A pickup truck is a light motor vehicle with an open-top rear cargo area which is almost always separated from the cab to allow for chassis flex when carrying or pulling heavy loads.
Four North American vehicles, the Chevrolet El Camino, Pontiac G8, Ford Ranchero, and Honda Ridgeline are not technically trucks. This is because they have a spot welded sheet steel monocoque (unibody) chassis in the same style as modern passenger cars. Trucks typically have either a tubular or channel rail chassis with a fully floating cab and separate cargo section to allow for chassis flex and prevent warping of the sheetmetal. The sheet steel in both of these sections is not a stressed member. A combination of the two styles, monocoque cab and engine bay welded to a 'c' section chassis rear is offered in Australia. It is known as the 'one tonner' because it is rated to carry some more than the all monocoque style.
A vehicle like the Holden Ute and FPV Pursuit, colloquially called a ute or utility (from "Coupe utility"), in Australia and New Zealand, is known in South Africa as a bakkie (pronounced "bucky"), in Egypt as "half truck", and in Israel as a tender. Panel vans, popular in Australia during the 1970s, were based on ute chassis; known in Egypt as "box".
The design details of such vehicles vary significantly, and different nationalities seem to specialize in different styles and sizes of vehicles. For instance, North American pickups come in full-size (large, heavy vehicles often with V8 or six-cylinder engines), mid-size, and compact (smaller trucks generally equipped with inline 4 engines).
In 1928, the Model A replaced the Model T, becoming the first closed-cab pickup and sporting innovations like a safety glass windshield, roll-up side windows and three-speed transmission. It was powered by a four-cylinder L-head engine capable of .
1931 was the first year for a factory-built Chevrolet pickup, known as the "Independence Series".
In 1932, the Ford flathead V8 engine was offered as an option in the truck. By 1936, Ford had already produced 3 million trucks and led the industry in sales.
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 was not until the 1980s that Mazda introduced their own B-Series, Isuzu their P'up and Mitsubishi their Mighty Max.
Compact trucks sold in the US market in 2008 include:
In Europe, compact pickups dominate the pickup market, although they are popular mostly in rural areas. There are few entries by European manufacturers, the most notable of which is perhaps the Peugeot 504 Pick-Up, which continued to be sold in Mediterranean Europe and Africa long after the original 504 ceased production. Eastern European manufacturers such as ARO or UAZ have served their home markets faithfully for decades, but are now disappearing. The near-majority of compact pickups sold in Europe use Diesel engines.
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 x 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 or V10 engine with Diesel often as an option. 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 and , depending on configuration. Likewise, the 2006 model F-350 (a "1 Ton" pickup) has a payload of between and 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:
Dodge: Warlock (1976–1979), Li'l Red Express (1978–1979), Midnite Express (1978), Macho Power Wagon, Shelby Dakota (1989), Ram VTS (1996–2001), SRT 10 (2004–2006), and even the regular Hemi powered Ram which also includes the Rumble Bee, GTX and Hemi Sport (2004–2005), Daytona (2005 only), and the Night Runner (2006 only).
Holden: Commodore SS Ute (1990–present), (HSV) Maloo (1990–present).
Ford: 5.8 HO F-150 (1985–1986), Lightning (1993–1995 and 1999–2004), Nascar edition F-150 (1998 only), Harley Davidson Edition F-series.
Ford (Australia): Falcon XR8 (2001–present), (FPV) Pursuit (2003–present), (FPV) Super Pursuit (2004–present), (FPV) F6 Tornado (2004–present).
General Motors: Chevrolet 454 SS (1990–1993), GMC Syclone, Chevrolet Silverado SS, Joe Gibbs Silverado (2004–2006) GMC Sierra Denali.
Of all these, the HSV Maloo is currently the official holder of the "world's fastest production standard utility/pick up truck" record, achieving an average of to oust the Dodge RAM SRT-10 equipped with a 8.3-litre V10 from top position.
In 2006, mid-size and large pickups dominate the US market. Mid-size models include:
The coupé utility body style is a light-duty truck, based on an automobile platform — frequently but not necessarily a unibody platform — with a two-door passenger cabin and an integral cargo bed. They often share sheet metal and instruments panels from their passenger car antecedents — and are more carlike in appearance and performance than pickups trucks. This type of car-based truck is commonly known in Australia formally as a utility and colloquially as a ute, and in South Africa as a Bakkie. In the USA, popular coupé utilities — although not commonly known by this term — were the Ford Ranchero and the Chevrolet El Camino. The recent Subaru Baja resembled a coupé utility but with four doors.
The coupé utility body style is especially popular in Australia. The ute had its origins in Australia from the open top passenger car models of the mid 1920s. The ute body type was first available in Australian Chevrolet then Dodge models, the bodies of which were made by Holden under contract. Australia has developed a culture around utes, particularly in rural areas with events known as Ute musters.
Many young drivers customise their utes and are not willing to scratch the paintwork doing anything utilitarian. Other drivers customise their utes in the B&S style with roobars, spotlights, oversized mudflaps, exhaust pipe flaps and UHF aerials. The ute culture has been romanticised by country singers such as Lee Kernaghan, who has written odes to the ute such as She's My Ute, Scrubbabashin, Baptise The Ute and Love Shack.
One of the smallest pickups to be produced in commercial quantities was the British Austin/Morris Mini Pickup. At a little over 3 meters in length, it was nonetheless quite popular as a practical, working truck, selling 58,000 vehicles between 1961 and 1983. (Another mini pickup was the Japanese 1985-1988 3-cylinder 550 cc Suzuki Mighty Boy.)
