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The New 1937 Canadian GMC Pickup

It appears the GMC Division of General Motors in the United States wanted no part of using a Chevrolet low oil pressure engine for their 1936 introduction into the pickup truck market. GMC had previously been GM’s big truck provider however the Great Depression of the 1930’s required emergency changes. Quickly.

Large GMC truck sales in the US had reached such low numbers that something (a small pickup) had to be introduced immediately. Many US GMC big truck dealers had gone out of business and others were surviving only by repair work or equipment selling, marketing used cars, and laying off employees.

In Canada the GMC financial disaster was not the same as there were no “stand alone GMC dealers”. A ½ ton GMC pickup would be good in Canada but no one would be required to have a “GMC Only” franchise. GM of Canada used Pontiac Buick car dealers to market the GMC pickups for many years. Each of the dealers were probably required to stock at least one pickup at the beginning and a supply of new very basic repair parts that would be needed. (In Canada, the new GMC pickup was introduced in 1937, not 1936 as in the US). Canadian sales were slow in the beginning, mostly because of the Great Depression years. Only about 800 found owners throughout Canada that year.

The Canadian Chevrolet car and truck dealer would also have a supply of new parts that covered everything that the GMC pickup needed mechanically except the aluminum pistons. Many Pontiac Buick dealers would probably obtain their mechanical parts in their town from the local Chevrolet dealer rather than wait for an order from the main GM supplier in Oshawa, Ontario of a week or more.

There was not a GMC with larger gross weight produced in the factory at Oshawa, Ontario. If you wanted a large General Motors truck made in Canada, you bought it from a Chevrolet dealer under the name Maple Leaf. Most all came with 20” tires as did the US made GMC 1 ½ ton. The Maple Leaf was available and assembled only in Canada from 1931 through 1951. Most all was like the US Chevrolets except for the grill, front fenders, bumper and related attachments. We assume GM of Canada gave it a more patriotic name to encourage sales as well as the front sheet metal looking much different than the US Chevrolet large trucks.

The new 1937 Canadian GMC ½ ton was to be (by tradition) a truck that provided more power than Chevrolet. Therefore, the total Canadian ½ ton truck would cost a bit more with a totally different front grill and bumper but lowered some production costs by not using an Oldsmobile engine that was in the US GMC at the beginning.

The new Canadian GMC powered pickup used a 216 Chevy engine with larger diameter cylinders to create 224 cubic inches. Bore size increased from 3 ½ to 3 9/16. Aluminum pistons also added more power over the 216 Chevy six cylinder engines with their heavy cast iron design. Note: This extra horsepower 224 sic cylinder (modified 216) was continued in the GMC pickup through 1939. It was in 1940 that GM of Canada began the traditional 216 as was in all Chevrolets. (The oversized aluminum pistons were no longer used). This 216 continue to be the GMC pickup power until the end of 1952.

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