History of GMC: The American Trucks of World War

History of GMC: The American Trucks of World War

GMC, short for General Motors Truck Company, has a rich history and has played a significant role in shaping the automotive industry. In this blog post, we will explore the origins of GMC, and its importance in the automotive industry, and trace its journey through key milestones, iconic models, industry recognition, and its cultural impact.

What is GMC?

General Motors Truck Company is referred to as GMC. It was formerly the American automaker’s GMC Division under General Motors LLC. William C. Durant established the group in 1911. Their main office is located in Detroit, Michigan.

GMC’s main priorities are trucks and sport utility vehicles. Under General Motors’ supervision, they sell military vehicles, pickup trucks, commercial trucks, vans, buses, and SUVs all over the world. They build cars with cutting-edge amenities, performance, and design by fusing cutting-edge technologies with high-end materials.

How GMC got Started

Max and Morris Grabowsky, two brothers, founded an automobile company in Detroit back in 1902. It was known as Grabowsky Motor Vehicle Company in the past. Their goal was to create trucks and cars that people would adore.

With significant rearrangement over time, the business eventually became a Rapid Motor Vehicle Company. A man by the name of William Durante entered the picture later in 1909. After assuming control of the business, he renamed it “General Motors.” That is the origin of the “GM” in GMC.

But hold on, what about the “C” in GMC? Thus, General Motors became GMTC or General Motors Truck Company. After some time, they decided to exclude the “T” and keep things short, giving rise to the term GMC as we know it today. Thus, it all began with the Grabowsky brothers’ ambition to build fantastic automobiles and trucks, and today GMC is a well-known name in the automotive industry!

GMC Major Events in History


William C. Durant started General Motors in 1908 by purchasing Rapid Motors. Through this merger, trucks and pickups were produced under the GMC Truck brand. Cadillac was then purchased by GMC in 1909, and it became the company’s luxury vehicle division. 

The brand debuted its model series at the 1912 New York Motor Show under the moniker GMC Trucks; the brand eventually patented and utilized this name. 1912 was also the year when GMC installed the electric self-starter in their vehicles, a revolutionary feature at the time. This innovation replaced the traditional, and often dangerous, hand-crank method of starting vehicles, paving the way for safer and more user-friendly automotive designs.

With the establishment of the GMC Truck Division by General Motors in 1915, the Rapid and Reliance truck brands were discontinued. In 1917, during World War I, GMC built over 8,500 trucks for the US Army. The U.S. Army selected GMC’s Model 16 3/4-ton truck for use in World War I, and by 1917, the business was producing up to 50 Army ambulances daily in addition to a lesser quantity of 1-ton troop carriers and aviation support vehicles


In 1920, GMC switched to using bouncy tires for their lighter trucks instead of the solid rubber ones. A year later, they showed off new trucks with fancy engines and 7-speed transmissions. In 1925, GMC joined forces with Yellow Cab, and they added brakes to all four wheels. In the 1930s, GMC produced 10-ton trailers and ½-ton pickup trucks, significantly expanding its model lineup. The business unveiled the Suburban Carryall, a pick-up truck with the amenities and comforts of a regular vehicle, for the first time. During this time, two-toned coloured vehicles also gained popularity. They also started using metal on the front of their trucks.

In 1937, GMC changed the look of 23 of their trucks, using two colours and a sleek design. A bit later, they made smaller engines and introduced diesel engines for their biggest trucks.


To aid the US Army in WWII, GMC produced over 530,000 vehicles in 1941. The “Jimmys” 2-1/1 ton truck series was the most popular among them. There were many different sizes and body styles available for these trucks, which included fire engines, tankers, dump trucks, freight trucks, and even bomb carriers.

In the 1950s, after the war, GMC returned to manufacturing trucks and buses under the commercial vehicle umbrella. Along with these innovations, the business unveiled several other innovations, including automated transmissions and hydraulic brakes. The Wideside Pickup, Handi-Van, and Suburban Pickup were the three most popular GMC models at the time. Additionally, GMC experimented with the Sprint, a pickup truck with sedan-like characteristics.

