The crew-cab pickup. Love them or hate them, they have certainly become a prominent fixture in the automotive landscape.
One of my first articles on CC was questioning what had happened to regular cab pickups. What you see here is what has happened – few are the vehicles that can pull, haul, comfortably carry six adults, and go wherever in amazing comfort while doing each of these things simultaneously.
The crew-cab pickup isn’t exactly a new creation, despite its explosion in popularity over the last dozen or so years. Some sources credit the Toyota Stout as being the first crew-cab pickup, being first produced in this configuration in 1962.
However, the Toyota Stout crew-cab was introduced the same year as the Hino Briska. Pictures of a crew-cab Briska are as plentiful as poultry at the hog farm.
Toyota and Hino weren’t the only compact pickup manufacturers to branch out into multiple cab configurations. Mazda had what at first appears to be a crew-cab pickup available in 1961, but with having only two doors it should be thought of more as a double-cab.
However, none of these broke new ground. The Volkswagen Transporter had been available as a double-cab pickup since 1953; first through an outside supplier (Binz), and starting 1959, from the factory. While these didn’t have four-doors as do contemporary crew-cab pickups, the concept remains the same: providing more passenger space and storage inside, out of the weather. The idea has simply been refined since 1953.
In North America, International introduced the double-cab Travelette in 1957. There is reference to the availability of a crew-cab in their 1961 brochure, but there are no pictures of any until 1969. International’s brochures were much like their pickups – all business and no wasteful fluff.
Dodge joined the growing crew-cab chorus in 1963. For several years their featured example was painted a shade of blue long associated with the United States Air Force, which makes one wonder if this body style was produced with government contracts being the prime objective. These Dodge crew-cabs were available in both two- and four-wheel drive.
A crew-cab pickup first appeared in a Ford brochure in 1968. Like Dodge, one could get their crew-cab as a cab-and-chassis unit so any number of items could be planted on its posterior, such as campers or utility beds. Given the diminutive space given to the Dodge and Ford crew-cabs in brochures after their introduction, this cab configuration was undoubtedly a niche product during that period.
General Motors, happily selling their enclosed Suburbans and touting their attributes in brochures throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, finally saw the wave of the future and introduced a crew-cab for the new 1973 Chevrolet and GMC pickups.
It should be noted each of the Big 3 in the U.S. only offered their initial crew cab on a 3/4 ton or heavier chassis. The best you could get on a half-ton was an extended cab starting in the 1970s, and even Chevrolet refrained from extending their half-ton cabs until around 1990.
My references to 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton chassis is a throwback to olden days, when the nominal rating for pickups was 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, or 1 ton. These designations are quite obsolete, but reflect the three different weight ratings currently available at General Motors and FCA.
Things all changed for 2001. Ford, in one of its better ideas to date, introduced the crew cab on a half-ton chassis. Dubbed “Super Crew”, it was planted on a 138.5″ wheelbase that was identical to the regular cab pickups with an 8′ bed available that year. Overall length was within one-half inch that of the regular cab sharing the same wheelbase.
Other than the necessary expansion of sheet metal to accommodate a second set of doors, these half-ton crew-cab pickups have never received any special growth hormones as they all ride the same chassis and share many basic dimensions with their regular- and extended-cab siblings.
Dodge was again quick to join the half-ton crew-cab chorus. Or maybe it was marching to its own drummer as the redesigned 2002 Dodge Ram 1500 skipped any type of extended cab and offered one the choice of regular cab or what was dubbed a QuadCab. For all intents and purposes, the QuadCab was simply an extended cab pickup with four doors for easier access to the rear seat. The amount of legroom in these was considerably less than what was available in the Ford SuperCrew.
To its never ending credit, Dodge started offering more legroom with the optional Mega Cab in 2006. With an extra 22″ (560 mm) of cab length, there were optional recliners – for the rear seats. Having once sat in one, the sheer amount of room in the cab is hard to describe without using words like cavernous and voluminous. Most of these were found on the 3/4 ton and heavier chassis although a few were built on a half-ton chassis.
Dodge Ram has since introduced a true crew-cab in a half-ton, a diesel powered version of which I reviewed here.
Toyota also has a player in this market with the Tundra CrewMax. While dimensions haven’t been compared, visually the Toyota appears to have a longer available cab than Ford, Chevrolet, or
Dodge Ram. While this pickup is appealing, based upon sales reports in the Wall Street Journal, the Toyota Tundra isn’t yet a significant player in this market segment.
