Chevy Truck (1955-1959)
Article by Mark Trotta
Introduced in March of 1955, Chevrolet's new 'Task Force' series was quite a departure from their existing line of pickup trucks. Smooth, rounded sheet-metal replaced the old pontoon-style fenders, and large, wrap-around windshield glass offered better visibility and gave a more contemporary look. And for the first time, an eight-cylinder motor was available under the hood.
1955 Chevy Pickup
The 1955 model year began with the continuation of Chevrolet's Advance Design pickups, which dated back to 1947. These first-series trucks, built until March of 1955, were durable and sold well. But Ford's new 1953 F100 pickup, as well as Dodge's new 1954 truck models, prompted a re-design to a more modern looking truck. Taking styling cues from their successful passenger car platform, Chevy's 2nd-series pickups were re-engineered and restyled for mid 1955.
Chevy Task Force trucks rode on a new, wider, six-cross member frame, allowing longer front and rear leaf springs to be fitted. The standard half-ton 3100 series had a 114" wheelbase, which it shared with the smooth-sided 3124 series Cameo Carrier. The 3200 series trucks had a longer bed and rode on a 123" wheelbase. Three-quarter ton models used 3500 and 3700 designations. Chevy's venerable Stovebolt Six, standard on all models, displaced 235-cid and produced 123-horsepower.
Electrical systems, upgraded from 6 to 12 volts, were one of many improvements on the new series of trucks. The biggest news, however, was Chevrolet's new small-block V-8 engine, introduced on 1955 passenger car models, was now offered with their trucks.
Read: Chevy Small-Block History
More efficient and more powerful than the six-cylinder motor, the new "small-block" V-8 was also 30 pounds lighter. First-year Chevy V-8's did not have an oil filter nor a provision for one. An add-on filter canister, mounted atop the thermostat housing, was optional.
1956 Chevy Pickup
Aside from slight emblem changes, 1956 Chevy truck exteriors were unchanged. The long options list from last year was back, including power steering, power brakes, whitewall tires, full wheel covers, chrome front and rear bumpers, and a factory-installed radio.
The Custom Cab option included chrome interior door knobs, arm rests, dual-sun visors, a cigarette lighter, and a large wrap-around rear window. Starting in 1956, V-8 engine blocks were machined with an oil filter boss, allowing a full-flow oil system.
Read: Best Oil For Classic Cars and Trucks
1957 Chevy Pickup
Third-year Task Force pickups received a distinctive new grille that would be a one-year only feature. Increasing the bore of the small-block V-8 brought displacement from 265ci to 283ci. Engine output increased to 185-horsepower.
A total of five transmissions were available; a three-speed and heavy-duty three-speed manual, three-speed manual with overdrive, four-speed manual, or GM's Hydra-matic automatic.
1958 Chevy Pickup
To accommodate an industry-wide switch from two to four headlamps, all Chevy passenger car and truck models saw styling changes.
The new Apache model came standard with painted grille and front bumper, and could be upgraded to chrome. The new Fleetside model featured a smooth-sided cargo box and larger bed capacity. Model designations were shortened to 31, 32, 35 and 38 series. A recasting of the 283 small-block gave thicker cylinder walls and side motor-mount bosses.
Four Wheel Drive
Before 1958, Chevrolet had used outside suppliers such as Minnesota-based NAPCO (Northwestern Auto Parts Company) to convert their light and medium-duty trucks to four-wheel-drive. A GM-designed 4X4 drivetrain was now available. Air-conditioning also became available as a dealer-installed, factory-authorized option.
1959 Chevy Pickup
The last year of the Task Force line saw minor changes only. Front and side emblems were changed to distinguish this year's model from last year's. Posi-traction became an option, and larger drum brakes were used. In all, 13 different truck models were available this year.
Read More: Classic Trucks History