These Chevy Loadmaster trucks are the greatest trucks ever made! Am I biased? Damn straight. How could I not be, when it come to my all-time favorite truck ever (CC here). It’s even in blue, and I am decidedly and unabashedly biased towards that color. Yes, this is the greatest truck ever. And I’ll try to explain my bias. But if you disagree, help yourself, and call me out. It would be a dull and dreary place if you didn’t.
I can’t go into a full-blown Ode to the Loadmaster today (having done it in the CC), but there’s something so powerfully elemental about them that has moved me since I had my first deep immersion to them as a kid in Iowa in the sixties, when they were everywhere; the personification of the truck. They reflect that confidence that so epitomized the era shortly after WW2. Everything GM learned from building some of the greatest trucks of the war are encompassed in that smiling, gentle face. There’s a reason why trucks look so mean and angry today. And there wasn’t in 1949.
When you are the undisputed king of the world, and are looking at a bright and optimistic future, there’s no need for this.
The Loadmaster Chevys appeared in 1949, that watershed year of new products from the Big Three. And I don’t have the statistics handy, but I have to assume they outsold Ford by a healthy margin, never mind Dodge. Well, that’s my biased opinion based on how many there were always still around, whether it was 1960 or today. Yes, there are some F-1 around (CC here), but Dodges are and were always scarce. I could point out a dozen Loadmasters sitting around here in a short drive. OK, that’s hardly objective; but what is?
Built until 1955 1/2, when the handsome new Task Force trucks appeared (maybe my second favorite truck ever), Chevy (along with GMC’s version) must have built a good couple million Loadmasters style trucks. They were everywhere, and their shadow side was of course that they were directly responsible for the decline of the independents, like the Reo, Diamond T, Studebaker and others. GM’s ability to spread development costs over such large volume made it impossible for the small guys to survive. GM couldn’t really stop its war machine, and the fifties were the final rout of the runts.
But everyone likes a winner, and this Chevy certainly is that. It was built during GM’s great golden years of the early-mid fifties, when for the most part their products were highly rational as well as stylish. And well built, too. These trucks were (are, actually) about as indestructible as mass-produced products get. Thick sheet metal; no thin skins here. And durable components that can be relied on for their unwavering constancy. Chevy couldn’t just win the truck wars with fins or gimmicks; these were the real thing.
Of course, the heart of a truck lies under the hood, and here’s the Chevy’s: the venerable Blue Flame six, although I’m not sure that’s what it was being called just then (GM’s Marketing/Naming Dept. was being kept busy). It came in 216 and 235 cubic inch sizes, and a highly-sought long-stroke 261 CID version also joined the Blue Flame party sometime along the way, nearer to the end of the Loadmaster’s run. That’s the one to have!
Here’s the port side of the OHV six, which dates back to 1937. Look, this one has been updated with an alternator too! It’s ready to get back to work, and when it does, it won’t be rushed. These old Chevys have a most pleasant moan under load; well, moan is not exactly the right word. I’ve been struggling to find the right way to express in words how a Chevy six at full chat sounds for decades; but it’s a reassuring sound, like being sung into your ear “we’ll always get there, eventually, and no; I won’t let you down”.
Well, time to get some other real work done. But I’d love to take this Chevy out for spin today, though. It would be nice to hear some of its reassuring thick-skinned self-confidence.