The Evolution of Modern Trucks — You Won’t Believe What’s Coming


There are few things more American than the love of horses and horsepower. In our previous article, we covered the evolution of the Dodge Charger, and now it’s time to take a step back and look at trucks. Thanks to German automaker Gottlieb Daimler in 1896, his invention of a 4-horsepower engine pickup truck with two forward and one reverse gear was born. From there, the pickup truck evolved and became synonymous with hard work, country-living and good All-American adventure. Here is a look at the past, present and future for pickup trucks.

The Beginning

The 1920s and 1930s

Engine cylinder counts increase, leading to more horsepower:

  • 1921: Chevy introduced the 4-cylinder 490 Roadster with 26 HP
  • 1925: Ford introduces the Model T 4-cylinder Runabout with 20 HP
  • 1929: Dodge introduces the 6-cylinder Merchant Express with 78 HP
  • 1932: Ford introduces Model B Series Pickup and the flathead V-8 engine
  • 1936: Dodge Brothers invents a full-body 6-cylinder 74 HP Dodge D Truck
  • 1937: Ford produces the first V8 60 HP Pickup
  • 1937: Chevy produces the 6-cylinder GC Master 34/ ton with 76 HP

The 1940s and 1950s

Pickups become the choice of farmers and look becomes an important factor:

  • 1941: Chevy produces the 6-cylinder Chevrolet 1/2-Ton AK Series with 90 HP; Chevy trucks now had larger cabs, windows and seats that fit three people
  • 1946: The 6-cylinder Dodge Power Wagon with 94 HP hits the market with bigger truck beds
  • 1948: Ford releases the F-Truck Series with the 4-cylinder V-8 Ford F1 with 100 HP; art deco era influences pickup truck grill designs with chrome and scripted decals
  • 1954: Ford V-8 F100 hits the market with 110 HP
  • 1954: Dodge Introduces Hemi engine line with the C1-B Hemi V-8 with 133 HP
  • 1955: Chevy produces the Chevrolet V-8 Task Force with 123 HP
  • 1955: Companies introduced pickup trucks with automatic transmissions, overdrive, power steering and brakes in vehicles like the GMC 150

The 1960s and 1970s

V-8 engines become standard, horsepower doubles and cabs become roomier:

  • 1963: Chevy introduces the 6-cylinder K20 with 165 HP
  • 1965: Ford produces the F-250 3.9L Crew Cab with 150 HP
  • 1966: Dodge hits the market with the D100 Sweptline V8 with 160 HP
  • 1971: Chevy introduces the C20 V8 Longhorn with 350 HP
  • 1973: Dodge produces the V8 Club Cab with 235 HP
  • 1974: Trucks have access to camper additions for camping and family outings
  • 1975: The Ford F-150 3.9 L comes with 130 HP

Recent History to the Present

Trucks have modern features added:

  • 1980s and 1990s: Trucks add car-like features like automatic windows, antilock braking systems and air conditioning
  • 2000s: Pickups add Wi-Fi, GPS trackers, satellite radio and more horsepower
  • 2009: Phoenix Motorcars produces the first fleet of electric sport utility trucks
  • 2018: Tesla is working on an electric semi-truck that will go as far as 500 miles

While regular trucks have been rather static in their utility, the need to go green has led to trucking schools attempting to fix America’s truck driver shortage by introducing driverless and electric semi trucks that redefine  transport. As history has shown, as the needs of the drivers advance, so will the technology of companies like Dodge, Chevrolet and Ford which will produce more innovative pickups. And while the needs of the planet advance, companies like Tesla, Nikola and Volkswagen are focusing on more high tech solutions for the semi truck industry.


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