Chevy Truck History 1947-1955
Article by Mark Trotta
With production starting in May of 1947, Chevrolet's new truck series were GM's first new post-war vehicles, as well as America's first new post-war trucks.
Read: American Automotive Industry During World War Two
The 'Advance Style' trucks, with integrated headlights and larger cab, started an industry trend, and the switch from horizontal to vertical front grille set Chevy's trucks apart from all others on the road. Soon all truck builders were redesigning their cabs for three-person seating and more comfort.
1947-1948 Chevy Trucks
Advance Design trucks were offered in different several models, identified by a four-digit number displayed on both sides of the hood. Half-ton trucks were 3100 series, with 3/4 ton trucks getting a 3600 designation.
Chevy's 216-cid straight-six motor was retained, receiving only minor engine improvements. The carburetor accelerator pump was moved into the float bowl to keep the leather piston wet, and to help cold-engine driveability, the hand-choke activated a carb-mounted fast-idle cam. Older, ream-fit main bearings were replaced with the modern precision-type.
1949 Chevy Trucks
Trucks had sold well during the last few years, and Chevrolet topped the market. Cosmetically, changes were minor. The inner surfaces of the grille bars were painted white, with pinstripes removed from the outer bars. Other changes included relocating the gear-shift the floor to the column, allowing for more legroom. Gas tanks, previously frame-mounted, were moved inside the cab, standing upright behind the seat.
1950-1953 Chevy Trucks
1950 saw the conversion from lever-action shocks to the modern tube type. New rear quarter windows improved visibility. Load capacity ranged from 1,500 pounds on the 3100 series up to 2,900 pounds on the 3800 one-ton model. Trucks rode on 16-inch tubed-tires, with three body lengths available. A side-mount spare tire carrier between the cab and the left rear fender became optional.
Read: Convert from 6-volts to 12-volts
The Korean Military conflict brought about a precious-metals shortage, with Automakers substituting chrome parts with plain steel. Most Chevy trucks came with a painted front grille. Factory-installed signals became optional in 1953.
1954 Chevy Trucks
Although an all-new truck was planned for the following year, 1954 Chevrolet trucks received a minor restyle, which included a one-piece curved windshield, a new grille and front turn signals. The dashboard was redesigned, featuring twin instrument dials. A new cargo box had a lower loading height, taller bed sides, and horizontal top rails. 3600 models gained a three-inch stretch in bed length. Chevrolet would use this style cargo box into the eighties.
The 216-cid motor, in use since the thirties, was discontinued in favor of the 235-cid engine from Chevy's Load-Master truck series. Improvements included stronger crankshaft and connecting rods, aluminum pistons, and full-pressure lubrication. With 7.5:1 compression ratio, horsepower was 112 at 3,700 rpm. Torque was 200 pound-feet at 2,000 rpm.
Read: Chevy Stovebolt Six
An automatic transmission was offered in 1954, the first time in Chevy truck history, Three manual transmissions were available. An all-synchro three-speed was standard in the 3100 and 3600, with a heavy-duty all-synchro three-speed optional. A floor-shifted, four-speed all-synchro came standard in the 3800, and optional in the others.
The Deluxe Comfortmaster Cab option gave the buyer corner windows, chrome window mouldings, passenger-side sun visor, driver's armrest, and dual horns. Also optional were electric windshield wipers, a foot-operated windshield washer, radio, heater, turn signals, and dash-mounted clock.
1955 First-Series Chevy Trucks
Early 1955 Chevrolet trucks, referred to as 'first series', saw only minor cosmetic changes. The main difference mechanically was a switch to an open drive-shaft from the older-style torque tube. The first-series trucks were built through March of 1955, replaced by Chevy's 'Task Force' series.
Read More: Classic Trucks History