The 2014 Sierra will mark more than 100 years of GMC pick-up trucks. That’s an incredible achievement. The new model, which will boast a massive 6.2-litre V8 pushing out around 450bhp and mated to a six-speed automatic, will be loaded to the hilt with all kinds of technology, such as an 8.0in display screen with GMC’s IntelliLink infotainment, Bluetooth smartphone integration and apps like Pandora and Stitcher Smart Radio.
There will be loads of safety features too, including a camera-based Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning technologies, disk brakes all round, not to mention countless airbags. But go back 58 years, and your new 1955 GMC 100 Series Deluxe featured nothing more than a big V8, a two-tone, chrome-laden body and as basic an interior as you could get. And it was the best pick-up you could buy.
That year, Chevrolet debuted its all-new ‘Task Force’ series and GMC followed up with its own line called ‘Blue Chip’. It signified its second major redesign since the Second World War. The basic design was shared across both Chevy and GMC, but the big difference was the grilles. GMC pick-ups had a double-arch grille integrated with the front bumper, and the badge was buried into the ‘jet-air scoop — a panel in the edge of the bonnet.
The theme continued with a ‘Jet Stream’ ventilation grid in front of the steep windscreen. This fed constant fresh air into a plenum chamber and then into the cabin. The modern and streamlined interior became known as the ‘Speed-Line’ style, due to the forward angle of the headlights and A-pillar. It was equipped with padded and fully adjustable seats, a wraparound front windscreen (with the option of a wraparound rear windscreen) and the ‘Aero-View’ instrument panel featured round gauges with non-glare textured paint.
The optional Deluxe trim had two-tone interiors (either green, blue or brown) and chrome-surround instrument clusters and control knobs. The exterior had stainless-steel windscreen and window trims, full-chrome bumpers and grilles and chrome hubcaps. For 1955, GMC light duty pick-ups were available in three different load ratings and carried individual Series designations of 100, 150 and 250. Six-and-a-half-, seven-and-a-half- and nine-foot load beds were available, while the narrow chassis was designed to cope better with the extra weight that the owner would pile on.
It was a real workhorse and had a wider track, quicker steering ratio, tubeless tyres and a hand-operated park brake. Speaking of which, drums (yikes!) were fitted in all four corners. V6 motors were standard, but V8s were made available across the range for the first time that year. However, GMC didn’t have a V8 of its own, so a 288-cubic-inch (4.7-litre) motor from Pontiac was sourced for their light- and medium-duty pick-ups, while a 324-cubic-inch (5.3-litre) Oldsmobile V8 sat in the bay of their heavy-duty trucks.
Both were mated to either a three-speed manual or four-speed automatic, and they flew out of showroom floors. In fact, GMC reported a record production year for the ’55 models. The 2014 Sierra will undoubtedly be a far more capable vehicle and far better equipped (no live axle on this one…), but it wouldn’t be anywhere without its predecessors.
Thousands of 100 Series Deluxes were built, and finding one in good nick today shouldn’t be terribly difficult. Prices can reach up to Dh150,000 — around the same as the current Sierra. So what will it be; old or new? I know what I’d have. But I’d swap those drums for discs right away…