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What is a Pickup Truck?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 April 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A pickup truck, also spelled “pick-up truck,” is a light motor vehicle that has an enclosed cab in the front and a cargo area in the back with an open top. Pickup trucks almost always have rigid vertical sides with a flat bed in the back that serves as a tray for cargo. Furthermore, there is a rear gate that opens outward for easy loading and unloading. There are many different sizes of pickup trucks. In North America, full-size, mid-size, and compact trucks are all available. A full-size pickup truck is a large and heavy vehicle that generally runs on a V8 or six-cylinder engine. A compact pickup truck, on the other hand, is small and includes an inline four engine.

Generally, pickup trucks are simply designed as modified trucks with open backs. However, there are two pickup trucks that were designed from the body of a passenger car. These are the Chevrolet El Camino and the Ford Ranchero. Both vehicles were actually modified station wagons. Although these models included an integrated cargo bed, they were generally not considered to be pickup trucks due to their other structural features.

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The first pickup truck to come off a factory assembly line was the Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body. Henry Ford debuted this vehicle in 1925 with a production of 34,000 units. That year, the Runabout cost $281 US Dollars. Three years later the Model A runabout replaced the Model T. Since then, the pickup truck has bee redesigned many times over by numerous automotive companies.

In this time span, the name for these utility vehicles has also changed. While they were first referred to by Ford as “Runabouts,” the term pickup truck has become the umbrella term for all vehicles in this class. The etymology of the name is simple. Pickup trucks are vehicles with which you can pick up loads of materials and supplies. Pickup trucks are used all over the world. In Australia and New Zealand, for example, they are referred to as “utes,” a variation on the term “utility vehicle.” In South Africa, pickup trucks are referred to as “bakkies,” while Egyptians refer to them as “half trucks.”

Legend has it that pickup trucks were born out of the Great Depression and the pragmatism and economical thinking that this period in history forced upon Americans. It is believed that one day, a man who was just scraping by approached an automotive manufacturer and said, “Why can’t you design something that I can use to take my family to church on Sunday and my pigs to market on Monday?” Like most legends, there is probably a kernel of truth in this one. While this exact conversation may never have taken place, the pickup truck was most likely designed for the type of man who would like to have one vehicle for both such purposes.

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