A redesigned grill, dash, and cab with one-piece windshield were not enough to conceal the lineage of the 1954 Chevrolet truck that marked the final full year of production for the Advance Design series initially introduced in 1947. In spite of the dated styling sales of 292,202 trucks enabled Chevrolet to hold its position as sales leader in the industry.
While the sheet metal of the 1954, and first series 1955, models hinted at what had been, the mechanics provided a glimpse into the future. The venerable 216.5 c.i.d. was dropped and the 235 c.i.d. six cylinder became standard on all light to medium duty trucks. A lengthy options list that included Hydramatic transmission, dual electric windshield wipers, and two-tone interiors also set these trucks apart from their predecessors. Additionally the antiquated torque tube was replaced with more modern open driveline on the first series 1955 models.
On March 25, 1955, it was out with the old, in with the new as Chevrolet introduced its fully redesigned Task Force series with “Modern Design for Modern Hauling.” A load pulling appearance accomplished with forward slanting windshield pillar, upper cab, front wheel openings, “egg crate” grill, as well as hooded headlights and hidden running boards gave the new trucks a profile that was as different as day and night from the Advance Design series.
A fully redesigned, wider frame provided Chevrolet the opportunity to offer an exciting new option, a 265 c.i.d., ohv valve V8 engine. Additional mechanical options included NAPCO four-wheel drive, Hydramatic transmission and, later in the model year, power steering as well as power brakes.
Further ensuring Chevrolet’s dominance of the market was expansion of available light duty models. The model 3204, a half-ton truck built on the long three quarter ton wheelbase with the corresponding long box, designed for those who hauled light but bulky loads and the limited production model 3124 Cameo.
Though limited in production the Cameo Carrier, and corresponding GMC Suburban, garnered much attention and proved to be industry trendsetters in many ways. The most distinctive feature of these revolutionary trucks was the replacement of the traditional protruding rear fenders with slab sides that allowed for a cab wide box.
As standard equipment, the Cameo utilized the deluxe cab of the task force series, including wrap around rear window. Additionally the Cameo featured full, chromed wheel covers, chrome grill, chromed headlight bezels, deluxe interior, and two-tone paint. The fiberglass side panels, accentuated with vertical chrome molding between the cab and box, terminated at the rear with recessed taillights.
Further separating the Cameo from other trucks in the series was a tailgate made smooth with an outer fiberglass panel enhanced with a red, reflective Chevrolet bowtie. Completing the package was a custom bumper with convex door between the bumper guards that allowed for access to the concealed spare tire.
Though the GMC Suburban shared many components, including box, with the Cameo the senior General Motors line featured larger, more powerful engines. Standard was the redesigned 248.5 c.i.d. six-cylinder engine but the new 287 c.i.d. Pontiac V8 was optional.
The Task Force series allowed Chevrolet to tighten its hold on the number one position in truck production. Total calendar year sales for 1955 of 329,791 units amounted to 34.5% of market share with Dodge, Ford, Studebaker, and International left to divide the remainder.
For 1956, Chevrolet directed the majority of its resources towards the development of heavy-duty trucks, the fastest growing segment of the truck market. As a result, the light duty trucks received but minor changes.
The 1957 model, introduced in October of 1956, recaptured the momentum of the series initial introduction. For the first time Chevrolet offered eighty-eight models on twenty-two wheelbases with eight available engines and a lengthy options list that included air conditioning. In addition, the entire front-end styling was extensively restyled.
The floating trapezoid within a trapezoid of the new grill accentuated the wide stance of this series. Other styling modifications included hood, nameplates, script, and now standard wide rear window.
Extensive styling revisions were the hallmark of the 1958 model year. The front fenders were wider at the top to accommodate the dual headlamps. A drop center hood, all new grill with Chevrolet spelled in block letters across the wide center bar and chrome, rectangular parking lamps gave the truck an entirely new look.
Sales of the Cameo Carrier, a limited production truck since its inception, dropped to a mere 375 trucks. In February of 1958, it was replaced with all steel Fleetside model.
Model designation was another change introduced in 1958. Light trucks were designated as 30, 40, 50, and 60 indicated medium duty ratings and heavy-duty models were tagged 70, 80, 90, and 100. Additionally the designation plate on the front fender identified each weight class by name, Apache on trucks up to 9,600 lb. GVW, Viking on trucks up to 21,000 lb. GVW and Spartan on heavy-duty models up to 25,000 lb. GVW designated each series.
As was the case with the1956 model year the Task Force trucks of 1959 received only minor trim and color changes from those produced in 1958 though the number of models increased to 139. Likewise, mechanical improvements and changes were relatively minor with the exception of a redesigned camshaft that resulted in a ten percent improvement in fuel economy for the six-cylinder engine and an optional Positraction rear axle.
From an historical perspective, the Task Force Chevrolet trucks built between 1955 and 1959 are truly transitional models. They are a bridge from the era when trucks were Spartan with but the most basic amenities to the modern age of boulevard cruiser that is more family car than truck.
As collector vehicles, these trucks are a near perfect blend. The classic styling, rugged durability, and ease of repair that were the hallmark of pickup trucks combined with mechanical components that allow for operation under modern traffic conditions with relative economy.