Another entrant who has not yet realized the heavier market share of Ford, GM, and
Dodge Ram is Nissan with their Titan. With sales commencing in December 2003, the first generation remained in production through the 2015 model year. The Titan shown is a new, second generation 2016 model. Interestingly, the Nissan website shows availability of only crew-cab pickups as of January 2016. Nissan is also offering a Cummins V8 diesel engine for this pickups.
General Motors opted to test the waters before taking a swim in the crew-cab pond. In 2002 Chevrolet introduced the Avalanche, a vehicle that was definitely not a car but not exactly a pickup despite it sharing all mechanicals with the 1500 series light trucks.
Created in a vein somewhat similar to the Avalanche, Honda introduced the Ridgeline in 2005. Sales peaked at a hair over 55,000 (United States and Canada combined) in 2006 but were down to just 20,000 in 2009 and bottomed out at 11,400 in 2011. Honda discontinued production of the first generation Ridgeline in 2014, prior to any second generation being introduced.
In 2004 Chevrolet was again fashionably late to the half-ton crew-cab party with the introduction of a four-door Silverado.
Currently, Chevrolet is offering product similar to both
Dodge Ram and Toyota. None of the three offer an extended cab; rather, there is the Double Cab (or some derivative of the name for marketing purposes) and the crew-cab. The two versions of Chevrolet cabs can be seen here.
While I’ve invested more focus on the market in the United States, the availability of a crew-cab pickup certainly isn’t limited to North America. In searching a few websites from English speaking countries, one can find the crew-cab Ford Ranger sold in the United Kingdom, among other places. Its specifications are rather intriguing.
The Holden Colorado comes as a crew-cab in Australia to complement the traditional ute. A pickup in Australia named Colorado does seem a bit unusual, but then again Ford in the United States offered a Victoria for years and Subaru still has the Outback.
If it looks familiar, there are Chevrolet and GMC versions of this pickup sold in the United States as the Colorado and Canyon, respectively. Isuzu has their version marketed as the D-Max. This pickups is also sold in Brazil as the S-10.
At toyota-global.com, the very first thing I saw was this crew-cab Hilux, with a similar vehicle called Tacoma sold in the States.
Starting in 2010, Volkswagen entered the crew-cab pickup market with the Amarok. Available in European, Oceania, South African, and South American markets, VW had produced over 100,000 of them in a variety of cab configurations by late 2011. In a sense, VW has gone back to its roots with the Amarok. Great ideas are universal and have no shelf life.
Which this all leads back to my Car Of A Lifetime – or should I say Truck Of A Lifetime?
I purchased this F-150 in February 2012. Purchased new by the Penske Corporation as a company vehicle, it had been assigned to one delightfully fastidious person since new. It started life in Indianapolis and when the person to whom it was assigned was promoted to St. Louis, he brought this pickup with him.
When I started shopping for a pickup, my goal was to find a regular cab pickup with an 8′ bed and four-wheel drive; a far second in preference was an extended cab. However, when my Penske supervisor brother-in-law learned the price and complete history on this pickup, it was a Don Corleone type of moment – it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
My initial concerns about having a crew-cab didn’t last long. When I purchased my F-150, we were enduring a seemingly perpetual relocation as it took nearly 21 months to sell our house. During this time, we were slowly transitioning our belongings from our old house to our temporary residence in Jefferson City.
Having a crew-cab, I could load the bed with all manner of stuff and transport more delicate items in the back seat, out of the wind and weather. We were able to do this while still having ample room for three people for a one-way trip of 110 miles. We did this many times.
Yes, the bed on my pickup is only 5.5′ long. And, yes, I could sometimes benefit from something longer. However, this metal gate can be flipped over to extend usable bed length to nearly 8′. Combined with the roll-up bed cover that was on this pickup when I got it, the disadvantage of the short bed can be lessened.
One common criticism of contemporary four-wheel drive pickups is the height of the bed. On mine, the lift height to the dropped tailgate is 34″, the exact same height as two of the three bathroom vanities in my house.
