Chevrolet trucks have changed a lot over the years, with each model year and generation offering unique features that helped them redefine what a pickup was capable of. Classic Industries is committed to supplying owners of these timeless pickups with restoration parts, but we're also committed to preserving their legacy. To this end, we've created a visual guide to help you identify Chevy truck model years and learn about their differences. In this article, we'll cover 1947-1959 Chevrolet trucks one year at a time.
The images in this article have been scanned and preserved from original documentation, and show sub-models based on the Chevy truck platform for each model year. Important notes are included for each year and generation.
1946 - Early 1947 Chevy Truck
Occasionally a customer’s truck is titled 1947 but the body design is actually 1946. This can make ordering parts confusing. There are two reasons for this:
(1) In several factories the 1946 design was carried over through March 1947.
(2) The GM “Master Parts Catalog” does not show an early 1947. When this year is mentioned it always refers to the 1947-55 1st series “Advanced Body Style”.
Late 1947 Chevy Truck
The first of this new “Advanced Design” body series introduced in May 1947. Gas tank is now located under the front bed section. Nine bed wood planks. Truck name stamped in tailgate. Bed is now approximately 3” wider than prior style. Vacuum wiper moved under dash from above windshield. Hood emblem on late 1947 is die cast metal. Windlace around door is black rubber and secured with metal strips screwed in place. Headliner center bow screwed in place. Hood side emblems say CHEVROLET & THRIFTMASTER. All 1947 trucks use non-synchromesh three or four speed transmissions without external linkage and floor shifters. Emergency brake handle is on the right hand side of the floor shifter. Serial numbers: EP 1/2-ton, ER 3/4-ton, ES 1-ton, etc.
1948 Chevy Truck
1948 models are very similar to late 1947 models, with some minor changes. Redesigned three-speed transmission now uses column shift with linkage attached to case side. The 1948 emergency brake was relocated to the far left side of the cab and is now a foot operated mechanism. Serial numbers: FP 1/2 ton, FR 3/4 ton, FS 1 ton, etc.
1949 Chevy Truck
Early 1949: Hood emblem becomes chrome plated steel. As in 1947 and 1948, on Chevrolet light trucks hood side chrome emblem states THRIFTMASTER. Large truck side hood emblem states LOADMASTER. Gas tank is now located behind seat inside of cab. Serial numbers: GP 1/2 ton, GR 3/4 ton, GS 1 ton, etc.
Late 1949: Last lever action shocks on Chevrolet, this carried on one more year on some GMCs. New style cab windlace fits in metal track around door opening. Headliner center bow is now “floating type”, not screwed to roof of cab, as before. Hood side emblem says CHEVROLET, no longer says THRIFTMASTER. Series designation emblem-is also on side of hood; 3100 on 1/2 ton, 3600 on 3/4 ton, 3800 on 1 ton, etc. Serial numbers: same as early 1949.
1950 Chevy Truck
Handle for left side cowl vent door is flat steel, not maroon plastic knob type, as earlier. Modern tubular shocks introduced. Headlight frames remain chrome plated brass. Wiper knob is chrome plated steel. Hood side emblem on Chevrolet shows this name plus 3100 on 1/2 ton, 3600 on 3/4 ton, 3800 on 1 ton, etc. Last year for driver’s side cowl vent. Serial numbers: HP 1/2 ton, HR 3/4 ton, HS 1 ton, etc.
1951 Chevy Truck
Engine in pickups remains 216 cubic inch Babbitt bearing low oil pressure type for Chevrolet, used from 1937 to 1953. GMC continues with the 228 cubic inch full pressure engine as their standard unit. Seat adjustment horizontal rod under cushion is run through a rubber grommet which is secured to the seat riser frame. Earlier year seats adjusted with a metal cable.
Halfway through the 1951 Chevy truck model year, bed wood changed from 9-board to 8-board type. Speedometer maximum speed 80 miles per hour. Vent windows in doors are introduced. Outside door handles are still turndown type. Only year with vent windows and turndown handles. Last year for 80 m.p.h. speedometer. Last year for chrome window handle knobs and chrome wiper knob. Serial numbers: JP 1/2 ton, JR 3/4 ton, JS 1 ton, etc.
1952 Chevy Truck
Horizontal strips below and above radio speaker grille plus glove box door change from stainless steel to painted steel. Outer door handles become push button type. Chevrolet hub caps changed from chrome plated to gray painted steel with black block letters, however, stamping and shape remain the same as prior years. Some say a very few deluxe 1/2 ton pickups still carried the chrome cap. Speedometer now shows maximum speed 90 miles per hour. All beds are now 8-board type. Rear bumpers are only available on Suburban and Panel models for 1952. In mid year, GM stopped using 3100, 3600, 3800 emblems on side of hood. However, CHEVROLET hood emblems are used the entire year. Inside window handle knobs and wiper knob are now maroon. Serial numbers: KP 1/2 ton, KR 3/4 ton, KS 1 ton, etc.
