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1936 1/2-ton GMC pickup
  • 1936 1/2-ton GMC pickup
  • In 1936, 1/2-ton pickups grew in popularity to represent 4 out of every 10 GMC sales. These light-duty trucks had many uses, including farm hand duty. While most of these trucks used 85 horsepower engines, this particular model had the added boost of one extra.

  • 1967 GMC K2500
  • 1967 was the first year of GMC’s current model naming for full size pickups, with three models badged as 1500, 2500 and 3500. Pictured is a 1967 GMC K2500, the “K” representing this vehicle’s optional four-wheel drive.

  • 1913 2-ton pickup
  • GMC pickup trucks were classified by payload ratings right in the brand’s earliest years. This 1913 2-ton model was used for deliveries by the Trappe Canning Company in Easton, Md.

  • 1867 GMC 1500 pickup badge
  • A fender badge from a 1967 GMC 1500 pickup with an optional V-8 engine. This was the first year GMC ½-ton models used the “1500” moniker.

  • 1970s GMC badges
  • In the 1970s, GMC introduced the Sierra name on a variety of trim levels for its trucks. Today, all GMC fullsize pickups are sold under the Sierra name and all fullsize trucks from any American automaker have models starting with “15”, “25” and “35”.

  • 2013 GMC Sierra 3500 HD SLT
  • 2013 GMC Sierra 3500 HD SLT

Ever wondered how the GMC Sierra 1500 got is name? Or why a 1/2-ton pickup can carry almost a 2,000 pound payload? General Motors sets the record straight.

For starters, the Sierra name was first used to denote upscale trim packages in the 1970s and '80s. In 1989, the name was applied to all GMC full-size pickups. No big mystery there.

Then there's the 1500 moniker. GMC began using the numbers 1500, 2500 and 3500 in 1967. While the digits do indicate hauling capabilities, they aren't the trucks' actual cargo limits. In fact, they refer to the "first segment of vehicle identification numbers," GM says. Since then, all American automakers use 15, 25 and 35 in their trucks' names to indicate their abilities.

Then there's the 1/2-ton, 3/4-ton and 1-ton indicators. Back in 1912, the numbers meant what they said. A 1/2-ton truck's hauling prowess maxed out at a 1/2 ton. But no more...

"The payload-based naming convention for pickups existed right from the beginning," said General Motors Heritage Center Manager Greg Wallace. "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."

So there you go, a 1/2-ton of mysteries solved. Read the official press release below.
Show full PR text
Editor's Note: For more than 100 years, GMC pickups have hauled the loads that have helped keep America running. They've come in different shapes and sizes and with names that denote their capabilities. What do all those names and numbers mean? This first in an occasional series of "GMC Pickups 101" features explains the naming history of the fullsize pickup.

DETROIT – When three truck builders – Randolph, Reliance and Rapid – merged to become GMC in 1912, the brand's range of gasoline- and electric-powered trucks used model numbers between 1 and 12, each denoting payload in thousands of pounds, or how much weight could be loaded on the rear.

Today, the labels "½-ton", "¾-ton" and "1-ton" are still used industry wide for fullsize pickup truck classes despite their having little connection to the trucks' capabilities. For 2013, a GMC Sierra 1500 "½-ton" has a payload capacity that ranges from 1,550-1,940 pounds – considerably more than the 1,000 pounds once implied. A "1-ton" Sierra 3500HD can haul up to 7,215 pounds; almost four times the 2,000 pounds its moniker suggests.

"The payload-based naming convention for pickups existed right from the beginning," said General Motors Heritage Center Manager Greg Wallace. "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."

As with payload classifications, GMC helped pioneer other naming conventions for pickups. In 1967, GMC was the first company to use 1500, 2500 and 3500 to designate its three truck models, numbers that were based off the first segment of vehicle identification numbers, or VINs, and denoted hauling capability. Those numbers remain an integral part of the GMC naming strategy and every current fullsize truck sold by an American automaker uses numbers starting with 15, 25 and 35 to denote the three classifications.

The Sierra name became standard for all GMC fullsize pickups in 1989 after being used for various upscale trim packages through the '70s and '80s. The 2013 Sierra 1500 represents the core of GMC's truck business, while the purpose-built Sierra 2500HD and 3500HD models are some of the most-capable pickups ever produced, with class-leading maximum payload.

GMC has manufactured trucks since 1902, and is one of the industry's healthiest brands. Innovation and engineering excellence is built into all GMC vehicles and the brand is evolving to offer more fuel-efficient trucks and crossovers, including the Terrain small SUV and Acadia crossover. GMC is the only manufacturer to offer three full-size hybrid trucks with the Yukon, Yukon Denali SUVs and the Sierra pickup. The Sierra Heavy Duty pickups are the most capable and powerful trucks in the market. Details on all GMC models are available at http://www.gmc.com/, on Twitter at @thisisgmc or at http://www.facebook.com/gmc.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 8 Comments
      carguy1701
      • 2 Years Ago
      Neat.
      The Ed
      • 2 Years Ago
      So, yeah... what does GMC stand for?
        Shiftright
        • 2 Years Ago
        @The Ed
        Uh...General Motors Co.....
        David
        • 2 Years Ago
        @The Ed
        Well since the bailout its now GMC "Government Motors Cooperative" welcome to socialism comrades..
      Uncle B
      • 2 Years Ago
      Toyota Tundra coming up fast! Same Asian(Chinese) sub assemblies, even whole motors from China, just like GM(U.S.A.) !
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      • 2 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      Dashin505
      • 2 Years Ago
      So I have actually seen that done here in NM. The old cowboy loaded up in the back of a 60s model chevy pickup. It had the side boards just like that. I saw a guy riding a buffalo same day. I love this state.