By sales and acclamation, history and mythology, the pickup truck is the most popular vehicle in America and has been for decades. We are told electric pickups will be the next big thing: The Tesla Cybertruck, the Ford F-150 Lightning and the GMC Hummer EV are online and on their way. But recall that GMC offered a full line of electric N-Series Light-Duty Trucks—“operated by Edison current”—in 1913. These were designed by John M. Lansden, who had run an electric car company in Newark, New Jersey, as early as 1904. Bought out by Edison himself in 1908, Lansden made electric ambulances and taxicabs, buses and brewery wagons. The company stumbled financially and Lansden left to run electric truck development for GMC. By 1911, there were eight models of heavy-duty commercial electric trucks available under GMC’s “Rapid” nameplate.
The first truck ever powered by internal combustion was designed and built in 1896 by Gottlieb Daimler of Germany. It looked like a rear-engine hay wagon. The first American pickup trucks were homemade and came on the scene at almost the same moment as the car. Farmers built cargo boxes onto the rear end of their automobiles, especially after Henry Ford’s Model T arrived in 1908. A few planks of oak or hickory and some angle irons from the local blacksmith was all it took.
Somehow “luxury trucks” came and went this century, the LT and the EXT unloved oxymorons, victims of cognitive dissonance. The letters and numbers kept climbing—the Cs, the Ds, the Fs, the 250s and the 2500s and 3500s, world without end, blurring into an alphabet of GT-Rs and R/Ts and SRTs, TRDs and SVTs and SSRs—until trucks got so tough the names became a warning, a threat: Ram. Raptor. Gladiator. Rampage!