American Pickup Trucks | CARFAX Blog

Enter a VIN to find reports.

A Short History of American Pickup Truck


The birth of American pickup trucks dates back almost 100 years. When World War I broke out, the Dodge brothers developed a half-ton multipurpose truck for the U.S. Army. This kick started an entire new segment of light-duty trucks. A lot has changed over the last century. Dodge’s truck, with its feeble 35-horsepower engine and 1,000-pound cargo capacity, was a lightweight by today’s standards.

The Early Days of American Pickup Trucks

Ever since the Model T was introduced in 1908, owners had been modifying them to include a cargo bed. The Ford Motor Company presented the first true factory-built pickup truck in 1925, dubbed: the Model T Runabout With Pickup Body. Since then, American pickup trucks have become a wildly successful vehicle class, evolving immensely over time.

The first design was intended for hauling light loads. Then in 1928, the Model A replaced the Model T. With this, the first closed cab pickup came into the market, bringing with it some much-desired weatherproofing. Additionally, engines at this time started getting more power.

Decades of Change

During the 1930s and early 40s, manufacturers of American pickup trucks continued offering more powerful engines, growing cargo capacity, and increasingly attractive styling.

With the outbreak of World War II, production of all commercial vehicles ceased. Then around 1947, consumers began seeing new models coming to the market. In the late 1940s and 50s, larger cabins became prominent, featuring improved visibility and general refinement. Slowly, American pickup trucks were becoming something for more than just farmers and businesses. During this period, Ford introduced the F-Series pickup line, going on to hold the title of “Best Selling Pickup” for over 30 years.

Shrinking with the times

The introduction of compact pickup trucks came in the 1960s. This trend of providing similar utility to a full-size truck, in a more economical package, continued through the 70s as fuel prices made buyers more conscious of their consumption. Then in the 1980s, manufacturers of American pickup trucks began offering sporty versions of their smaller, compact trucks. The smaller size allowed for enhanced performance and more fun.

Changing from a utility to primary vehicle

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, full-size interiors became a popular feature in the segment. This allowed buyers to consider these vehicles for their primary means of transport, rather than simply using them for work. An increased focus on adding luxury led to an entire new sub-class of American pickup trucks. Anything one could have in a typical luxury car was now finding its way into pickups: comfortable leather interiors, navigation and sound systems, heated seats, etc.

Bigger is better

Since the beginning, engines have increased exponentially. Cargo capacity has reached astounding heights. Comfort and luxury know no bounds. One could say that there is a good reason why pickup trucks are one of the most popular classes of vehicles on the roads today.

If you’re interested in buying or importing American pickup trucks, it’s always a good idea to do your research before you buy. Checking the CARFAX Vehicle History Report can help reduce the risk of buying a vehicle with a bad history (e.g. flood damage, odometer manipulation, or even a salvage title).