Keep On Truckin’ Part 3, The Golden Age
Editor’s Note: About This Truck Series
Keep on Truckin’ Part 3 is the third series from our friend and trusted agent Mike Harrington has spent years wandering the deserts of the southwest camping, snake charming and eating campfire beans but mostly shooting iconic photographs of forgotten/rusted out ghost cars and trucks from bygone eras. In 2011, he published “Rusty Pickups” – a herculean hardcover book project in which he spent countless hours documenting America’s pre and postwar truck production, including extremely rare magazine ad campaigns which he shares with us in this series of articles. You simply won’t see this material anywhere else. Not only are the photographs beautiful and the ads intriguing, they offer a glimpse into what American manufacturing and marketing looked like decades ago from the turn of the 20th century, the War Years and through the Golden years of the 1950s and ‘60s.
America’s golden age, we won the big one just five years earlier. Everyone that wanted a job had one and most Americans owned their home. Tens of thousands of returning GI’s found employment, housing, and were eager to purchase the new cars and trucks that were now being produced in mass quantities.
In the automotive world, overhead valve V-8 engines were becoming more popular and more powerful. Ford ditched it’s flathead in 1954 in favor of the 239 cubic inch Y-block overhead valve engine. Then in 1955, Chevrolet introduced its mightiest invention ever – a soon to be legendary 265 cubic inch small block engine. Little did they know that this engine would become the most popular engine on the planet to date.
Something else interesting happened to trucks in 1960s: trucks were not only workhorses, but they became bigger, faster, safer, and more comfortable. An interesting new trend was emerging; trucks were being marketed and sold as leisure vehicles instead of just a drudge on the farm. Although it wasn’t called so, the SUV was born.
It used to be if you wanted a 4X4 truck, companies like Napco, Marmon-Herrington, American-Coleman, or Overland Willys/Jeep were your only options. Trucks had become sport utility vehicles and they had flashy two-toned paint jobs, radios, powerful new V-8’s (as an option), and now came from the factory with four-wheel drive capabilities. God Bless America!
Then the 1970s came along it was an age of polyester, OPEC, gas shortage lines, 55 MPH speed limits, government fuel standards, disgraced presidents, catalytic converters, and 20-minute long drum solo’s from “progressive” rock bands. Performance engines and performance cars were quite literally strangled to death. Already on the drawing board were plans to produce smaller pick-up trucks. Is there really any nostalgia for the Ford/Mazda two-point no liter Courier, or the Chevy LUV 1.8 liter flyweight pick-up trucks? Restrictive smog and emissions laws may play a big role in the attitude of American enthusiasts’ collecting and restoring mid 70’s and on up trucks. Whatever your taste Keep on Truckin’.
Enjoy the Keep on Truckin’ Part 3 gallery.