Curbside Classic Capsule: 1955 GMC 100 Series Pickup – How To Tell It’s Not A 1956

This fine old Jimmy pickup greeted me at Jerry’s (my local home improvement story) recently. Yes, it’s got a mouth only its mother (who was that actually?) could love, but I’ve long come to terms with it, given its other qualities. Don’t judge a pickup by its face. But I’ve been studying this one for a while, because I wasn’t sure whether it was a ’55 or ’56. The difference? Very minor.

See that trim/filler piece, right between the ends of the bumper and the chrome piece with the turn signal lights? It’s unique to the ’55, which by the way didn’t appear until about half-way through the model year, to replace the venerable Advance Design trucks.

Here’s the ’56, minus that trim piece. Hmm; looks like the bean counters were at work already. I can just see them squaring off with Harley Earl of that stamped piece of steel that probably cost 27 cents. Look like Harley lost this battle, but maybe he had to once in a while.

Enough with the petty stuff. The important stuff was further behind the grille, where the legendary GMC inline six did its work. This is the same engine that powered the unstoppable WW2 GMC CCKW 6×6 “Deuce and a half”, which I drove here. That one had the 270 cubic inch version; if this pickup still has its original engine, it would be the 248 CID version. In 1956, the 270 became standard. A V8, based on the brand-new Pontiac, was optional, and it came in both 288 and 316 CID versions. Again, the smaller one was dropped for 1956.

In both cases, these sixes and eights were bigger and huskier than the 235 six and 265 V8 that came in the Chevy version.

The GMC got a totally different dashboard and instrument panel than the Chevy, as well as its steering wheel. The IP is a lot nicer, with six round gauges. This truck appears to have the optional four speed manual, with its extra-low first “granny” gear. This was a considerable degree of differentiation, despite both of them sharing the same basic running gear, frame and body otherwise.

Curious paint scheme on the steering wheel. The turquoise appears to be the base coat, now showing where the red has worn off. But why was the base coat turquoise, and not the cream color of the inner half? Odd.

The 100 series was of course the half-ton version, by far the most popular back then.

And like the great majority of these, it has the short (114″) wheelbase and the 6.5′ bed. And this one has a somewhat unusual rear bumper; rather old-school. But I like it, and everything else about it. Who wouldn’t?