Robert Manley's 1955 GMC Pickup
(from Volume 13, Issue 151)

Though Robert Manley’s 1955 Second Series GMC 100 Step-side Pickup is more than 50 years old, he is only the second owner. Mr. Carr of Fort Worth, Texas purchased the truck brand new in March of 1956, paying $1,300 to drive it off the showroom floor. It came with just about every option, making it very luxurious for a pickup of its day. In fact, in the GMC advertising, the slogan was “Too good looking to be called a truck”. The original two-tone colors of Indian Turquoise and Bombay White certainly evoke a classic 50’s feel, and it also came with the large rear window, the chrome package, visor, side mounted spare, and radio.

In 1955 GM produced two models, the First Series and the Second Series. Production for ’55 First Series trucks were carryover designs from ’54, until the new Second Series was put into production to combat Ford’s radical 1953 Ford F-100. The midyear launch of the Second Series Pickup featured aggressive styling similar to that of the new passenger car models. This was GM’s most ambitious and complete product revision in the company’s history, and perhaps its most successful. Wraparound windshields and panoramic rear windows were a significant styling innovation, and the winning Pickup design GM went with was designed by an aeronautical engineer that worked at Kennedy Space Center, and lived in Titusville, Florida. Inside, the instrument panel has every gauge, and as GM said, they wanted to give it that “aircraft cockpit look”.

The first year of the GM V-8 was 1955, and power for Robert’s truck comes from the original “GMC 317” V-8 engine (which is actually a Pontiac 316 at heart), fitted with a Rochester carburetor and a 4-speed Hydra-Matic transmission - which by the way, does not have a torque converter. The story behind how this particular engine wound up in the truck, however, is not so straight forward. GM had a plant the size of 4 acres, which at the time was the largest building of it’s type, that burned completely to the ground. The fire was started by a worker with a propane torch repairing a garage door, and after the fire started they found out the hard way that there were no fire extinguishers handy. The loss of this plant is why GM put Pontiac engines in their GMC trucks (though the valve covers read GMC). The engine in Robert’s truck is a Pontiac 316, which GMC called a 317. The following year Pontiac had a 347, and when GMC used it they called it a 348.

Robert has every one of the annual registrations back to day one, including the title and the original battery warranty, all in the original bank’s envelope the Mr. Carr used - including both the original front and rear ‘56 Texas truck license plates. In fact, this truck still spots it’s original 1956 Texas Highway inspection sticker! The serial number on Robert’s truck is 1018PY8630, which broken down means; 101 is for half ton, the 8 stands for the V-8 engine, the P stands for Pontiac, Michigan where it was assembled, the Y stands for 1955, and then 8630 is the sequence number.

Robert, who lives in Orlando, Florida, loves to cruise at Old Town on Saturday nights, and takes his GMC to as many car shows as he can. He says that car shows and cruise-ins are where he has the most fun, and has met the nicest people. One thing is for sure, with his pristine 1955 Second Series GMC 100 Step-side Pickup on display it is sure to attract a crowd, and plenty of people to talk to. CN