Contrary to popular belief, Henry Ford did not create the first truck with the “Model T Runabout with Pickup Body” in 1925. While it was the first purpose-built, factory-made, successful truck, others had already been building similar vehicles since before the 19th century.
The first pickup truck was really invented in 1896, by a little guy named Daimler. That same guy, Gottlieb Daimler, made the first motorcycle and the first taxi. You could say he was an innovator (and his company has over $200 billion in revenue today, with 300,000 employees).
In the years to follow, in order to create solutions to problems, the first fire truck was created, the first semi-truck, the first tow truck, the first delivery truck, the first tractor-trailer, etc.
Here we’ve got 15 original trucks from between 1896 to 1950 that you might never have heard of, but that paved the way for the trucks we know today. Many of these early companies are still around, too!
15. 1917 Ford Model TT
The Ford Model TT was just sold as a chassis when it first came out in 1917, and the buyer had to supply a body. Weird. By 1924, the truck was available with a factory-produced body, and the price dropped from $600 to $325.
Based on the Model T, the TT had a heavier frame and rear axle, giving it a 1 short ton rating. Between 1917 and 1927, almost 1.5 million TTs were sold, so this model was no joke!
14. 1918 Chevrolet Model 490
via My Classic Garage
Chevy was not far behind with their own pickup truck: the 1918 Model 490. Like the Model TT from Ford, the 490 only came with a chassis, and the truck bed itself had to be installed or built by an outside company. So, neither of these two can really be considered the first “factory-made pickup truck.” It was still revolutionary, though, with 95,000 selling in 1918 at a price of $660-$1,060.
13. 1925 Ford Model T Runabout With Pickup Body
The 1925 Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body (its full name) is what most people consider the first American pickup truck, because it was the first factory-built one.
Equipped with a 40-hp four-cylinder and heavy-duty leaf springs in the rear, it was priced at just $281 (equivalent cost to today is around $3,900). Included with other Model T body styles, over 1.9 million sold in 1925 alone.
12. 1948 Ford F1
via Salt City Classics
We’d be remiss without mentioning the first-generation Ford F-Series, which is now the most popular car in America. The Ford F1 came out in 1948, and the first generation lasted until 1952. In all, the F-Series has spanned 13 generations. The first F-Series was advertised as “Bonus Built” by Ford, encompassing light-duty and heavy-duty trucks. It also had a fresh new design that everyone loved, and a one-piece windshield.
11. 1896 Daimler Truck
via William Eggers Motorcycles
The actual first motor truck was not invented by Henry Ford, but rather a German pioneer named Gottlieb Daimler (of Mercedes fame) who built a truck in 1896! It had four horsepower and a belt drive with two forward speeds and one reverse. This was the first pickup truck.
Daimler, a revolutionary inventor, also produced the world’s first motorcycle in 1885, and the first taxi in 1897.
10. 1913 Ernest Holmes 485 Wrecker
via Twin Cities Wrecker Sales
The 1913 Holmes 485 by Ernest Holmes is considered the first tow truck. The towing industry was born with this truck when Holmes helped a friend retrieve his car using three poles, a pulley, and a chain hooked to the frame of a 1913 Cadillac.
He patented the invention and began manufacturing wreckers and towing equipment for sale to automotive garages. His company grew huge, well past Earnest Holmes’ life.
9. 1913 Cadillac Phaeton Truck
via Classic Vehicles List
The Cadillac Phaeton was a touring truck’ this could possibly be a Model 30, one of which sold at RM Sotheby’s for over $100,000 in 2011. But this Phaeton appears to have been converted as a truck, making it one of the earliest examples of a pickup in the world, though it might not have started that way. It’s still a historical barn find, though.
8. 1928 Ford Model A
via Bring a Trailer
In 1928, with Ford Model T sales waning, Henry Ford introduced the next great invention in his master plan: the Model A. Coming in every body style imaginable, including a truck, this was Ford’s second marketing success.
By 1929, one million had been sold, and by July 24 of that year, two million. It started at $500 for the Tudor model, up to $1200 for the Town Car model. Sales hit three million by March 1930, with nine body styles available.
7. 1909 Mack Delivery Truck
via Wikimedia Commons
Before Ford had the factory-made Model T Runabout, Mack was making less successful and less well-known delivery trucks such as this one. Founded in 1900 by John, William, and Gus Mack, the Mack Brothers Company has had unrivaled success, all through WWI to the present. Commercial trucks, or “big rigs,” were a vision of the Mack brothers, and this 1909 was the first 1-1/2-ton truck.
6. 1917 Nash Fire Truck Model 3017
via Wikimedia Commons
The Mack brothers were trailblazers. They built America’s first motorized hook and ladder rig in 1910, and the U.S. Army enlisted Mack trucks in 1919 to study America’s need for a national highway system. Then Charles W. Nash came along (former GM president) and started Nash Motors in 1916, helping to build one of the first fire trucks: the 1917 Model 3017, that you see here.
5. 1913 Jeffery Quad
The Jeffery Quad, also known as the Nash Quad, was a four-wheel-drive, 1-1/2-ton rated pickup built by the Thomas B. Jeffery Company in 1913, and after 1916 by Nash Motors. Production of this truck continued unchanged through 1928.
This picture is of U.S. Marines riding in a Jeffery Quad at Fort Santo Domingo in 1916. It was one of the most successful vehicles in WWI thanks to its durability in traversing muddy, rough, and unpaved roads.
4. 1915 Autocar XXIF
Founded in 1897, the Autocar Company was a specialist in severe-duty, Class 7 and Class 8 vocational trucks. Autocar is the oldest surviving motor vehicle brand in the Western Hemisphere, as it’s still around! (Owned by Volvo Trucks as of 1981, though.)
The XXIF is one of the first heavy-duty trucks around, and as you can see, it’s capable of carrying many people and a lot of cargo.
3. 1899 Winton Motor Carriage Semi
The first semi-truck was invented in 1898 by Alexander Winton of Cleveland, Ohio. Initially a carmaker, Winton needed a way to transport vehicles to buyers around the country – and the semi was born. Winton went into the “horseless carriage” business in 1896. The massive truck used three axles to carry significant cargo. The front axle steers the semi while the rear axle and its double wheels propel it forward.
2. 1919 Nash Flier
According to this image provided by Shorpy.com, the “Nash Flier California Highway Motor Train in San Francisco” was a publicity stunt to showcase the developing field of long-distance trucking. This was one of – if not the – first long-distance “haulers.” The cargo on this particular 2-ton Nash truck was Sperry’s Drifted Snow Flour. We must say, this photo is in remarkable condition and clarity for the time it was taken.
1. 1914 Freuhauf Trailer
The Freuhauf Trailer Company was started by blacksmith August Freuhauf in 1899. He designed the first tractor-trailer to help a friend, Mr. Sibley, get a boat to a lake.
Stronger than the Model T with a tongue and brake, the Freuhauf Trailer Company shot up in popularity. As said in a 1950 issue of TIDE, “To say it [the Freuhauf Trailer Company] is the General Motors of the business [trailer hitches] understates the case. Not only was Freuhauf the biggest firm in the field, it sold more than all the others put together.”