first time, the steering wheel was on the left side! Albeit merely a logo placed on Rapid and Reliance vehicles, that would soon change. Just a month later, all Rapid and Reliance trucks would now carry the GMC label.

From General Motors Company to Corporation

Although General Motors Company created a formal truck division in 1914, it was two years down the road where GMC ceremoniously became incorporated. GMC was now officially General Motors Corporation, and GMC Trucks was a subsidiary. This GMC division would play a significant role in providing vehicles for the U.S. Military (and its allies) in World War One (WW1). Within a year of the start of WW1, nine out of ten GMC vehicles produced were designated toward wartime efforts. On a side note, GMC merged with Chevrolet Motor Company in this time period.

A close up of the grille on a red 2022 GMC Sierra 2500HD is shown during a 2022 GMC Sierra 2500HD vs 2022 Ford F-250 showdown.

Through the Years

Over the course of time, the badge had various characteristic changes that ranged from subtle to in-your-face brashness. In an ironic twist, in the earliest days, some emblems were round with a blue background and light font. You only need one guess on what the other automaker’s logo resembled.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the emblem was often just a nameplate that read, “General Motors Truck,” or a round GMC insignia that had interesting font differences. As the 1940s grew near, the middle “M” had bottoms on each side that flared out towards the “G” and “C.” It was an artsy distinction that became a nexus for decades to come.

As the 1950s were ushered in, that same decorative style emblem had taken on the essence of cool in the form of chrome! I mean, regardless of whatever brand you pledge allegiance to, the big, ballsy, spirited, and pronounced chrome GMC logo could only be viewed on the bad-*** level. And why not? The U.S. (and the world for that matter) was in the midst of many ground-breaking, mercurial, and influential changes worthy of a time-machine highlight:

Progress; the first:

  • American satellite was launched into space
  • Passengers were allowed on jet airplanes
  • Color TV became a reality
  • Trans-Atlantic telephone cable was laid

Auto-related; debuts:

  • Power Steering arrived in Buick, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac models
  • Corvette broke out the first mass-made, thermoplastic polymer-bodied car
  • Jaguar utilized the first disc brakes (in a race car prototype)
  • Fuel Injection was spawned in the Mercedes-Benz 300SL
  • Michelin rolled out the first radial-ply tires
  • The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) was now a formal entity
  • The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) joined forces with auto dealerships looking to take advantage of perpetual advertising opportunities — with television serving notice of a huge paradigm shift in available medium

Throw in some “Rock n’ Roll” and you have a pretty jammin’ decade, yes?

Up to the Present

The last half-century saw the design get tweaked and even a bit streamlined, with additional color schemes and slight font adjustments along the way. If you loved the chrome variety look, some emblem/fascia combinations leading up to the new Millennia might have been a bit disappointing. Not to discount accomplishments such as the phenomenal success of the 70’s GMC “Mark of Excellence” campaign, but that was more likely due to a rhetorical and overall impact — rather than the mostly unchanged GMC logo.

As the 2000s began to unfold, a ruthless segment war and a dynamic market shift were about to make a seismic impact. Those who appreciated and clamored for that which is sleek — but relentlessly rugged at the same time — were about to influence a rise to the top of the American auto market. Right in step, the GMC badge regained that large-and-in-charge aspect about it.

A black 2022 Ford F-250 Limited is shown parked in a driveway.

The Present

COVID aside, trucks have become auto industry bestsellers in the U.S., signaling the end of the sedan and bringing an element of modern bitchin’ features to truck-lovin’ Americans everywhere. And even though the 2022 GMC Sierra 2500HD will likely find staunch competition in the Ford F-250 (when segment sales are tallied), there’s a gap between the two brands when it comes to a front-view cross-examination. The gallant stance and slightly intimidating fascia — infused with a darn-near impudent presence of the famed GMC emblem — makes the Ford look a tad nerdy and ‘big-brotherish’ at the same time. If you had a t-shirt with a GMC logo on the front, the emblem would come through the door before you would!

Granted, the Ford may have pulled up with a fancy new 12-inch Infotainment gadget inside, but picture the GMC cruising alongside with a trick dark grill — bold ‘GMC’ letters brightly illuminated with brilliant white LED’s housing black font; makes you want to tell the Ford product to go away! But aesthetics aside, the GMC badge still stands for perseverance, performance, and time-tested, rugged reliability — which merely adds substance to the mystique of this iconic nameplate.

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