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  • Writer's pictureTim Jackson

GMC is proudly GM’s truck brand

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

General Motors (GM) is one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world. The company has a long and rich history dating back to the early 1900s (see other chapters on General Motors brands). One of the most significant divisions of GM is the GMC Trucks division, founded in 1911. GMC Trucks is known for producing high-quality, durable and reliable trucks used for both commercial and personal purposes.

The history of GMC Trucks can be traced back to the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company, which was founded in 1901 by Max Grabowsky. The company was in Pontiac, Michigan, and produced trucks and other commercial vehicles. In 1909, one year after the start of General Motors, Grabowsky sold the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company to GM, which was looking to expand its portfolio of automobile brands.

After the acquisition of the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company, General Motors decided to merge the company with another truck manufacturer, the Reliance Motor Car Company. The two companies were merged to form the General Motors Truck Company in 1911. The new company was tasked with producing trucks for both commercial and personal use.

The early years of the General Motors Truck Company were marked by significant growth and expansion. The company quickly gained a reputation for producing high-quality trucks that were both durable and reliable. The trucks were used by businesses and individuals all over the country, and the company became one of the largest volume truck manufacturers in the United States.

GMC truck climbing pike's peak in 1909.

The true story of the 1909 GMC truck climbing Pike's Peak is a remarkable feat of automotive history. In 1909, a team of engineers and drivers from the newly formed General Motors Corporation (GMC) embarked on a daring challenge to prove the capabilities of their vehicles. They aimed to climb Pike's Peak, one of the most treacherous and challenging mountain roads in the United States at the time.

Pike's Peak, located in Colorado, rises to an elevation of 14,115 feet (4,302 meters). Its steep grades, rugged terrain, and thin air made it an arduous task for any vehicle, let alone a truck from the early 1900s. However, GMC engineers were determined to demonstrate the power and reliability of their machines.

The chosen vehicle for this ambitious endeavor was a 1909 GMC Model 60 truck, equipped with a four-cylinder engine producing 30 horsepower. The truck featured innovative engineering and design elements for the time, including a sturdy frame, advanced cooling system, and robust brakes.

On August 11, 1909, the GMC team began their ascent up Pike's Peak. The journey was fraught with challenges right from the start. The unpaved road was riddled with rocks, loose gravel, and steep inclines. As the truck climbed higher, the thin air caused the engine to lose power, making the ascent even more difficult.

Undeterred, the team pressed on, employing every ounce of skill and determination. They frequently stopped to cool the engine, allowing it to regain its strength. The crew worked tirelessly, making adjustments and overcoming various obstacles along the way.

Finally, after hours of intense effort, the GMC truck reached the summit of Pike's Peak. It was an extraordinary achievement, demonstrating the truck's exceptional durability and performance in extreme conditions. The feat made headlines across the country and showcased the capabilities of the GMC truck.

Evolution of the brand name

In 1916, leaders at General Motors rebranded the General Motors Truck Company as the GMC Truck division. The new name was more in line with the company's focus on producing high-quality trucks designed for commercial and personal use. The GMC Truck division became one of the most recognizable brands in the trucking industry.

Also in 1916, William Warwick drove a GMC truck carrying a ton of carnation canned milk from Seattle, Washington to New York City, New York and back. It took 21 weeks. Fifty years later GMC recreated the promotion. The 1966 trip took them six days.

Cannonball Baker breaks in GMC

In 1927, a daredevil race driver broke the cross country record driving a GMC truck from New York City to San Francisco in 5 days and 17.5 hours. Legendary driver named Erwin George "Cannonball" Baker accomplished a remarkable feat by setting a new cross-country driving record from New York City to San Francisco. Cannonball Baker was an accomplished motorcycle and automobile racer who became widely known for his long-distance driving abilities and endurance.

Baker pushed himself to the limit, driving almost non-stop across the diverse landscapes of the United States. He navigated through various road conditions, ranging from smooth highways to rugged terrain and challenging weather. The route he took passed through states including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and finally, California.


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