The majority of GMC automobiles were equipped with brand-new V12 and V6 gasoline engines in the 1960s. And by 1965, the company had switched out the torsion bars for coil springs in the suspension and leaf springs in the back. In addition, alternators were added and the majority of the GMC trucks had brand-new, never-before-seen style cues and designs. The new V6 gas or diesel-powered C-Series trucks replaced the E-Series trucks in 1969.


GMC celebrated their diamond jubilee by promoting it widely to showcase its prosperous 75 years in the vehicle business. During this time, the most widely used truck models were the ½-ton and 3-½-ton types.

Also, the vehicles’ fundamental design was improved. The lighter vehicles were equipped with noise-isolating devices, taller bumpers, turbocharged diesel engines, and more effective disc brakes.

GMC debuted several new models in the 1970s, such as the GMC Vandura van, GMC Motorhome, and GMC Caballero pickup truck, which would later become famous automobiles. The Caballero helped to pioneer the car-based pickup truck market, while the Vandura van, made famous by the television program The A-Team, became a cultural icon.

2000s - The modern age

The business debuted the GMC Envoy in 2000; it was an upgraded and more opulent version of the Jimmy vehicle. It was equipped with their most recent Vortec 4.2-inline 6-cylinder engine by 2001.

GMC has demonstrated almost a century of experience in the automotive industry by producing high-quality, dependable, stylish, comfortable, economical, and high-performing vehicles.
GMC trucks from the past are collectable and frequently show up at antique truck events. Additionally, GM exhibits a number of the cars in its Heritage Fleet at various car events.

“GMC: The First 100 Years,” their book, was published in 2002. It provided the entire history of this car manufacturer. They now have several SUVs, vans, and light-duty trucks available. In addition, they have created a large number of fire engines, transit buses, motorhomes, ambulances, and heavy-duty trucks for the military.

GMC Awards and Achievements Over the Years

GMC has accumulated multiple awards throughout the years, demonstrating its dedication to quality in the automobile industry. Let’s examine a few of the most recent and noteworthy awards:

  1. Kelley Blue Book’s 2017 Brand Image Award – Four Consecutive Triumphs

GMC has bagged the Kelley Blue Book’s 2017 Brand Image Award for the fourth time in a row. This streak solidifies GMC’s reputation as a leader in the luxury automotive sector.

  1. AutoPacific’s 2016 Ideal Vehicle Awards – Consistent Excellence

For the third consecutive year, GMC has been honoured with AutoPacific’s 2016 Ideal Vehicle Award. This recognition underscores GMC’s sustained alignment with the discerning preferences of a broad audience.

  1. U.S. News & World Report’s 2016 Best Large SUV for Families – Yukon’s Family-Centric Recognition

The 2016 GMC Yukon secured the prestigious title of the Best Large SUV for Families from U.S. News & World Report. This reflects the Yukon’s family-oriented design and performance.

  1. 2016 Texas Truck Showdown Towing Champion – Sierra 1500’s Towing Excellence

The GMC Sierra 1500 demonstrated exceptional towing capabilities by earning the title of Towing Champion at the 2016 Texas Truck Showdown. This award highlights the Sierra 1500’s prowess in handling towing tasks.

  1. Kelley Blue Book’s Best Resale Value Awards – Canyon and Sierra Among Top 10

Both the GMC Canyon and Sierra have been recognized among the top 10 vehicles with the best resale value by Kelley Blue Book. This acknowledgement emphasizes the enduring popularity and value retention of these models.

  1. Cars.com Midsize Pickup Challenge – Canyon’s Victory

The GMC Canyon emerged as the victor in the Cars.com Midsize Pickup Challenge, affirming its status as the premier vehicle in its class. This award recognizes the Canyon’s excellence among midsize pickup trucks.


From its inception to the present, GMC has always produced dependable and efficient automobiles. It’s fascinating to wonder what GMC will bring us in the future as the company continues to develop and adjust to shifting consumer tastes. Whether it’s in the innovative technology of the Yukon or the outstanding performance of the Sierra, GMC has a well-established past and a bright future.

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