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Issue 06:09:01 - September 04, 2006

History of the Chevy Cameo Truck

By the year 1955, Chevrolet was well in the race of pickup truck designs. Their pickup models had beautiful sculpted fender and door panels. The hood that year was lower and flatter than previous models, and the stylish grille was shaped like an egg crate.

Chevrolet truck models for that year also featured a wraparound windshield, giving the driver a broad view all around. Truck fans loved these models because they were both practical and stylish.

Trend continues with the Cameo: A touch of luxury

The 1955 Chevrolet Cameo set a new level of glamour with the new 3124 Cameo Carrier pickup truck. The Cameo was designed to attract attention, but it was more than just beautiful: it was practical.

The Chevrolet Cameo Carrier pickup and its cousin, the GMC Suburban Carrier were built from 1955 to 1959. The total number of Cameo trucks produced was approximately 10,000 units, with 5,200 units produced for 1955.

Chevrolet set their sights to redesign the 1955 Chevrolet truck line beginning in the early 1950’s. The idea was to create a truck that looked good, but also to make sure the public knew it was still a rugged work truck. All 1955 Cameos were Bombay Ivory (white) with a Commercial Red stripe. The unique styling came from flat fiberglass panels; this sleek look is still a pattern for today’s pickups. This design was new to the truck era. Most trucks then had exposed rounded rear fenders, as you would see on step-side or flare-side trucks today. The Cameo had a sculpted fender and a front end that was similar to the Chevy cars built at that time.

The vision and the obstacles

Chuck Jordan is responsible for the smooth-sided truck design of the Cameo. He was fresh out of college when he came on board with General Motors in 1949. Jordan was fascinated with trucks and his creativity was poured into truck design. He was always looking for a way to leave a bold impact on the truck industry. Jordan designed vehicles he thought would be at the front of competition and have striking eye appeal. Yet he had to keep in mind that most trucks would still be used solely as utility vehicles. Though the truck wasn’t successful, it magnified the importance of style in the truck industry, a concept still crucial to truck manufacturing and sales today.

The Cameo was a success for its style, but failed in sales and production. The truck just could not compete in an era where cars were at the top of the market. Consumers bought trucks for their utility and not for appearance. Another factor that hurt sales was the price tag on the Cameo. The Cameos base price was $2,150.00, when other trucks in the industry were priced at approximately $1,670.00. Most truck buyers weren’t willing to pay the price difference.

The cab and front sheet metal of the 3124 Cameo Carrier model pickup was the same as other 1955 models. The Cameo trucks were manufactured with large rear fender sides that were mounted to a steel cargo box. This gave the impression that the cargo box was as wide as the cab. A spare tire compartment was hidden in the middle of the rear bumper. The Cameo also sported a fiberglass panel that covered the tailgate. The tailgate featured retractable cables and the inside mounted latches. It had the same mechanical specification and GVW (5,000 lbs.) as other half-ton trucks, maintaining the toughness, utility, and practicality of all Chevy trucks.

In 1956, the Cameo design remained mostly the same except for some minor changes in trim. The average base price was $2,150, and production numbers dropped to 1,452.

The 1957 Cameo was similar to the previous year as well but had a new grille sitting in an open mouth that was turned upward. Some of the trim was brighter as well. Around 2,244 models were produced that year, up from the previous year.

For 1958, all pickup models received an enlarged grille in the front with quad headlights. The Cameo, though not a big seller, did provide many great design ideas at Chevrolet. Early that year, the Cameo was replaced by the Fleetside. Sales picked up dramatically. The Fleetside models featured contoured side panels made of steel and a larger bed than the Cameo and other pickup models. The Chevy Cameo is rare and unique. Because there were so few produced very few remain today. Hot rodders and classic car collectors consider Cameo trucks to be a true treasure.


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