Advance Design: A Chevy Truck For The Ages

Advance Design: A Chevy Truck For The Ages

The slightly redesigned 1954 Chevrolet truck marked the final chapter for the Advance Design series. Authors collection.

Unless special permission was granted by the federal government, the sale of new trucks was prohibited for three years commencing in early 1942. And so when the dam broke in mid 1945, it was literally a sellers market.

Many customers put down a sizable deposit for a new car or truck, and often even traded in their current vehicle, and then waited months for delivery. Few had a choice of options or colors, they accepted what they could get. The demand for new vehicles was so strong manufacturers simply resumed production of what were essentially 1942 models.

The “new” 1946 Chevrolet and GMC trucks were identical to the prewar models. They featured the same six cylinder engines, a crank open windshield for ventilation, a side opening “buterfly hood” and had the headlights, with parking lots on top, perched on the fender.

The all new Advance Design series truck was introduced for the 1947 model year. For the first time on a Chevrolet truck the headlights were integrated into the fender, and the hood was a modern front opening type. There was a stylish new grille.

The cab had been completely redesigned. Doors were four inches wider than previous models to ease access. The seat was made more comfortable with the addition of 35 extra coil springs. And that seat slid on an incline rather than a flat track. Eight inches of aded hip room, and a full twelve inches of extra footroom made the trucks seem spacious compared to the predecessor model.

Optional rear quarter windows, and a larger windshield dramatically improved visibility. The side windows and rear cab glass were also larger. Chevrolet promotion proudly proclaimed 40% more glass on the Advance Design series.

For the first time in Chevrolet truck history, there was an extensive options list. This included a radio designed specifically for trucks.

The entire series from light duty Thriftmaster pickup to the large Loadmaster series sold like hotcakes. For the 1947 model year, 259,533 trucks were sold. Sales climbed through the closing years of the 1940s, and in 1950 production surpassed more than 440,000 units. For the entire run of Advance Desing trucks, Chevrolet and GMC dominated the market.

The series would run through 1953 with very few obvious changes. The 1947 to 1950 trucks had pull down door handles and no wind wings. The 1951 models had wind wings. From 1952 on the trucks had modern push button door handles.

For 1954 the dash and instrument panel received a face lift. A modern one piece windshield replaced the antiquated two piece unit. And the grille was full redesinged. The last of the Advance Design trucks were produced in the beginning of the 1955 model year.

A 1951 Chevy Advance Design panel truck under a full moon in Arizona.

An entire generation of young men, and their families, would have fond memories of these rugged work horses. As there were durable and easy to repair, and as parts were plentiful and reasonably priced, they remained a popular option for people buying their first truck well into the late 1970s. The Kingman Unified School Distric in Kingman, Arizona kept a few of these trucks operating in the fleet until 1990!

As you might imagine, in recent years the nostalgia factor has pushed the price of Advance Design trucks into the stratosphere. And the growing popularity of the trucks has fueled a growth in cottage industry businesses that sell, rebuild, and reproduce parts from instrument clusters to grilles, fenders, and wiring harnesses.

On Car Talk From The Main Street of America, an audio podcast about cars,trucks, road trips, the automobile industry and the inspirational people that work behind the scenes from Jim HInckley’s America, we will be sharing stories provided by listeners. And so we are asking fans to share their stories about the first car, or truck, the worst car, or truck, the barn find, and fond memories of cars and road trips. The series kicks off in a few weeks.

With that as a bit of an introduction, let me tell you about my long association with the rugged Advance Design trucks. It is an association that is ongoing as durng the COVID apocalypse I purchased a 1951 Chevy 3800 panel truck. The vision for the truck dubbed THE Beast is to create a rolling Route 66 information center to inspire road trips and foster awareness about the fast approaching Route 66 centennial, a book store and a studio for Jim Hinckley’s America programs.

In the summer of 1966, my pa bought a highly optioned 1953 pickup from the original owner. I learned to drive in this truck on the pre 1952 alignment of Route 66 in the shadow of the Black Mountains in western Arizona. That truck was used for the move to Silver City, New Mexico. And that is where it was pressed into service when pa launched a scrap business. I can’t count the number of loads that we hauled from the mountains of New Mexico to Phoenix or Tucson, Arizona.

When we moved to Jackson, Michigan it was loaded higher than the cab. In Michigan, summer and winter, it was used as a delivery truck for pa’s apppliance store. And when the family returned to Arizona, that Chevy made another cross country trip, and once again it was loaded higher than the cab.

The first truck bought with my own money was a battered 1942 Chevy pickup. That was followed by a 1942 stakebed, and then a 1946 GMC. Over the years there were a few Dodge trucks, a few Fords, and even a Studebaker. But in 1990, I returned to the truck I respected most, the Advance Design models built after WWII.

There was a 1949 panel truck, a half dozen pickups, and now, The Beast. For me the Advance Design series are trucks for the ages. Judgng by their popularity, I am not alone.