MotorCities National Heritage Area


By: Robert Tate, Automotive Historian/Researcher
Images Courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection
Published 9.22.2014

Let’s highlight the history of GMC trucks, specifically those introduced to the public in 1957. Looking back at GMC's rich history of manufacturing influential products, the company became extremely popular among consumers who could appreciate the trucks’ functionality, performance, and design. GMC trucks are still popular to this day, with their new 2014 line of trucks, crossovers, and vans.

 RESIZED 1 1957 GMC Truck Ad cropped

Dating back to 1912, the first GMC truck was introduced to the American public as an open cab-over-engine design with a crank starter and dual, hard-rubber wheels on the driver’s axle. Interestingly enough, during World War I, the GMC model 16 1-ton trucks were used extensively by the U. S. Army as an ambulance. After the war, it became the basis for the GMC K Series. In 1940, GMC would go on to purchase the remaining interest in Yellow Cab and Coach, organizing the GM Truck and Coach Division.

 RESIZED 2 1957 GMC Truck Red

The Blue Chip series launched in 1955 were sleek looking pick-up trucks that contrasted ultra-modern style with rugged versatility and offered more than 500 major styling and engineering advances. Two years later, in 1957, GMC introduced its model line known as the GMC Blue Chip “Money-Maker” line which attracted more consumers to the brand. The 1955-1957 truck line had intentionally been designed to give drivers the finest and best looking trucks in the trucking business. GMC’s product line of ’57 also offered fresh styling features such as a wrap-around rear window and panoramic windshield with a deep center steering wheel, in addition to T- 3 headlamps as added safety features.

 RESIZED 3 1957 GMC Truck Auto Show

Although GMC’s stylish design was attractive, it was the comfort and safety features that made GMC truck products a pleasure to drive, to own, and to operate. In retrospect, the 1950’s were a time of advancement for more powerful GM truck designs. GMC added its unique air suspension system for trucks which became very popular for drivers giving them a stronger sense of durability. It is also important to note that GMC was the first truck manufacturer to offer air suspension as standard equipment on their new 1957 truck models.

 RESIZED 4 1957 GMC Truck Yellow

Opening in Lubbock, Texas, the West Texas National Automobile Show introduced GMC’s Palomino Pickup Truck of 1957. The Palomino was actually named after a handsome breed of horses. This pickup featured a leather interior trim which was accented by a horse-head crest, decorative exterior aluminum extrusions, fiberglass rear side panels, and coated with a distinctive golden brown color treatment. GMC also introduced truck models for heavy-duty work load and long distance driving which were featured as the A600A and FA600A series. These were GMC's two new V-8 air suspension models offered in the 5-ton market series. Both the A600A and FA600A models were powered by a 232 horsepower V-8 engine and were capable of handling heavy jobs for many companies who trusted this vehicle to get the job done. One  ’57 GMC advertisement said, “When your business is selling trucks of any size of any type for any job, there's nothing like selling Money-Makers!”

1957 was a great year for GM truck products and for the introduction of new truck models. This era brought strong influential designs from General Motors automotive divisions who also created the popular 1955 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier models. The 1957 GMC product lines were based on the talent of an outstanding automotive designer, Chuck Jordan (October 21, 1927 - December 9, 2010). Jordan influenced many great products for General Motors over his lifetime. Today, early GMC products are still very popular among truck collectors and automotive enthusiasts alike.

A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs are courtesy of the National Automotive History Collection. (Bibliography: “General Motors the First 75 Years of Transportation Products.” Automobile Quarterly Publications, 1983. GMC Truck & Coach - A General Motors Division, 1957.)

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