Editorial Features

Finding New Roads (and Exploring the Old) in Chevrolet Trucks

by | Nov 2, 2017

 

Chevrolet Trucks: 100 Years of Building the Future

Author: Larry Edsall

Publisher: Motor Books

Price: $40.00 / £24.99

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Larry Edsall knows cars, and not just because of his serendipitous, if alternatively-spelled, last name. For nearly twelve years, he worked as the motorsports editor at AutoWeek magazine and has authored several car histories, including Camaro 2016, Corvette Stingray and Chevrolet Volt, among others. I spoke with Mr. Edsall a few years back on the topic of The Volkswagen Bulli, (somehow still relevant) and the changing nature of car buying in America. 

Mr. Edsall directs some of that life-learned knowledge of the classic car industry to the Chevrolet pickup truck, in his latest release, Chevrolet Trucks: 100 Years of Building the Future. The book, full of images, photographs and a whirlwind of history, explores just how much the pickup truck has influenced American life, and just how much American life has influenced the pickup truck.

Mr. Edsall begins before the beginning. Back before Chevrolet trucks were even available on the market, the factory workers were developing their own hybrid versions to move equipment and materials. This fanciful imagine, of hardscrabble young bucks accidentally inventing the future, is as quaintly nostalgic as it is important. After all, the Chevrolet truck was born of necessity, and over the next one hundred years, that drive to fulfill common, universal needs in the American public would keep the Chevrolet truck relevant and important, even as the times changed around it.

Edsall begins at the beginning, but in each of the chapters, major sections of American history, he weaves together past and present. This may include connecting the modern Chevy truck to its humble ancestors or highlighting important Chevy truck owners, like Greg Dunnihoo, who owns a 1928 pickup, built two years before the car was officially referred to as such.

Chevrolet Trucks is a beautiful, and surprisingly long history. I say long, because many coffee table books of similar ilk rely heavily on photography and imagery from the past. But while the images, and there are many, play a vital and beautiful role in telling this all important history, they take a back seat to Mr. Edsall’s impeccably well-researched analysis of the Chevrolet truck on America. He does not allow the images to speak for him, but rather, delves into what the Chevrolet truck means and what it did.

This is no small task. Through the years of the war and then after, through the oil crisis, the domestic revolution, the rise of leisure time and expendable income, through revolutions and rebellions large and small, the Chevrolet truck has played an important role, and Larry Edsall captures that truth in the pages of this book. 

You don’t need to read every word to understand that Chevy went in with the goal of making life better for Americans, and followed through on their promise. While the history is far from rose-colored, it is certainly an homage to the workhorse, the backbone, the good-old fashioned grit of the American soul. And, of course, it’s quite beautiful as well.

If you’re looking for a story of the American dream, it seems like a Chevrolet pickup truck might be an odd place to start. After all, they are ubiquitous as mom and pop diners and coca cola. It almost seems as though they appeared on Main Street overnight, a symbol of the American worker, the one as strong and unbendable as their car.

But if this book teaches you anything, and it undoubtedly will, it’s that Chevy doesn’t survive despite the times. It survives because of them. Through creativity, patience, ingenuity and a willingness to both listen to the changing of the tides and to respond, this humble truck has undergone an evolution for which Darwin would have been proud. After all, through the years – the war, the muscle car era, gas crisis, through all of it, the Chevy Truck has been about “building a better way to serve the U.S.A.” Larry Edsall does a remarkable job showing how it has done exactly that. 

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