The history of the pickup truck is a long and storied one, but once again, it all started with Ford. It technically did at least, but other companies, like Chrysler, created truck-like cars before Ford did. Here’s the story of how a car became a pickup truck and eventually, one of America’s favorite vehicles.
The idea of a pickup truck is actually quite old. Hauling stuff around on a long, flat surface is something that farmers from around the world have been doing with their horse-drawn wagons. In fact, after the invention of the combustion engine, it didn’t take long for someone, in this case, Gottlieb Daimler, to pair those two ideas together according to BuyAutoInsurance.
Daimler, who’s probably better known for being the man who founded Daimler AG, created a 4-hp horseless wagon in 1896. It could, according to CarCovers, carry up to 3,300 lb of cargo, though many people are skeptical of that.
In 1918, Chevy created a car that looked somewhat like a pickup truck. It looked like a regular car that had its rear portion cut off. However, in order for people to use it as a pickup truck, they’d have to install their own truck bed, according to BuyAutoInsurance.
The Model T pickup truck
In 1925, Ford introduced the Model T, which came with an optional truck bed. The version of the Model T that had a truck bed was called the Model T Runabout according to CarCovers. The Model T was very successful, but by this point in history, other carmakers, such as Chevy and Chrysler, started making trucks as well.
It was a back and forth fight between those automakers, especially in the states. Other countries caught on of course, and Toyota introduced its own pickup truck in 1935. But the main source of competition was in the U.S. and it was between Ford and Chevy.
Chevy innovated on its trucks and introduced powerful V6 engines, according to CarCovers. Ford responded with V8s on its trucks. It wasn’t a race between engines either, truck bodies were changing often. In 1928 for example, Ford introduced the Model A pickup truck and it was as popular as the Model T was.
It was during World War 2 however, that the demand for trucks heated up. In the face of stiff competition for rugged and powerful trucks, Ford introduced the F-series of pickup trucks in 1948 according to CarCovers. This first generation of F-series pickup trucks were sold for four years. The next generations of the F-series would incrementally improve on itself.
After the highway system was developed in the ’50s though, the competition became even fiercer. But the next true innovation in pickup trucks came not long after.
Every generation of the F-150 improved on itself. Whether it was more power, more durability, or just more style, the F-150 always had an answer for the other automakers’ trucks. This dominance in the market extends to today.
Like history repeating itself, Ford innovated and developed its EcoBoost line of engines. These extremely fuel-efficient engines, when paired with the F-150, became a must-have in American garages.
In fact, in 2019, the best selling car in America was the F-series. It’s not even close, either. Over 660,000 of those Ford pickups were sold this year, and the runner-up only sold 460,000. In the near future, Ford hopes to innovate on its pickups again. With an electric F-150 on the horizon, the future of the pickup is bright.