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Grace
Hagerty Employee

These 3 light-duty ’50s trucks broke ground on four-wheel drive

Today’s drivers seem to think they “need” four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, even if they live in a town where it snows once every five years and in which a gravel driveway qualifies as tough terrain. As for pickups, many ostensibly utilitarian examples on the market today pack as much leather and luxury as a Mercedes-Benz. That wasn’t always the case, of course. For most of their history, pickups featured barebones interiors; their owners needed them to do work, not to get to work. Even four-wheel drive was a relatively rare feature, and not until the end of the 1950s did each of the Big Three build its own light-duty 4x4.

 

By simply doing their jobs, most old-school trucks led a hard life in-period, which led to a low survival rate. This helps enhance vintage trucks' desirability, and 4x4 examples in particular are typically worth significantly more than their rear-drive counterparts. With the current popularity of all-wheel drive in new vehicles, it makes sense that early 4x4s are coming into fashion, and these late-'50s pickups are just three examples.

 

Read the full article on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/valuation/these-3-light-duty-50s-trucks-broke-ground-on-four-wheel-dri...

18 REPLIES 18
Grace
Hagerty Employee

Interesting how trucks, specifically, have evolved as a status symbol.
46HudsonPU
Intermediate Driver

You indicated 'three' (3) trucks - my count says at least four (4) manufacturers are mentioned...

mpzz
Advanced Driver

GM, Ford, Chrysler........  what else?

Pepperalls
Detailer

Studebaker is mentioned for the Napco conversions but not given a feature space in the article (that would be the 4th brand). But... did Studebaker ever make their own 4x4? If not, maybe didn't meet the author's criteria?

Scout800a
New Driver

What about Jeeps, and international pickup trucks?

namtrinh
New Driver

thank for your writting
Antique is now fashionable compared to the current market

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MichaelA
New Driver

Studebaker NAPCO's were in the mix, they started offering factory NAPCO's in 1958, In 1959/1960 they sold 65 NAPCO short bed, 259 CI V-8's to the Navy, real nice trucks.

Heighigton_66
New Driver

That dodge as an export model is a Fargo. That body design runs from 1958 to 1966 with a longer wheel based after 1959-All cab parts ( door, fenders, hood, glass etc) from a D-100 to a D-900 fit and this might also include the chassis. 

mpzz
Advanced Driver

"with a longer wheel based after 1959-All cab parts.."???

 

 

Bill
Detailer

It'll be interesting to see where car auction prices go after the Coronavirus is history.

 

Bill
Detailer

and where are the Mercury trucks

Pepperalls
Detailer

My understanding has always been that 4x4 was not common in many places until it became regionally popular in the 70s (mountainy/snowy states). Widely popular by the end of the 80s for trucks and the emerging SUV craze.

 

This article would benefit from some production numbers for context. Pretty sure Napcos are quite rare having been mostly sold to logging companies and such that worked them hard.

Kyle
Moderator

Interesting thought. I'll poke around and see if production for NAPCOs is available. I have the impression they are relatively rare as well.
boxdin
New Driver

What accelerated the move to over 6000 gvw trucks and vans was the 1976 exemption of emissions for 6000 lb gvw trucks.  4wd, vans, pickups was the new norm as well as outdoor exploring, mudding etc.  Hence  " Heavy Half" chevy trucks of the era. In 1979 the GVW limit went to 8500 lbs 

roadworthy
Pit Crew

I have a 1957 International s120 with 4wd.  It would have been nice to see some attention paid to more than the big 3.  

TransAm-forever
Intermediate Driver

I agree. IHC led the 4x4 crowd back then with some of their innovations. IHC was the first 4x4 light-truck manufacturer to offer power steering on a 4WD pickup.

Jhart71
Passenger

No mention of the very first Chevrolet 4x4's? There weren't many but the first Chevrolet 4x4's were as early as 1949. I've seen a few in the 49-53 range but they are really rare. They were outfitted with the NAPCO kit. I just saw A 1951 Chevrolet NAPCO sell on Mecum for 80k or more.  Really cool trucks.  

mpzz
Advanced Driver

As to how expensive the NAPCO 4wd kit was, it doubled the price of the pickup.  I'm amazed they sold as many as they did!  My dad bought new pickups ever few years from 1960 to 2002 and his first 4wd was a 1982 K10.  We lived in snow country and I'm amazed we could get around in the winter with all those C10's and Bonnevilles and, worst of all, my 1969 Camaro.  I doubt I could drive it in the snow today like I did when I was a teenager.