For comparison purposes, the 1992 Ford F-150 that belongs to my grandfather has a tailgate height of 33″ (as measured by my father). For contrast, my father’s 1998 Dodge Ram has a tailgate height of 32″. Both the 1992 F-150 and 1998 Dodge Ram are two-wheel drive in comparison to my F-150 being four-wheel drive.
In real life use, this tailgate height of 34″ is pretty handy. If this statement sounds odd, think of it from a different direction. Many times I have used the tailgate as an impromptu workbench, something many pickup owners duplicate with great frequency. The height was very good for such tasks and at 5’11”, I’m barely above average height for men in the United States.
Taking the matter of height a step further, I also own this wretched thing. Complaints about the height of vans seem quite rare; however, I have never had to inquire with a hotel about the height of their parking garage when we took the pickup.
Such has not been the case when we took the van somewhere overnight, as Google claims it is 7″ taller than my pickup – while not verified, there is a palpable difference in their height. Both have platforms of comparable weight ratings and the F-150 is sitting on a taller, four-wheel drive chassis.
When I purchased this pickup, it had 92,000 miles. In the 28,000 miles I’ve had it, it has required one ball joint (a weak spot on Fords I had anticipated), a new set of tires, new brake pads, and a repair on a vacuum line. This vacuum line, whose inside diameter equalled the diameter of a toothpick, was mounted under the hood and on the frame. It had been compromised and kept the left front hub locked in at all times. This repair was very simple although finding it was the trick.
It also required a new alternator when the old one started howling upon startup when the ambient temperature was around -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23.3 Celsius). Cold weather and alternators do not have the most harmonious relationship.
What about fuel mileage? Being a pickup, fuel mileage isn’t exemplary, but it really depends upon what I am doing. If I’m pulling a trailer, it drops to about 12.0 to 12.5 miles per gallon. When doing primarily highway driving, it is getting a smidgeon over 16 miles per gallon, nearly mimicking the EPA estimate of 13 city, 17 highway, and 15 combined.
It should be noted my highway fuel mileage had been over 18 miles per gallon, but dropped around 2 mpg after purchasing new tires. This could likely be attributed to the more aggressive tread pattern and/or rolling resistance of the Cooper Discoverer AT-3 tires that replaced the worn original equipment type tires – which I think were Continental brand. While anecdotal, a coworker experienced similar when he replaced the original tires on his F-150 with a set of these.
All I will say is that for the money I spent, this pickup has been the ultimate in versatility. It easily hauled a few tons of remodeling waste to a friends house and traversed some rough ground with all four wheels coaxing me along to access his burn pit.
It handily pulled an 1,800 pound trailer topped with a 6,200 pound excavator to my new house for installation of a drainage system and to knock down some dead trees. At one point on the way to return the trailer, I realized I was going nearly 65 miles per hour. Its 4.6 liter engine is rated at 250 horsepower and isn’t nearly as weak as some perceive it to be. Like most 4.6 liter Ford engines, it just needs to rev a bit more than the overhead valve engines found in similar vintage Chevrolet Silverados.
As an aside, I am assigned a 2007 Chevrolet Silverado at work. A two-wheel drive extended cab, the Chevrolet and its 5.3 liter V8 simply aren’t as pleasant to live with as is my Ford. It’s all a matter of what works for a person.
We purchased our house in September 2015. Sitting on 0.9 acres, it is quite wooded and nothing in the yard has been maintained for nearly twenty years. I have carted off countless loads of yard waste and all manner of other material to the recycler and this is the only time I truly wished for a longer bed. I’m in the process of buying another 1.2 acres adjacent to me and it is completely wooded, so I’ll be hauling off even more scrub brush for recycling and firewood to the Boy Scouts.
I’ve used my pickup for all manner of things, from snow plow to stump puller – even pulling a sick car over 100 miles to see the doctor. It has done everything asked of it with aplomb and it is one of the best driving tow vehicles I’ve ever encountered. While I anticipate keeping it for many years to come, if I ever do replace this pickup, it will be with another crew-cab.
Pickups have been the best selling vehicles in the United States for years, with Ford, Chevrolet, and
Dodge Ram pickups being the top three best selling vehicles in the United States through October of calendar year 2015. If looking at dealer inventories is any indication, the bulk of these are crew-cab pickups. With their ability to go anywhere, pull anything needing to be pulled, and easily seating six people (and do all three of these at once) it’s easy to see why the highly versatile crew-cab pickup has helped supplant the traditional family sedan.