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Lifted Chevy Trucks - The Needs of a Nation Shaped The Lifted Chevy Truck

chevrolet road napco pickup

William Durant in an effort to take over as CEO of General Motors began selling the first Chevrolet trucks to a nation of working American men in 1918. Durant sold Chevy trucks cheap and fast, as his direct competition, and inspiration in the truck market place was Henry Ford.

Durant’s Chevrolet Motors produced a chassis cowl, which included the engine, transmission, front sheet metal, grille and headlights. The after market bed was built by either the consumer or a manufacturer.

Four-wheel drive vehicles were in great demand through World War II and the four-wheel drive trucks in production serviced the war effort. Five years after the war ended Chevrolet Truck manufacturing had positioned itself to provide the lifted chevy trucks needed to service off-road work such as logging, forestry, firefighters, farming, utility companies and railroads.

The first documented four wheel drive conversion on a chevy truck was performed by Northwestern Auto Parts Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota on a 1951 ¾ ton pickup. This early collaboration between Chevrolet and NAPCO led to an industry of manufacturing upfitters, aftermarket parts aimed at making the lifted chevy truck the working mans choice.

NAPCO’s ultimate business success and demise was tied to the lifted chevy truck. NAPCO referred to the lifted chevy in their advertising slogan, which read “Now you can have a standard Chevrolet four wheel drive pickup featuring the traction power of a tank, or, at the flip of a finger, a smoother riding, high speed, over the road truck. Aptly named the Mountain Goat, this full sized pickup will literally leap up mountains, as well as carry you through deep mud, sand, or snow."

NAPCO developed the power pack conversion, which Chevrolet used on its lifted chevy trucks up to 1959. The power pack conversion was not available on the ½-ton pickup until after 1954. By 1960, Chevrolet had redesigned its 4×4 truck chassis and had developed independent front suspension for its ½-ton truck line. NAPCO continued to sell aftermarket kits, however, NAPCO focused on larger trucks of a ton and a half or more.

Chevrolet has led the American auto industry for decades by being the first to recognize and meet the needs of a working man and his work truck. In 1929, Chevrolet produced the first OHV 6 cylinder engine. This engine designed specifically to give more power for less money effectively allowed Chevy to maintain its lead in truck production.

In 1967, Chevrolet began marketing the chevy truck as a recreation vehicle. The lifted chevy truck was lowered by five inches in order to make it more family friendly. The lifted chevy was only available on ½ or ¾ ton Stepside and Fleetside truck models.

This new direction in marketing encouraged the growth of another generation of upfitters to serve the burgeoning recreation industry. Slide-in Camper and travel trailer sales made up about 95 percent of the recreation market and the Chevy truck was America’s number one choice once again.

Additional outgrowth of the recreation market includes off-road racing, rock crawling, and muddin. Off-road racing began October 1967 in Tijuana, Baja California with a desert race called the National Off Road Racing Association Mexican 1000. The race was actually 847 miles of punishing desert terrain and is now referred to as the Baja 1000. The Baja 1000 is now one of a series of races featuring lifted trucks as a competing vehicle class.

Rock crawling is extreme off road driving. Organized competitions feature a short obstacle course with gates similar to a skiing competition. The course appears impassable except to these highly modified lifted vehicles. Rock Crawlers seem to defy gravity.

Muddin started in a backyard mud hole where the idea was to get the old Chevy truck as dirty as possible. Muddin has grown into organized competitive events where the idea is to get as far as possible through the mud bog. Some events play host to as many as forty thousand spectators a weekend.

The history of the lifted Chevy truck has been shaped by the work it has performed, and by the fun and excitement it has brought to a nation of American truck owners.

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