FCA gives us our favorite kind of history lesson.
In a lot of ways, pickup trucks are the most traditional vehicles left on the road today. By and large, they still retain the same body-on-frame construction they've utilized since the early part of the twentieth century, with big, longitudinally-mounted engines and flat, open cargo beds perched behind their enclosed cabins.
Yet, it would be disingenuous to say that the pickup truck hasn't evolved by leaps and bounds since the first examples were born, growing larger, heavier, more powerful, more comfortable, and above all, more complex. Now, a new video series from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles follows the evolution of the Ram 1500 from its start as a Dodge pickup, from simple work machine to sophisticated do-everything vehicle.
FCA began its pickup truck journey during World War I with the Dodge pickup truck of 1917, although according to Chief Designer Ryan Nagode, it was around the 1940s that it really cemented its status as a reliable piece of farm equipment. "You almost wouldn't be caught dead in one if it wasn't just for doing the job," he says.
A few decades later, toward the end of the 1960s, Dodge "had some pickup trucks that were really work-biased," Nagode says. "It made the ride and handling of the pickup truck start to be rough, so it hauled a lot, but I think the comfort level wasn't as good." More than a decade after that, as the US recovered from two oil crises, Dodge's pickups came to be defined largely by "big engines, simple interiors" - what Nagode calls the "precursor to more modern pickup trucks."
That "more modern pickup" materialized in 1994, when Dodge introduced what it considers to be its second-generation pickup truck - "one of our more famous designs from over the years," Nagode says. As modern as it was, it still emphasized work over personal use, although it was perhaps the first iteration to stress styling as "a bigger part of the overall design and engineering of the pickup truck."
With each successive generation, the cab would grow larger, and the bed would gradually shrink until we get to the modern day. The new fifth-generation Ram 1500 "has changed, again, who is using this pickup truck, so it really has... moved on to really something that families love to use in and around town," Nagode says.
We can't wait to see what changes the next evolutionary step brings.