In this overview, we examine GMC's history as maker of Trucks, Vans and SUVs, and as an innovator of models like the Jimmy.
GMC is a division of General Motors that focuses on producing SUVs, trucks and vans. Though GMC's vehicles are mechanically similar to related Chevrolet products, they are typically differentiated by unique features, trim levels and minor styling tweaks. The automaker's full-size pickups and SUVs are the most compelling offerings in its lineup; in many cases, its products in these categories are class-leading.
The marque's roots lie in the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company, a truck manufacturer that was founded by Max Grabowski in 1902. The outfit was purchased by General Motors in 1909 with the intention of having it serve as a division dedicated to building tough and capable trucks. The brand came to be known as GMC Truck; early models include the T16 and T20. Most of the manufacturer's trucks were very utilitarian in nature and functioned as dump trucks, fire trucks and military vehicles. GMC Truck's 3/4-ton Model 16 saw duty in World War I, serving mostly as a battlefield ambulance.
Sales continued to climb in the 1920s. After switching to a six-cylinder Buick-built motor, GMC Truck's 1- and 2-ton trucks earned the distinction of being the fastest in their classes. By the '30s, the line had grown to include everything from half-ton pickups to 10-ton trucks and buses. New models included the popular 1936 Suburban, which was essentially a truck-based station wagon that paired a truck's utility with a car's creature comforts.
World War II was a time of expansion for GMC Truck, thanks to its acquisition of Yellow Truck & Coach. Once again, the automaker's vehicles were tapped for wartime duty. New models like the Jimmy and the DUKW (nicknamed the Duck) were widely used by American troops.
Postwar, GMC Truck models became more consumer-oriented, and many were revamped to offer styling that more closely resembled passenger cars. The 1950s and '60s witnessed an upswing in sales, thanks to the popularity of recreational vehicles like GMC-based motor homes and pickup campers. The Jimmy name was revived and assigned to the brand's first ever sport-utility vehicle in 1970. That decade and the next saw a continued rise in the brand's popularity. The early '90s saw the brief appearance of the Syclone and Typhoon. The former was a small street pickup that burned up the asphalt with its turbocharged V6 and all-wheel drive. The latter was essentially a two-door SUV based on the same platform. Either one of these oddball speedsters could rip through a quarter-mile in around 14 seconds flat, making them among the quickest vehicles ever offered by General Motors. Also, by this time, GMC Truck had trimmed its moniker; the brand is now known simply as GMC.
In the past few decades, GM has consolidated its products and GMC's trucks have become less individualistic as a result. Today, most of GMC's vehicles are virtually identical to those sold by Chevrolet. The main differences lie in minor features and design tweaks that give GMC's offerings a more upscale image.