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> Truck 101

Truck 101

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In America, the Truck has a certain quality about it that brings to mind hard work and toughness. However, in today’s world, the face of the truck owner has changed as has the need for different styles. So, we at RealTruck present Truck 101. 

Content: Compact pickups | Full-size pickups | Mid-size pickups | Cab styles | Bed styles


Compact pickups

The compact pickup is the most widespread form of pickup truck worldwide. It is built like a mini version of a two-axle heavy truck, with a frame providing structure, a conventional cab, a leaf spring suspension on the rear wheels and a small I4,I5, I6 or V6 engine, generally using gasoline.

The compact pickup was introduced to North America in the 1960s by Japanese manufacturers. Datsun (Nissan 1959) and Toyota dominated under their own nameplates through the end of the 1970s. Other Japanese manufacturers built pickups for the American “Big Three”: Isuzu built the Luv for Chevrolet, Mazda built the Courier for Ford and Mitsubishi built the Ram 50 for Dodge. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Mazda introduced their own B-Series, Isuzu their P’up and Mitsubishi their Mighty Max. The most popular compact vehicles include the Ford Ranger, the Mazda B Series and the Toyota Tacoma.

Full-Size pickups

A full-size pickup is a large truck suitable for hauling heavy loads and performing other functions. Most full-size trucks can carry at least 1,000 lb (450 kg) in the rear bed, with some capable of over five times that much. The bed is usually constructed so as to accommodate a 4 ft (1.2 m) x 8 ft (2.4 m) sheet of plywood. Most are front-engine and rear-wheel drive with four-wheel drive optional, and most use a live axle with leaf springs in the rear. They are commonly found with an I6, V6, V8, V10, or Diesel engines. The largest full-size pickups feature doubled rear tires (two on each side on one axle). These are colloquially referred to as “duallies” (DOOL-eez), or dual-wheeled pickup trucks, and are often equipped with a fifth wheel for towing heavy trailers.

Full-size pickups in North America are sold in four size ranges – ½ Ton, ¾ Ton, 1 Ton, and now 1 1/2 ton. These size ranges originally indicated the maximum payload of the vehicle, however modern pickups can typically carry far more than that. For example, the 2006 model Ford F-150 (a “½ Ton” pickup) has a payload of between 1,400 lb (640 kg) and 3,060 lb (1,390 kg), depending on configuration. Likewise, the 2006 model F-350 (a “1 Ton” pickup) has a payload of between 4,000 lb (1,800 kg) and 5,800 lb (2,600 kg) depending on configuration.

Full-size trucks are often used in North America for general passenger use, usually those with ½ ton ratings. For a number of years, the ½ ton full-size Ford F150 has been the best-selling vehicle in the United States, outselling all other trucks and all passenger car models.

Until recently, only the “Big Three” American automakers (Ford, GM and Chrysler) built full-size pickups. Toyota introduced the T100 pickup truck in 1993, but sales were poor due to high prices and a lack of a V8 engine. Some call the T100 a full- size pickup, but due to the frame, payload, lack of a V8, and size, it was officially classified as a mid-size. However, the introduction of the Tundra and Nissan Titan marked the proper entry of Japanese makers in the market. Originally the Tundra was still only classified as a 7/8 scale pickup, however, with the new design for 2007 it is now a full-size, along with the Titan. Both of these trucks are assembled in North America.

As of 2007, seven pick-ups are sold as full-size in North America: The Chevrolet Silverado /GMC Sierra, Dodge Ram, Ford F-Series/Lincoln Mark LT, Nissan Titan and the Toyota Tundra. 

Mid-Size Pickups

In North America, pickup trucks were commonly used as general purpose passenger cars. They were popular not only with construction workers, but also with housewives and office workers. Thus arose the need for a pickup that was bigger than a compact and smaller and more fuel efficient than the full-size pickup.

The first mid-size pickup was the Dodge Dakota, introduced in 1987 with V6 engine availability to distinguish it from the smaller compact trucks which generally offered only four cylinder engines. Its hallmark was the ability to carry the archetypal 4×8 sheet of plywood (4 feet by 8 feet) flat in the cargo bed, something which compact pickups could only carry at an angle. While the Frontier, the Tacoma, and the Ridgeline are only available with I-4s or V-6s, since 1991 the Dakota has utilized various V-8 motors. New for 2006, the Mitsubishi Raider was a re-badged Dakota and it used the same V-6 and V-8 motors.

Other notable Mid-Size trucks would include the Honda Ridgeline, the Toyota Tacoma and the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon.

The increased popularity of trucks has led to the need for several different styles of configurations including of cabs.

Cab Styles

Standard Cab: A standard cab pickup has a single row of seats and a single set of doors, one on each side. Most pickups have a front bench seat that can be used by three people, however within the last few decades, various manufacturers have begun to offer individual seats as standard equipment.

Extended cab: Extended or super cab pickups add an extra space behind the main seat. This is normally accessed by reclining the front bench back, but recent extended cab pickups have featured reverse-hinged doors on one or both sides for access.

Crew cab: A true four-door pickup is a crew cab, double cab or quad cab. It features seating for up to five or six people on two full benches and full-size front-hinged doors on both sides. Most crew cab pickups have a shorter bed or box to reduce their overall length. The crew cab has seen a large increase in popularity due to its broad appeal. The truck has now become a family vehicle as well as being able to work hard (or play hard) on the weekends.

Bed Styles

Short bed: The short bed is by far the most popular type of pickup truck bed. Compact truck short beds are generally 6 ft (1.8 m) long and full-size beds are generally 6.5 ft (2.0 m) long. These beds offer significant load-hauling versatility, but are not long enough to be difficult to drive or park.

Long bed: The long bed is usually a foot or two longer than the short bed and is more popular on trucks of primarily utilitarian employ (for example, commercial work trucks or farm trucks). Compact long beds are generally 7 ft (2.1 m) long and full-size long beds are generally 8 ft (2.4 m) long. Full-size long beds offer the advantage of carrying a standard-size 4 ft×8 ft sheet of plywood with the tailgate closed. In the United States and Canada, long beds are not very popular on compact trucks because of the easy availability of full-size pickup trucks.

Step-side: Most pickup truck beds have side panels positioned outside the wheel wells. Conversely, step-side truck beds have side panels inside the wheel wells. Pickup trucks were commonly equipped with step-side beds until the 1950s, when General Motors (Chevrolet Cameo Carrier and GMC Suburban Carrier) and Chrysler (Dodge Swept side) introduced smooth-side pickup beds as expensive, low-production options. These smooth side panels were cosmetic additions over a narrow step-side bed interior. In 1957, Ford offered a purpose-built “Styleside” bed with smooth sides and a full-width interior at little extra cost. Most manufacturers followed and switched to a straight bed, which offer slightly more interior space than step-side beds, and due to better aerodynamics, tend to produce less wind noise at highway speeds. Step-side beds do have the added advantage of a completely rectangular interior, although most modern trucks with a step-side bed are that way purely for styling.