CC Capsule: 1956 GMC Pickup – Don’t Judge A Pickup By Its Grille

Compare the basic dimensions of a current Camry and a ’56 Chevy, and there’s not all that much difference. But if you extend that to pickups from the same time frames, the difference is a bit more contrasting. And in other news, it turns out that the world is round. But the real story of this GMC pickup is something else altogether, something that can’t be seen in this shot.

Pity the poor designers whose task it was to differentiate their product from the Chevys. In modern times, they mostly gave up. But back in the fifties, they gave it the old ugly-stick try.

The new 1955½ Chevy pickups wore some of the most handsome faces ever, clean and classic, inspired by the ’55 Chevy’s Ferrari-esque front end. Where do you go from there to make it look unique? Not the direction GMC took.Oh well, after all these decades, the GMC’s bull-dog jowls are amusing, if one doesn’t take the desecration too seriously.

From this angle, one would have to be a good tailgate reader to tell that it’s not a Chevy.

Here’s where the GMC shines, though. Its dashboard is decidedly better, and completely different from the Chevy, with a totally different shape and look. Those gauges have a fresh, rather sixties look to them.

I’d better show the Chevy, in case some of you aren’t familiar with its fan-shaped gauge cluster, also influenced by the ’55 Chevy car line’s similar look. BTW, that’s obviously not a stock wheel.

Under the hood, GMC were decidedly better endowed than the comparable Chevy; maybe that’s what that tough face was all about. For that matter, maybe GMC was just way ahead of times, given the aggressive faces so common now, especially on the Ford trucks.

This was before the GMC V6 came along, so the venerable but very tough 270 inch Jimmy straight six was the base engine, making 120 hp at 3200 rpm(!). Lovers of low-rpm torque-masters; look no further. The V8 was essentially a Pontiac unit, a 316 incher making 180 hp. Both engines were substantially bigger than the comparable Chevy’s. And the automatic was a genuine four-speed Hydramatic, not a Powerglide. So the GMC lives up to the classic line of “don’t judge a truck by its grille”, or something like that.