During WWII four companies made most of the 1½ ton trucks for military service; International (M-3L-4) made specifically for the Navy and Marines, Ford (GTB), Dodge (WC62) and Chevy (G506). Of the manufacturers, Chevy by far, supplied the most 1 ½ ton trucks during the war. For the Chevy, G506 refers to all 1940 – 1945 Chevy 1 ½ ton trucks although individual models were further designated by their configuration (a dump is a G7106, cargo is a G7107, etc ).
Chevy labeled the trucks “Vehicles of Victory” during the war in the many ads Chevy ran promoting their war effort. About 160,000 Chevy 1 ½ ton trucks were manufactured with trucks going to the Army and Army Air Corps, but the largest share was sent to allied forces, particularly Britain and Russia. Many of these trucks also served base duty and in the states, this is the origin of most of the trucks surviving today. Unfortunately, the army did not keep or retain records that would make tracking down the initial assignments of the trucks possible. Any history you will have is going to be anecdotal or records kept with the truck and owners itself.
With 4wd, a 4-speed non-synchromesh transmission and reliable 83hp, 235 cid engine, the trucks were used for almost every task at hand. Common uses included towing artillery, firefighting, hauling troops and supplies, and the multitude of tasks associated with engineering battalions. The truck also came with special body configurations, for a variety of specialized tasks such a fire fighting, bomb supply, and communications.
Driving and Servicing
The Chevy 1 ½ ton provides the “big truck” look and feel without the size and weight of the deuce and a half (aka GMC CCKW). If speed is your thing, don’t look here. These trucks are as much tractor as truck, and have a top speed of only around 48mph and the transmission is not synchromeshed so each shift must be double-clutched. Fortuantely the tranny is rugged and well built, and can endure practice and occasional grinding of the amateur. With four-wheel-drive, turning radius is somewhat compromised as well. They are tough however, and will endure abuse and conditions that would stop most civilian trucks.
Parts are available if you are willing to do the research. The Chevy 235 cid engine was made up to 1962 and any will bolt in without modification. Starting in 1952 the 235 went from Babbitt bearings to insert bearings to match the GM line, which had insert bearings back in the ‘40’s.
Description: Cargo Truck
Number produced: 112,879
Notes: The Chevy cargo truck was the most common of all the configurations. The G7117 is the same model except with winch.
Description: Cargo Dump Truck
Number produced: 14,395
Notes: The G7116 is the same model except with the winch. Winches also add about another 500 pounds to the weight.
Description: Fire Truck
Number produced: U/K
Notes: The Army version of the airfield crash truck/fire truck is the Chevy G-7100 which was built in several versions. Early models (Class 110) had a mid-mounted pump, later models with the pump in front of the grill and last were a front mount pump that was more hydrant dependent. Many airfield crash trucks saw service after the war in rural fire departments as brush trucks, with many still remaining in service today. For more information on these trucks, click on WWII Fire Trucks. Mnay refer to all firetrucks as “Airfield Crash Trucks” but only a small percentage filled this narrow role.
Description: Cargo Panel Van
Number produced: 3,658
Notes: This is a relatively rare Chevy truck. It was also known as the K-51 Panel Van by the Signal Corps. It was used primarily for transport of radio equipment. The Model WA ambulance is very similar.
Description: Telephone maintenance truck
Number produced: 4,328
Notes: This truck has a different body than the auger trucks, but still had the tripod for raising poles (note it is stored lengthwise on the driver’s side). It was known as the K42 or K43 by the Signal Corps.
Description: Auger truck
Number produced: 1,719
Notes: Also used by the Signal Corps, this truck was known by them as the K44. Note the railroad adaptation gear on the rear.
Description: Bomb Service Truck
Number produced: 7,857
Notes: The M6 was the only open cab Chevy model. This model also had a shorter wheelbase than any other model.
Description: Cab Over Engine Stake Truck
Number produced: 581
Notes: The COE was used by the Signal Corps to transport communication equipment. It was known to them as the K-54. It has a longer wheel base (175″) than the other Chevy’s, but the same tires and engine
For more information and background on the year by year model changes, see the Vehicles of Victory “Chevy G506 Owner’s Guide and Illustrated Parts Guide” available here.