Chevy Cameo Carrier (1955-1958)
Article by Mark Trotta
Boasting V-8 power, automatic transmission, two-tone paint, and deluxe interior, the 1955 Chevrolet Cameo narrowed the distance between car and truck. Although not a big seller, it set the stage for other stylish trucks, such as the Ford Styleside, the Dodge Sweptside, and Chevy's own Fleetside pickup.
Chevy Cameo History
GM Stylist Chuck Jordan (later to become Vice-President of Design) had originally envisioned a one-piece cab-bed bodied pickup, but engineers were concerned over the sheet metal distorting due to torsional stress on the frame. It was decided that a clean look could still be achieved with a conventional cab/bed combination.
Fiberglass panels were added to Chevy's existing steel cargo-box, saving the expense of the tooling process required for steel panels. This also allowed the truck to be brought into production quicker. Besides, fiberglass was convenient; Chevrolet had recently given Molded Fiberglass Products Company a $4 million dollar contract to manufacture early Corvette bodies.
The tailgate of the Cameo truck also used a fiberglass outer panel, with latches mounted inside and supported by retractable cables. The middle of the rear bumper hinged downward, accessing the hidden spare tire compartment. Unique chrome-plated taillights capped off the clean, uncluttered bed.
1955 Chevy Cameo
The smooth-sided bed of the 3124 series Cameo seemed to perfectly compliment Chevy's new Task Force Series line of trucks. The Cameo's 114-inch wheelbase carried a 6.5-foot-long cargo bed, which shared the same 5,000 pound G.V.W. as the 3100 and 3200 series half-ton trucks.
Base motor was the durable 235-cid six-cylinder, with Chevy's new 265-cid V-8 optional. Five transmission choices, including an automatic, were available. Chrome bumpers, chrome grille, and full wheel covers, optional on other models, were standard on the Cameo.
Read: Chevy Small-Block History
All first-year Cameos were painted two-tone white and red. Inside, the upholstery was also two-tone, and came with arm rests, dual sun-visors, a cigarette lighter, chrome interior door knobs, and a large wrap-around rear window. Priced 30% higher than their standard half-ton truck, Chevrolet sold 5,220 Cameos in 1955.
1955 GMC Suburban Carrier Pickup
Intended as a promotional model to attract customers into showrooms, GMC offered their own version of the Cameo, called the Suburban Carrier. A different grille and front bumper were the main exterior differences.
Under the hood, GMC's 248-cid, 125-horsepower six-cylinder engine was standard, with optional V-8 power coming from Pontiac's 155-horsepower 287 cubic-inch V-8. The single-season production run of about 300 units makes the GMC Suburban Carrier a rare truck indeed.
1956 Chevy Cameo
Despite low production numbers, the Cameo was carried over, now offered in several two-tone paint schemes.
With the exception of a few minor trim items, 1956 Chevrolet trucks remained the same as 1955 models. Base price was $2,150, while a standard half-ton pickup listed at $1,670. Cameo truck production for 1956 was 1,452.
1957 Chevy Cameo
Along with Chevy's other pickup models, the Cameo received a new grille in 1957. V-8 engine displacement increased to 283 cubic-inches, with power output at 185-horsepower. Cameo production rose to 2,244 units.
1958 Cameo Carrier
Industry-wide adoption of quad headlights, along with a larger front grille, were highlights of the 1958 re-design for all Chevrolet trucks. Ford's Styleside pickup, introduced in 1957, had smooth outer bed-walls and sold for much less than the Cameo. Chevrolet countered with their new Fleetside, with an all-steel cargo-box larger than the Cameo's. With just 1,405 produced for the year, Cameo production stopped in early 1958.
In 1989, Chevrolet offered a Cameo package on their S-10 pickup series, which included sport suspension, 15x7 rally wheels, driving lights, and Cameo decals. A ground-effects kit included a rear roll pan and front and rear molded bumper covers. Available in either red, white, or black, the S-10 Cameo option was offered for three years.
Read: Classic Trucks History