Trucks

This Ground-Breaking Truck Design Wasn’t Introduced Until the Late ’50s

Though we may not think about it much today, pickup trucks have changed a lot over the years. Always designed to carry the biggest loads and conquer the hardest jobs, today’s truck looks much different than the ancestors of old. In fact, it wasn’t until the ’50s that we could fit more than a few people in a truck at a time. But we couldn’t imagine a truck today without that signature, crew-cab design.

The moment truck design changed forever

According to Car and Driver, it was Henry Ford himself that is accredited for creating the very first “factory-built pickup truck and for coining the term ‘pickup'” in 1925. But pickups could be seen on the streets almost decades beforehand.

And from the minute the first pickup trucks left the factory, Americans fell in love with its design and function. The pickup would go through many changes, like the first production truck with four-wheel drive in 1946. But all early-stage trucks shared the same basic design, a single cab for the driver with a cargo bed attached at the rear. 

But in 1957, International Harvester would revolutionize truck design by introducing the country’s first pickup with a crew cab body style. According to Popular Mechanics, the two-row, six-passenger crew cab was dubbed the Travelette and featured only three doors for its first few years of production. When the company completely redesigned the Travelette in 1961, it finally received its fourth door.

This revolutionary design meant people could haul more supplies, workers, and cargo to job sites. And as Popular Science points out, “the more supplies you haul to a job site, the more work you can get done- and the more people you need to do it.”

The pickup truck’s crew cab design would also foreshadow the designs of future SUVs and other utility vehicles. Back then, crew cabs were almost exclusively used by utility/construction companies and contractors.

The crew cab gets standardized

A truck on the market that could not only haul cargo but also carry more workers at the same time would prove to create the perfect recipe for success. Only a few years after International Harvester’s Travelette quickly gained popularity, automakers like Dodge and Ford aptly followed with other versions.

Dodge produced its own crew cab pickup truck in 1963, while Ford put its own crew cab out in 1965. This was also around the same time that another design revolution was being made, with the introduction of the compact pickup truck by automakers Toyota and Datsun, according to Car Covers.

It wasn’t until the 1990s however, when trucks would become popular for more than heavy-duty work, that mainstream trucks received the option for a crew cab body style. Providing the option for both light- and heavy-duty trucks proved to be successful, and crew cab popularity exploded.

The desolation of single cab trucks

Both the design and overall function of trucks has changed through the years, with more and more people using trucks for family vehicles and not just workhorses. Crew cab pickups can fit the entire family, but also have hauling and towing capabilities you need.

Because of the crew cabs’ popularity, there is less desire for the traditional, single cab truck. And as supply-and-demand would dictate, “what used to be considered a ‘regular cab’ truck is becoming very irregular,” according to AutoTrader.

Only a few automakers offer pickup trucks with a single cab, with Toyota, Ram, and GMC shifting to crew-cab-only designs. Single cab pickups are typically offered at the lowest starting price, but also offer less cargo/passenger space than the popular crew cab.