By James Raia
The origin of the term pickup truck is unknown, but long-defunct car manufacturer Studebaker was a pioneer using the terminology in advertising in the early 1900s.
Studebaker and other manufacturers first sold modified commercial automobiles. Soon the term “pickup” became synonymous with a cab-forward vehicle with an open cargo area, low sides and a rear tailgate.
Now increasingly popular with gas, hybrid and electric engines, lightweight pickup trucks are no longer strictly so-called “workhorse vehicles.”
The history of pickup trunks showcased in Hershey
In some instances, pickup trucks are as luxurious as sedans – upscale apartments on wheels. The three top-selling vehicles in the United States are pickup trucks: the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado and Ram.
The AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania, will celebrate the iconic American original through the end of October with its exhibit “Keep On Truckin’.”
Keep on Truckin’, which began May 21, tells the story of American ingenuity through the lens of the “pickup.” Farmers and tradesmen embraced the workhorses originally introduced for utilitarian and cargo-moving purposes. With more than 30 vehicles showcased, the exhibit features 100 years of transportation history presenting the birth, growth and evolution of light-duty trucks.
As the need for utility vehicles expanded, manufacturers added boxes and other compartments to their cars’ chassis, and aftermarket companies began selling kits designed to facilitate “pickup” conversion. Soon American vehicle manufacturers added distinct utility vehicles to their commercial lines.
“Keep on Truckin'” traces this design evolution and includes pickups from a wide variety of manufacturers including Chevrolet, Ford, Studebaker, Volkswagen, GMC, Dodge, and others. Displayed trucks run the gamut from factory original, restored, and modified.
Highlights of the exhibition include multiple pre-World War II examples including a Ford Model T and a 1919 Hahn manufactured in Hamburg, Pennsylvania. Also featured on a turntable in the rotunda is an expertly restored Studebaker Coupe Express.
This truck inspired the Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero. First-year models of each are included in the display. Stylized light-duty trucks are represented by a Chevrolet Cameo and Dodge Sweptside from the 1950s, with newer models, the Dodge Lil Red Express and Ford Lightning.
The AACA Museum is located in South Hanover Township, just off Route 39, one mile west of Hersheypark Drive in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
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James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.