It’s hard to put in perspective, just how cool it is that Chevrolet has reached the 100-year mile-mark for truck production. They started building trucks in 1918, and have built a legacy that is going to continue on for generations.
Over the last century, Chevy has produced more than 85-million trucks, and they’ve seen a huge amount of change in the industry. As part of their 100-year anniversary, the current chief engineer of the truck division visited the former chief engineer of the truck division, Paul Hitch, who held that position from 1965 to 1976. Mr. Hitch just turned 101-years old. Another way of looking at it, he was born only one-year before Chevy started making trucks.
This article on the Chevrolet website talks about the meeting between Eric Stanczak, current chief engineer of trucks, and Paul Hitch, and includes a cool, short video of some of that meeting. Part of what makes this meeting so cool is that at 101-years old, Paul is probably one of the only living people that worked at Chevrolet as far back as 1935. He was there during the depression, and stuck around until his retirement in the late ‘70s. He saw trucks go from simple utility rigs to a pleasure vehicle and family haulers.
If you’re a fan of any Chevrolet truck built between 1965 and 1976, you should thank Mr. Hitch, because he played a major hand in engineering it. “1973 was my best truck,” Paul said, “It’s still a good truck.” Even more notably, however, than his part in developing the pickups during the late ‘60s and ‘70s, Paul was instrumental in the creation of Chevrolet’s answer to Ford’s Bronco: The Blazer.
“We were trying to compete with the Ford Bronco, so we discussed it. I said, ‘Why don’t we just take a Chevrolet pickup, cut the wheel base to 104 inches, marry the pickup box to it, and see what that does?’,” Paul explained. The sales department estimated they could only sell 300 of them a year. But, in that first year, they sold 5,000 of them. The only reason they didn’t sell more was because they lacked to tooling to produce a greater volume.
If you’re a GM-history buff, a pickup person, or a Blazer person, this video, and the details on Paul’s life, should definitely bear interest to you. It’s really cool to see how things have changed over the years, and to watch the interaction between the current and former chief’s of the Chevy truck engineering. Paul was an innovator of his time, leaving the Bronco and early ‘70s pickups as his legacy. What will Eric leave as his? What will he be talking about when he is 100-years old? Only time will tell.
We really appreciate that Chevrolet put this video together. Our history is really what makes us who we are, and it drives the passion for our hobby. It’s also a really cool take on what we do with our cars and trucks. We love taking an old rig and dropping in a new engine, essentially marrying the old to new.
This conversation puts one of Chevrolet’s oldest retirees with their new, current truck engineer, and we think that serves as a great representation of what we are all about: we appreciate and love what is old because of the history and innovation that it held at the time, but we never stop looking forward and taking advantage of the new technologies that present themselves to us.