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Christopher Bruce2012-08-01 13:56:25

Pickups: What's in a Name?

The GMC brand goes back to 1909

General Motors'GMGMUnited States of America, 1998 > present8 models
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medium duty consumer truck brand GMCGMCGMCUnited States of America, 1900 > present13 models
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is among the brand's oldest companies. It actually predates GM by 7 years. GMC was founded in 1901 as the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company. GM bought the company in 1909 along with Reliance and Randolph and renamed them General Motors Truck Company. In 1912, it was shortened to simply GMC Trucks. Traditionally, GMC has sold work-ready versions of Chevrolet's pickup trucks, rebadged ChevroletChevroletChevroletUnited States of America, 1911 > present82 models
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SUVs and medium duty transport trucks. At times, it has also offered heavy-duty semi trucks, buses, vans and motorhomes. But what is in a name? Where do the 1500 and half-ton monikers come from?

Over time the concept of a half-ton pickup has changed. When GMC was formed each of its models was distinguished by number to show its maximum payload. The most basic model was the GMC 1 that could carry 1,000lbs or half a ton. At the time, the rest of the truck makers also build half-ton pickups, and the concept became the name for an entire segment of the range. Today a GMC 1500Sierra 1500 Extended Cab 2WD Work Truck Long BoxGMC Sierra 1500 Extended ...United States of America, 2009 > present1 photo
is categorized as a half-ton pickup, but it will carry a max of 1940lbs, nearly two tons. The one-ton GMC 35003500HD Extended Cab 4WD Work Truck Long Box DRWGMC 3500HD Extended Cab 4...United States of America, 2009 > present1 photo
will carry 7,215lbs over three times the name of its segment. 

“The payload-based naming convention for pickups existed right from the beginning. The ½-ton, ¾-ton, and 1-ton models became most popular with retail customers over a few decades, not just for GMC but all manufacturers. While payload capacities have grown since, those three names stuck," said General Motors Heritage Center Manager Greg Wallace.

In 1967, GM introduced the 1500, 2500 and 3500 naming scheme to indicate tow ratings. A 1500 pickup could tow a 1,500lb load and so on. However, in a similar way, these numbers are also outmoded. GMC's most basic Sierra 1500 will tow 4800lbs and if optioned with its largest engine will tow 7,100lbs. A GMC 3500HD will tow 9,000lbs despite its name. 

At this point, the names are just a point of comparison. Buyers can be sure that a half-ton pickup will carry less than a one-ton model even if both will actually carry significantly more than their name implies. 





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