How the Chevy SUV Was Born
The sports utility vehicle is the automotive industry’s embodiment of family transportation, the facilitator of adventures of all kinds, transporter of instruments and sound equipment for bands, and a all-around workhorse that blends practicality and style. But this wasn’t always the case—because the SUV didn’t always exist. Join us for a walk through the history of the SUV’s development and evolution, with a final stop at Chevy SUVs and what they contribute to this flexible and fashionable vehicle.
Not Quite an SUV, But Almost: The Depot Hack
You can see the roots of the SUV’s design and function in the depot hack, a vehicle specialized for use transporting train passengers and their luggage. These custom vehicles were also called carryalls or suburbans, and the name Suburban lives on still today in the Chevy SUV model that’s been available longest.
Early Days of the SUV: The World War Two Era
Like most great things, the SUV was born of need. The United States Army put out a call to automobile manufacturers to develop an entirely new type of vehicle to suit a very specific set of requirements. The Army needed four-wheel drive, room to carry soldiers and their equipment, the ability to navigate rough terrain with ease, and a vehicle that would stand the test of time with military-grade toughness.
More than 130 companies in all were contacted and invited to submit designs to the Army, but only two businesses, it turned out, were up to the challenge. One of those two, from a business called Willys Overland, was the Jeep. And in the end, it was the Jeep that the Army decided best met their needs.
To prepare for American involvement in World War Two, the Army commissioned hundreds of Jeeps. Willys Overland responded, and the first SUVs began to roll off the line at the factory. In collaboration with the Ford Motor Company, Willys Overland provided more than 700,000 vehicles to help the American Army, and Australian soldiers too, stay safe on their way to a World War Two victory.
After the War: The Public’s First Chance at SUVs
Once the war was won, SUVs became available for the first time to civilians. The Jeep company saw success with the first consumer model, the CJ-5, which enjoyed popularity with drivers, especially Americans. Another model, called “Willy’s Jeep Wagon,” even used the term “utility vehicle” in advertising to describe the model’s workhorse nature for transporting American families. Britain wasn’t about to let America hog the SUV market, and the Land Rover became the first SUV manufactured overseas. It was developed by brothers Maurice and Spencer Wilks, who designed a 4×4 SUV similar to the Jeep but custom-tailored to meet the everyday work needs of Britain’s farmers. The first Land Rover went on sale in April of 1948, and the next available model, the Defender, would become synonymous with the idea of the SUV. More than 2 million Land Rover Defenders were produced in the 68 years they were on the market.
Fine-Tuning the SUV Evolution: The 1950s Through the Modern Era
The 1950s once again brought a wartime necessity to the auto manufacturers. The Korean War required an updated SUV design, and the United States Army once again put out the call. This time, though, their overseas bases called on Japanese manufacturer Toyota. Though the prototype Toyota developed was rejected in favor of the old favorite, the American Jeep, it planted a seed. The year 1953 saw the Toyota Land Cruiser, with its 4×4 solidity and solid durability, put to use by the Japanese Police Agency.
On American soil, the SUVs saw a switch from truck bodies to car bodies. The wood-bodied station wagons offered by Dodge called “Woody Wagons,” let surfers cart equipment and friends to the beach with ease and style. These SUVs stayed popular along with the uptick in family size with the baby boom, as the boomers needed a spacious vehicle like an SUV to transport their offspring.
In the 1970s, rising fuel prices almost put an end to the SUV as a consumer vehicle. Emissions regulations and economic inflation meant American began to prefer smaller, more economical models that were mostly foreign rather than domestic. However, the minivan, introduced by Chrysler, became the quintessential family car, saving the SUV from an almost certain retreat into oblivion.
A similar story is that in the 1980s, Jeep helped save the SUV as well with some rebranding. The American Motors requested that Jeep Cherokee vehicles be recategorized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, moving from the “work” categorization to a “light truck.” This is also when the term “SUV” first started coming into play to describe these multipurpose vehicles, which had begun to show they would stand the test of time.
Chevy’s Contributions: The SUV in Today’s Market
These days, there are almost as many models of SUV out there to choose from it’s dizzying. Let’s take a look at what the Chevy SUV lineup has to offer. Chevy’s additions to the SUV’s development didn’t end with the longest-running model we mentioned earlier, the Chevy Suburban—the Tahoe is also currently on offer. The Tahoe includes a five-passenger option for more streamlined seating needs. Crossover models also include the Equinox, Traverse, and Trax for those looking for a more car-like look and ample seating.
The Equinox was recognized as the most dependable compact model of SUV, and Traverse as the most dependable midsize SUV, after a survey of 2015 models. All Chevy SUVs offer plenty of cargo space for whatever you need to haul. And if you’re a gadget bug, you can easily find a Chevy SUV with the Wi-Fi, charging outlets, and Apple or Android compatibility to suit your needs. Chevy SUVs are also smart on fuel economy and come equipped with the safety features you expect from your family’s chariot.
Whether you’re wondering which Chevy SUV fits your lifestyle best or have your heart set on a certain model, come visit us at Carl Black Nashville. Our friendly, no-pressure sales team has the knowledge to guide you through your decision and will help discuss financing options when you’re ready. Why wait? The Chevy SUV of your dreams is on our lot today.