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A Brief History of Pickup Trucks and SUVs

 

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        There are certain artifacts of Americana which, aside from possessing a fascinating history in their own right, offer a unique vantage point from which their broader cultural milieu can be understood. The pickup truck and the SUV are examples of such. Their presence has been felt in almost every aspect of American culture, from song lyrics to visual art, and even in politics. Who could forget, for instance, when during the 2004 race Senator Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) summed-up the faults of his opponent with the assertion, “He hasn't spent enough time in a pickup truck."? (For a more extensive treatment of the cultural significance, see this Wikipedia article on Pickup Trucks. Like many other staples of American culture, e.g. rock-n-roll and pizza, the pickup truck finds its roots on another shore. Accordingly, our all-too-brief "off-road" journey through its history shall begin in Australia, where the “ute” (i.e. utility truck) first appeared, and culminate in an introduction to the world of truck accessories and SUV accessories; additions to your vehicle that will enhance its performance, appearance, and longevity.

        Pickup trucks as we know them today are sought after by many not so much for their functionality but because of their aesthetic. However, function and economy were the main goals in mind when the first modern pickup truck was conceived.  Apparently, the pickup was envisioned by a poor Australian farmer ( as the legend goes) when he wrote to the director of the Ford company in Australia  asking, “ Why don't you build people like me a vehicle in which I can take my family to church on Sunday, and my pigs to town on Monday?”  Necessity, being the mother of invention, produced the “ute” (abbreviation of “utility vehicle”, which to this day is the moniker Australians use to refer to the pickup), the first being manufactured in October 1933 by Ford Australia (NB: There were earlier prototypes, to be sure, but the pickup truck as it is known today – with distinct cab and cargo bed- was not realized until 1933). The Wikipedia article cited above is a good resource for a more in-depth history.
        Almost immediately after the first utility coupe rolled off the lot in Australia, it became a huge international success, and it remains so to this day.  According to SEMA, 3,182,020 of the autos purchased in the Untied States during the year 2000 were pickups . While all of these bear an essential resemblance to the first Australian utility coupes, there is also quite a bit of variety to be noted. Pickup trucks can have a “standard cab” or an “extended cab”, have “short beds” or “long beds”, the list goes on. 
        Then, of course, there is the modern descendant of the pickup; the SUV. Well “descendant” is probably not the best term. “Cousin” is perhaps more like it, as the SUV is a variant of the Jeep and Land Rover. Their popularity has been immense, steadily increasing form the year 2000 (with 3,373,026 in the U.S.)  until 2004 ( with 4,519,048 sold in U.S.). It is also interesting to note that SUV’s have been quite popular with women, who constitute more than half of if the U.S. SUV-driving population.]  Since the mid 2000's, their popularity has waned somewhat. This seems to be due in large part to high fuel prices (coupled with the low mileage that is typical for most models) and concerns about air pollution. However, the SUV has retained a loyal following, and both of these concerns can be ameliorated by using the SUV accessories and parts sold through our site.
         Like the pickup, the SUV has undergone considerable evolution and variation in its brief history.  The first SUV's were designed with off-roading in mind. However, 98% of SUV drivers are “urban warriors”, never taking their vehicles off the beaten path. This trend has led manufacturers to develop mid-size SUVs that are more akin to light trucks in their underlying structure and suspension systems. Still others (for instance, the Touareg and Range Rover) combine the best aspects of the traditional off-road vehicle and those of the mid-size varieties by making use of air -suspension systems, which allow for modifying vertical clearance as needed. For a more detailed treatment of the fascinating history of the SUV, consult this Wikipedia article.

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