1953 Chevy Truck
Hood emblem is now stainless steel. First year for the optional left side mount spare on this series of pickups. Last year for wood blocks under bed. Wiper knob is maroon plastic, as in 1952. Last year for 216 cu. in, Babbitt bearing type engine. Hood side emblem changed to large 3100, 3600, 3800, etc only. No CHEVROLET emblems on hood side. Rear bumpers are re-introduced on pickup models. First year for blue and silver ID door post plate. Prior years were black and silver. Serial numbers: H 1/2 ton, J 3/4 ton, L 1 ton, etc.
1954 Chevy Truck
Chevrolet has the newly introduced cross type “bull nose” grille. Introduced the new high pressure 235 cubic inch insert bearing engine on pickups, and 261 cubic inch six cylinder on larger trucks. Hub caps have the same shape as the 1953 type, however now have only the Bow Tie emblem. Park lights are now in the lower corners of the grill/fenders. New front hood emblem shows only a stamped Bow Tie and is now longer on top than bottom. Hood side emblems are still 3100, 3600, and 3800.
Completely redesigned bed. Bed now has increased in depth with all new bed sides. Top of bed sides are now flat, not angled as in previous years. Rear bumper is still an option, but is now dropped in the center to make room for new license plate location. One piece curved windshield. Newly designed dash. Taillights are now round. Serial numbers: H 1/2 ton, J 3/4 ton, L 1 ton, etc.
1955 "First Series" Chevy Truck
Early 1955 trucks, referred to by many as the First Series, were almost identical to the 1954. First year for the open drive shaft on 1/2 ton pickup and panel. Final series with the six volt system on Chevrolet. GMC continues to make 12 volt an option throughout the year into the next body style. Hood side emblems now are one piece with CHEVROLET at the bottom and 3100, 3600, or 3800 above. Serial numbers: H 1/2 ton, J 3/4 ton, L 1 ton, etc.
1955 "Second Series" Chevy Truck
In mid-year 1955, Chevrolet introduced this new body style truck. It was completely redesigned from previous years and very few parts will interchange with the older models. Grill design has 3 horizontal bars and 4 uprights. Single headlights in front fenders.
Fender side emblem is one piece and mounted below horizontal line on fender. Emblem on front of hood is wider at top than bottom. Small step between cab and rear fender. First year for the Cameo, a very rare and desirable fiberglass bed pickup. First year for the optional V8 265 cubic inch engine. Serial numbers: H2 1/2 ton, M2 1/2 ton longbed, J2 3/4 ton, L2 1 ton, etc.
1956 Chevy Truck
Very similar to 1955 Chevy trucks. Fender emblems are two piece and mounted above horizontal line on fender. Emblem on front of hood is now longer on bottom than top. Front hood emblem has a cast in V if a V8 truck. Serial numbers: 3A 1/2 ton, 3B 1/2 ton longbed, 3E 3/4 ton, 3G 1 ton, etc.
1957 Chevy Truck
Similar to previous years but with a few significant changes. Fender emblems are now one piece mounted above horizontal line on fender. Front hood emblem is the same as 1956 but paint scheme is reversed. Hood has two raised humps on top running front to back.
The 1957 Chevy truck grill now has inner and outer oval ring separated by 8 “teeth”, 4 on top and 4 on bottom. First year for the optional V-8 283 cubic inch engine. Serial numbers: 3A 1/2 ton, 3B 1/2 ton longbed, 3E 3/4 ton, 3G 1 ton, etc.
1958 Chevy Truck
Complete front end redesign. Dual headlights in front fenders. Grill is now a one piece design with parklights mounted in the ends of the grill. Last year for the Cameo pickup. First year for the optional Fleetside bed. Fender emblems have series designation (31, 32, 36, 38 etc.) and Chevrolet in the center the of emblem with Apache on the top rear of emblem. Front hood emblem is 31" long with vertical design in background behind Bow Tie. Serial numbers: 3A 1/2 ton, 3B 1/2 ton longbed, 3E 3/4 ton, 3G 1 ton, etc.
1959 Chevy Truck
Very similar to the 1958 trucks. Fender emblems are now larger design with Chevrolet and Apache in center of emblem with series designation (31, 32, 36, 38 etc.) at rear of emblem. Front hood emblem is 36" long with square pattern design in background behind Bow Tie. Serial numbers: 3A 1/2 ton, 3B 1/2 ton longbed, 3E 3/4 ton, 3G 1 ton, etc.
1960-72 Chevy Truck Information
Check back next week for part two of our Chevy truck model year identification guide, which delves into the popular C and K Series models from 1960 through 1972.
You can also check out other entries in our classic car history series:
- 1967-2002 Camaro Generations & Production Numbers
- 1962-79 Chevy Nova VIN Decoder
- 1958-80 Chevy Impala & Full Size VIN Decoder
Need Parts for Your Chevy Truck?
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