The pickup truck is an icon of respected American values and virtues: It is honest, hard working, durable and reliable. It is also the best-selling vehicle in the United States today.
“The Pickup Truck: America’s Driving Force,” an exhibit opening Saturday, May 25 at The Farmers’ Museum will examine the story behind the pickup truck. The exhibition will run through Oct. 31.
The exhibit follows the route of the vehicle from its beginnings when demand for pickup trucks actually preceded their supply. Until 1900, passenger vehicles were modified by dealers and buyers to create cargo wagons which replaced horse-drawn farm wagons.
Beyond the farm, trucks were used by owners of small businesses, especially for delivery of produce and goods. One example in the exhibition is a 1907 Chase Model D “Open Express” Motor Truck. Manufactured in Syracuse, early Chase trucks were especially suited for light delivery needs. Chase trucks like this are rare: Only 30 or 40 are known to have survived. Visitors can take a close look at two other early trucks: A 1922 Ford Model TT and a 1925 Ford Model TT.
A 1937 Ford in the exhibit is an example of honest, hard-working qualities, according to a media release. The truck played an essential role in battle, beginning with World War I, said the release. Heavy duty vehicles, ambulances and jeeps developed specifically for use during the World Wars were later modified for civilian use at home. Within days of victory in Europe, the civilian jeep was in production.
In the 1950s, the pickup truck’s popularity broadened further, becoming an everyday vehicle of choice. A 1955 Chevrolet 3100 on display shows how interior amenities such as heaters, radios and adjustable seating become important to pickup truck drivers. This truck continued to deliver power and reliability with a V8 automatic engine.
Recreational pickup truck use grew rapidly in the 1960s. A focus on the family, safety and the great outdoors inspired more design modifications: New shapes included lower heights for easier entry, wider cabs for more comfort and camper-friendly vehicles. One transformation in the 1960s was a different kind of hybrid: The Ford Ranchero and Chevrolet El Camino. These “personal pickups” derived from passenger cars are represented in the exhibition by a 1967 Ford Ranchero.