Did GMC or Chevy Pickup Trucks Come First?

The GMC Sierra vs the Chevy Silverado debate is a friendly rivalry perpetuated by fans of General Motors pickup trucks. But which brand made the first truck? The truth is that the Grawbowski Motor Vehicle Company was founded for the express purpose of building professional-grade trucks and delivery vehicles. When General Motors bought the brand, its mission stayed the same. At that point, Chevrolet only built cars. It was a decade later that GM sold the first Chevy truck–a chassis-cab invented by the factor workers out of necessity.

Which came first, GMC or Chevy?

Brothers Max and Morris Grabowski founded GMC as a truck company in 1900. Race car driver Louis Chevrolet founded Chevy as a car company in 1911.

Vintage signs for GMC trucks and Chevy pickup trucks hanging on a tan, metal wall.
GMC and Chevrolet logos | Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images

GMC and Chevrolet have a fascinating, entangled history. The Grabowsky brothers were very successful selling trucks and delivery vehicles to fleets. Their business began as Grabowski Motor Vehicle Company before they renamed it Rapid Motor Vehicle Company.

William C. Durant was the founder of General Motors and envisioned a single corporation with multiple brands for multiple demographics. He began buying shares of Rapid in 1908, folding it into GM by 1909.

By 1911, General Motors ousted Durant from his executive role. He teamed up with Swiss-American racecar driver Louis Chevrolet to found the Chevrolet Motor Company. Durant was able to grow Chevrolet so quickly that in 1918 he took GM back over through a reverse merger–including its GMC Truck Division.

What was the first GMC truck?

The Grabowsky brothers founded the Grawbowski Motor Company (GMC) in 1900 and spent two years perfecting their one-ton truck, selling the first one to the American Garment Cleaning Company in 1902.

Promo photo of one of the first GMC pickup trucks, originally sold in 1908, years before the first Chevy.
1908 GMC | Bettmann via Getty Images

In 1902, a one-ton truck was truly a vehicle capable of carrying 2,000 pounds. The same year, Max and Morris Grabowsky bought a plant on Rapid street in Pontiac, Michigan. The address inspired their new company name: the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company–according to GM.

By 1904, the plant was turning out 75 work trucks a year. The Rapid truck, as well as its Pontiac plant, would eventually become the center of General Motors’ professional-grade enterprises. GM even resurrected the company’s old GMC badge–this time standing for General Motors Truck Company–in 1912.

What was the first Chevy truck?

Resourceful Chevrolet factory workers modified cars into flatbed trucks to move parts around their factory. In 1918, the automaker offered this chassis-cab for public sale as the Chevy One-Ton.

Drawing of the original 1918 Chevy one-ton Chassis-cab pickup truck.
1918 Chevrolet One-Ton | General Motors

With the General Motors Truck Company building fleet vehicles, Chevrolet was left to focus on passenger cars. But Chevy factory workers still needed a way to move heavy parts around the factory. I suppose they could have ordered a GMC truck, but perhaps the Chevy/GMC rivalry was already growing.

Factory workers took a rolling Chevy car chassis and installed a flatbed and small cab. Then they used it to shuttle car parts around the factory. At some point, the company bean counters realized this design could save them money, and they listed it for sale.

The 1918 Chevrolet One-Ton had an inline four-cylinder engine and an open cab. It shipped as a chassis, so the customer could build it out as needed. Its grille even featured an early Chevy bowtie logo finished in midnight blue.

Next, find out what is the best-selling car of all time or see the 2022 Chevy Silverado 1500 compared to the 2022 GMC Sierra 1500 in the video below:

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