Segment Four: 1941-1946 Art Deco Pickups

Author: Don Bunn

If you spend anytime reading truck history you will soon learn that a common design theme which is repeated over and over again is that of "massiveness." This word was used to describe the front appearance of the new 1941 Chevrolet Trucks. Especially on light-duty trucks designers continually worked

The 1941 3/4-ton Chevrolet pickup was built on a 125 1/4-inch wheelbase chassis. Series AL 3/4-ton trucks were equipped with 15-inch wheels and tires. This truck sold for $655 retail. (Photo: AAMA)

to get just the right look of massiveness and ruggedness in the truck's grille, front bumper and front fenders. I'm not so sure that the ruggedness and massiveness have stood the test of time for the 1941-1946 Chevrolet pickups. It was my good friend John Gunnell who coined the term "Wurlitzer" for these trucks, which is a wonderfully descriptive term. I think the point is clear: these are attractive trucks but maybe not all that massive. We must admit that it is hard to miss all that bright chrome, however I tip my hat to the Chevrolet designers for their work, which has stood the test of time.

The new 1941 Chevrolet truck's entire front end: hood, louvers, fenders, bumpers, headlights, parking lights and grille were all new. When combined with a 1 1/2-inch increase in wheelbase, the result was a larger, more impressive truck. Chevrolet engineers backed up the truck's bigger look with more power. Without an increase in cubic inches, horsepower was increased by 5 to 90 and torque by 4 to 174 lb-ft. at 1200 to 200 rpm.
Chevrolet's 1941 half-ton Series AK trucks were built on a 115-inch wheelbase chassis. The half-ton "Cab and Box" sold for $570. It was equipped with 16-inch wheels and 6.00x16 6-ply tires. The wide white sidewall tires on this farm truck seem to be out of place. (Photo: Don Bunn)

The longer wheelbase was used to provide the driver with additional legroom and the seat back was reclined to a more comfortable angle. The seat cushion and back were also improved for better comfort and longer life through the use of more springs and additional cotton padding.

The new half-ton was built on a 115-inch wheelbase. Body offerings included a pickup, panel, canopy and Suburban. The 3/4-ton had a 125 1/4-inch
wheelbase and included a pickup, platform, stake and panel bodies. The one-ton series (now designated as medium-duty models) had the long 134 1/2-inch wheelbase and included a pickup, panel, canopy and stake. The automobile based Commercial cars, the Sedan Delivery, Coupe-Pickup and wooden-bodied Station Wagon also continued.

Chevrolet pickup's styling during the Art-Deco Era didn't change to my knowledge. The 1942 models like this 1942 half-ton pickup's body trim had paint in place of chrome, however. The truck shown is all-original and has only been driven a total of 9,000 miles. (Photo: D.E. Short)

The 1942 Chevrolet pickups were essentially unchanged from 1941. Because America entered World War II in December 1941 the government halted all civilian truck production early in 1942. Chevrolet ceased building civilian models on January 30, 1942. Rationing of commercial vehicles commenced
on March 9, 1942. Between then and July 31, 1945 the Office of Defense Transportation released a total of only 56,128 light-duty trucks. I think its safe to say most of the lights were pickups. Totals for medium trucks was 205,293 and heavy trucks was 64,943 (all figures are for the entire truck industry). Chevrolet resumed production of civilian trucks for the general market on August 20, 1945. The government allowed Chevrolet to build civilian heavy-duty chassis cabs for qualified essential users in both 1944 and 1945 and the half-ton 115-inch wheelbase pickup in 1945 for qualified essential civilian users. Chevrolet

The post war Chevrolet trucks again had chrome trim. This 1946 3/4-ton pickup was powered by the famous Chevrolet 216.5 cubic inch OHV six. (Photo: Vincent Cahill)

This 1947 Chevrolet half-ton pickup is all dressed up. Note its white sidewall tires, rear fender skirts and fancy oak sideboards. (Photo: Don Bunn)

advertised it as the nation's "Most Popular Pickup Truck." It was basically the same truck as the 1942 model but with several engineering improvements.

Chevrolet brought to market a full line (100 models on 9 wheelbases) of light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks on May 1, 1946 complete with chrome trim. All prewar models except the Coupe Pickup returned. The light-duty engine was the same as the prewar engine. These trucks stayed in production until about May 1, 1947 when the Advanced Design trucks entered production.

Next Segment: 1947-1954 Advanced Design Pickups