Visitors to South Africa will often hear pickups referred to as bakkies. This is derived from the diminutive Afrikaans term bak - literally a baking bin, such as those used for baking loaves of bread. Early pickups dating from the 1940s were sedans with a cargo carrier bin, added almost as an afterthought - which gave rise to the term, and its widespread use.
International was the first to introduce a crew cab pickup in 1957, followed by Ford with their 1965 F-250 (short bed) and F-350 (long bed), Dodge in the same era, and Chevrolet followed with their 1973 C/K. Japanese makes offered crew cab versions of their pick-ups from the mid-80s.
Four-door compact pickup trucks are quite in vogue outside North America, due to their increased passenger space and versatility in carrying non-rugged cargo. In the United States and Canada, however, four-door compact trucks have been very slow to catch on and are still quite rare. In recent years seat belt laws, requirements of insurance companies and fear of litigation have increased the demand for four door trucks which provide a safety belt for each passenger. Mexican four-door compact pickups are quite popular.
A cab-forward pickup is derived from a cab-forward van; a van where the driver sits atop the front axle. The first cab-forward pickup was the Volkswagen Transporter which was introduced in 1952. It had a drop-side bed which aided in loading and unloading. American, British, and Japanese manufacturers followed in the late 1950s and 1960s. American manufacturers adopted this design only later, most notably on the 1956-1965 Jeep Forward Control and the first generation Ford Econoline, Chevrolet Corvair Rampside and Loadside pickups, and Dodge A-100.
While this configuration remains popular for large commercial trucks and buses, it is largely regarded as unsafe in smaller vehicles due to the lack of a crumple zone. In the event of a frontal impact, there is nothing in front of the passenger cabin to absorb the force of impact, thus crushing the entire front of the vehicle, occupants included. There have been many accidents in Europe involving large trucks where the cabin was crushed when rear-ending another truck at high speed in conditions with heavy fog. They remain popular due to unimpeded forward visibility and flexible maneuverability, but have largely fallen into disuse in the United States with the exception of purpose-built school and transit buses, as well as garbage and fire trucks.
The Japanese embraced this design because of its high maneuverability on narrow streets and fields. The smallest ones are 360/550/660 cc Kei trucks based on microvans from Daihatsu, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Suzuki where the statutory limitation on length makes a short cab necessary. The British also continued this design on the Ford Transit.
Most compact truck beds are approximately wide, and most full-size are between and wide, generally or slightly over between the wheel wells (minimum width).
Other varieties of commercial pickups without beds are called "Cowl & Chassis" models and "Cowl & Windshield" models. Both are similar to cab & chassis models, but have incomplete cabs, most of which are replaced with the commercial bodies themselves. Ice cream vending trucks were commonly built on cowl and windshield pickups until the 1970s, while walk-in delivery bodies and even some Class C motor homes were often attached to cowl and chassis pickups.
The term "Texas Cadillac" is a euphemism referring to the pickup truck of a cowboy or someone into the cowboy/country music culture, especially if the truck is large and has been customized rather opulently. Texas is sometimes called the "land of pickup trucks," even going so far as to offer lower taxation on vehicle registration compared to other vehicle types.
As the world's second largest manufacturer of pickup trucks, aided by punitive excise taxes on passenger cars, pickup trucks have long been extremely popular in Thailand: between 1987 and 1996, 58 percent of all cars sold in the country were pickup trucks.
Thailand is also the world's second largest market for pickup trucks, after the United States; 490,000 pickups were sold there in 2005.
The largest pickup market in Europe is Portugal, where crew cab 4WD pickups have somewhat replaced SUVs as offroad vehicles, after a change in taxation removed light commercial vehicle status from SUVs. The introduction of more powerful engines in pickups, benefiting from variable vane turbochargers and common rail direct injection technology, have made these cars interesting prospects in the eyes of the public.
In France, Spain and Germany, pickups carry little cultural significance. In the United Kingdom on the other hand, pickups are gaining popularity fast; they are the UK's fastest growing vehicle sector. Through 2006 pick up sales have increased by 14 percent to reach a total topping 36,000, where overall new car sales are down by 4.2 percent. The biggest sellers in the UK are mid size trucks like the Nissan Navara, the Mitsubishi L200 and the Isuzu D-Max. These are often seen as a lifestyle statement associated with surfing or other extreme sports.
Pickup trucks have been used as troop carriers in many parts of the world, especially in countries with few civilian roads or areas of very rough terrain. Pickup trucks have also been used as fighting vehicles, often equipped with a machine-gun mounted in the bed. These are known as technicals.
In Brazil, two racing series feature pickups. Pick-up Racing Brasil uses mid-size pickup trucks, such as Chevrolet S10, Ford Ranger and Dodge Dakota. This series became known for being the first racing series in the world using only Compressed Natural Gas powered vehicles. The other series is DTM Pick-Up, with supermini-based pickups.
Australia has a racing series based on lightly modified production Holden and Ford V8 utes.
The United Kingdom has a Pickup Truck Racing series similar to a scaled-down version of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, built in the same fashion.
In the United States pick-up trucks have been used as response vehicles for fire chiefs. These pickup trucks will mount emergency lights and sirens, and sport color schemes similar to the one used by fire trucks in the department.
In Guadalajara, Mexico, pick-ups are widely used by the police departments of the 5 municipalities, as they allow them to carry safely up to 6 policemen instead of the normal 2 that can fit inside a regular squad car.