When the Chrysler PT Cruiser first came out, I felt a vague sense of having seen it before. I couldn’t place it, even while riding shotgun in the one my friend bought. I thought the interior looked like a space ship, but the outside hinted at inspiration from the past. Finally, today, I found out why the PT Cruiser reminded me of antique vehicles – it was modeled after old panel trucks, which were popular starting in the early 1900’s. Another vehicle that got its main inspiration from history is the Chevrolet HHR, which was modeled on the earlier Chrysler suburban panel truck.
The early panel trucks were used daily for delivery, but as time went on, more uses were found for them, such as utilizing them for construction and maintenance purposes, as a hearse, ambulances, produce displays at market, etc. They were also responsible for the evolution of the sport utility vehicle, such as the GMC Yukon and the International Harvester Travelall. Mini-vans have taken some of the business away from modern panel trucks, at least business that requires passenger seating, such as airport shuttles, but in general there’s still plenty to do for the panel trucks.
Now that older panel trucks are hard to come by, they have also become popular collector’s items, and some have even been made into custom vehicles, like the Ford Panel Truck below. From the mid-1950’s, it’s reminiscent of European vehicles, especially those used by farmers, milkmen, and mail carriers. As old as the majority of them are, they’ve become something of a rare sight, so if you ever have the chance to see one, snap a picture and post it online so the rest of us can ooh and ahh over a beautiful relic of the past.
The custom Ford Panel Truck below boasts a three-speed automatic transmission as well as a V-8 engine, though this should not be taken as an across-the-board regular thing for other panel trucks. Always be sure to research and if you ever do consider purchasing one, make sure you have an expert on hand to ask the right questions and ensure that you will be able to drive the vehicle off the lot. You may also want to look around your local area to see if there’s a mechanic you trust to know how to take care of it, because you’ll want to take it on the road to show it off to your friends, or make new ones when you attend car shows or conventions for this particular model. Of course, there are also several sites where you can scroll through galleries of photos of panel trucks that are available for sale, but unless you’re a serious collector, they’re probably better to admire from a distance.
Want to learn more about panel trucks? There are plenty of resources online, but I recommend first stopping by Wikipedia and checking out both the Ford F-Series page and the Panel truck page. You can also join a fan group like the one on Fossil Cars.
You can see our gallery for this one below. All the images on our website expand when you click them, so you can get a better look.
For more from Hemmings, find them indexed in our vehicles, trucking and RVing directory. You can search for the company’s name and look for suppliers and dealers in an area near you by looking at our regional headers. And to see more Trucks, click here.