Functionality “supremely important”

2002 GMC Terra4 conceptUntil just before the turn of this century, General Motor’s GMC brand was sort of absent in the concept vehicle department. But the truck division started to show signs of creative life in the late 1980s. Even then, most of GMC’s one-offs for the next decade appeared more show truck than concept vehicle being primarily modified production models.

Then, starting in 2000, something changed; maybe it was the result of some board room decision, maybe it was at the behest of designers and engineers. In any event, GMC started a pattern of regularly producing truly interesting concepts that would continue for several years.

For 2002, they built the Terra4 concept truck. It was used to showcase GMC’s innovation capabilities and celebrate an important milestone.



Do I look old?
1912 GMC Truck first logo (General Motors Company Trucks)You know, I suppose it’s conceivable GMC started acting spry and putting out concepts in 2000 because the truck company saw it’s hundredth birthday rapidly approaching.

Even if there is a dash of truth to my cynical levity, who cares? I love the fact that another vehicle manufacturer was pulling back the curtain to allow us mere common folk a peek at what goes on in the minds of their designers and engineers.

Before getting into Terra4, the important milestone I referred to above was GMC’s 100th anniversary. It occurred in 2002 since the company was technically founded in 1902; although, it hadn’t yet gained its familiar three-letter title. Back then, what would become GMC was two separate companies: Reliance Motor Car Company and Rapid Motor Vehicle Company, both were founded independently in 1902.

1912 GMC Truck (first model)The latter was established by two brothers by the names of Max and Morris Grabowsky. The Grabowski name has led to, sometimes contentious, debates about whether “GMC” is an acronym for Grabowski Motor Company. However, I could find no reference to “GMC” being used prior to 1911 and information from GM Archives does not support the theory. In 1909, GM bought both the Rapid and Reliance companies and merged them in 1912 by putting “GMC Truck” logos on some of their models; by 1913, all Rapid and Reliance trucks were branded as “GMC Trucks”.

Above right is what is reported to be the first use of the new division’s logo from 1912. It supports the notion that the acronym “GMC” of GMC Trucks stood for General Motors Company. Above left is a picture of the first GMC Truck, a 1912 model. (Both images and references courtesy GM Archives.)

The 2002 anniversary, therefore, was relative to the founding date of Rapid and Reliance, not the GMC Truck name. Incidentally, the “Truck” part of the designation was dropped for 1996 as a means to promote GMC vehicles as alternatives to cars.

Four-by-4
According to statements provided by GM that were made in 2001 by Carl Zipfel, GMC’s then brand character chief designer, “The truck market has undergone a radical shift as trucks have moved away from being strictly work vehicles to being vehicles for personal use.”

In this concept, they tried to cater to both uses by making the truck easier to live with, through functionality.

2002 GMC Terra4 concept rear left
One thing seems apparent, Mr. Zipfel or someone else near to the project must have been fond of the number four. The Terra4 has four key features: four doors, four-wheel-drive, four-wheel steering, and four ways to access its cargo area.


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