General Motors' new full size pickup trucks have arrived. Unlike pickups of the past, these are high tech machines using efficient engines with cylinder-deactivation to make sure those mpg figures stay as high as possible, even if they do have the aerodynamic profile of a brick on wheels.
And since we think the GMC Sierra is the classier one of the two new GM truck models, let's take a look at its long journey. It all began in 1902, the year America's first movie theater opened in a dusty backwater called Los Angeles.
Photo Credit: Gaensler
Max and Morris Grabowsky built their first prototype in 1901 in Pontiac, Michigan. A year later, they founded Rapid Motor Vehicle Company, building the truck you see here. It wasn't much more than a frame with wheels and a bench seat (literally, a bench), but it did the job.
The truck the brothers Grabowsky had built attracted the attention of General Motors, which bought them out in 1909. The name "GMC Trucks" first appeared in 1912 at the New York Auto Show, and was patented eight month later.
In 1927, a handful of improvements more groundbreaking than the new one's LED lights appeared on GMC trucks. The headlights were attached to the radiator, the fenders got curvier, and the radiator trim panel was chrome-plated. The year before, a 2-ton GMC truck had been driven from New York to San Francisco in five days and 30 minutes.
The 1930s was the decade of streamlining and style, which meant sloping grilles, swooping fenders, and more paint color options. Customers rejoiced over the new trucks' more and more car-like interiors, and GMCs began to sell like hotcakes.
During World War II, GMC produced 600,000 trucks for the U.S. Armed Forces. When the war's dust had settled, GMC improved its lineup, offering trucks with integrated headlamps as well as wider, lower, bolder grilles. The styling of this vintage has held up well; they make great hotrods.
During the '50s, car design influenced trucks even more, which resulted in better comfort, performance, and safety. Capable work horses, the trucks' hooded headlights, panoramic glass, and wood trim made GMCs sexy enough for weekend cruising, too. General Motors also enjoyed success as a bus manufacturer.
The 1960s saw the advent of full width hoods and funky "jet pod" grilles. But while hippies bought Volkswagen vans and people who wanted to kill hippies bought pickups, there was another revolution of sorts going down in Detroit: Muscle cars. Good times all around, even if all you had was a truck with a V8.
Padded interiors usurped bare metal inside '70s-vintage GMC trucks, and the appearance of the Crew Cab model meant you could actually carry passengers other than your two hunting buddies. The dual rear axle was also offered for the first time in heavy duty trucks, making GMCs of the '70s and early '80s burly indeed.
In 1987, GM finally introduced an updated pickup after 14 years of predictable goodness from the old design. It sported a more aerodynamic body style, and for GMC, a permanent name change to "Sierra." The name that had been used only as a trim level previously. Also in that momentous year of Ferrari F40 advent (c'mon, what's more important than that?!), GM withdrew from the bus market.
GMC introduced a redesigned pickup at the end of the twentieth century. Frame hydroforming meant the trucks were built upon a stronger, lighter, more rigid platform. Rear-hinged three-door extended cab models were also a new option, and a darling of contractors and divorced dads with kid duty on the weekend.
The last version of GMC's trucks before this year's new model featured a host of improvements, including Duramax diesel engines, a steeply raked windshield, and tighter body panel gaps. Although they're still massive compared to most passenger vehicles, efficiency had come a long way since the trucks reached full size in the '60s.
Here it is in all of its new truck glory: The redesigned GMC Sierra. Jesus, this thing's so beefy you could make a thick stew out of it. But after staring at its scary killer robot eyes for a few minutes, see if your heart doesn't melt, making you realize its true beauty. Then you'll croak, sobbing, "I love Big Truck!"