Traction To Haul

Published by The Bee News

April 15, 2024

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Traction to haul where others stall was the banner heading for a brochure promoting the 1956 GMC equipped with the NAPCO 4×4 unit. The GM and NAPCO partnership led to the development of a truck for customers that needed a dependable truck that could provide service in the most rugged terrain. These now legendary workhorses are the foundation for the durable 2024 Chevrolet Silverado 4×4 offered by Findlay Bullhead City.

Chevrolet and GMC 4×4 Trucks With NAPCO Conversions

When it comes to vehicles suitable for the rugged terrain and challenging conditions of Arizona, the Colorado River Valley and the desert southwest, it is the Jeep that often comes to mind. But for ranchers, oil field workers, miners and geologist’s in the post WWII era, these small Spartan vehicles were wholly inadequate for tackling the terrain and haling a payload. This is where the story of Chevrolet and GMC 4×4 trucks, equipped with NAPCO conversions, begins. As with Chevrolet and GMC trucks today, it is a tale of innovation, adaptability, and the American spirit.

The Northwestern Auto Parts Company, or NAPCO, played a pivotal role in the history of four-wheel-drive (4×4) vehicle development. Founded in 1918, NAPCO started by providing heavy duty parts for various vehicles. By the early 1940s, the company was focused almost entirely on the building of 4×4 conversion kits.

Before World War II, 4×4 vehicles were a rarity. Essentially they were a tool like a hmmer or drill. The market was very limited. But WWII changed everything. Soldiers that experienced the versatility of 4x4s through vehicles like the Jeep returned home wanting the same capability for use in farming and in endeavors that required traversing inhospitable terrain.

Dawn of A New Era

Responding to this demand, NAPCO began producing 4×4 conversion kits in 1947, aptly named Powr-Pak, which could be installed on trucks from various manufacturers. But the primary conversions were made to Chevrolet and GMC trucks as customers thought it a perfect blending with there durablity. These kits were revolutionary, allowing for a straightforward transformation of a standard rear-wheel-drive truck into a four-wheel-drive powerhouse with minimal modification.

Chevrolet and GMC, recognizing the growing popularity of these conversions, began to offer NAPCO’s Powr-Pak as a factory-installed option in the mid-1950s. This move made 4×4 capabilities more accessible and affordable, with the 1957 Chevrolet and GMC 3100 4×4 models being a particular bargain at $2549.00.

The collaboration between NAPCO and the truck manufacturers was a game-changer. It not only boosted the sales of 4×4 trucks but also cemented the reputation of Chevrolet and GMC as leaders in the production of versatile and durable vehicles. The NAPCO conversions were so well integrated that they could be removed and reinstalled on another compatible truck, showcasing the ingenuity and practicality of the design.

By 1960, General Motors had started producing its own 4×4 trucks, incorporating independent front suspension, which marked the end of the era for NAPCO conversions as aftermarket installations. However, the legacy of NAPCO lives on, not just in the vintage truck community but also in the very concept of the modern 4×4 truck—a testament to the company’s impact on automotive history.

The story of Chevrolet and GMC 4×4 trucks with NAPCO conversions is more than just a chapter in automotive history; it’s a narrative of GM’s innovation and the relentless pursuit of progress. It’s a reminder of how a simple idea—to improve the capability of a vehicle—can evolve into an industry standard that changes the way we explore and interact with the world around us.

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