Words by Jacob Cetnar and Photos by Chris Penree:
In the year 1967, many would agree that Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet pickup trucks ruled the land. International, Toyota, and a few others had trucks, but they did not have the popularity and mystique of “the big three” American brands. They were producing rugged, V8 powered trucks that had decades of history and brand loyalty to help drive sales. The big three tirelessly increased payload capacities, towing ratings, power, and features to try to beat their competitors. But what if I told you there was a totally different option? A company that, despite its lack of prominence in the truck market, made a truck that was arguably better in many ways.
This is a German company you may have heard of called Volkswagen. Admittedly, I am about as far from a Volkswagen expert as possible, but I am infatuated with the pickup truck as a vehicle. As a result, I was simultaneously puzzled and amazed by this creation. As our cameraman and I evaluated this truck-van thing we were looking at, he finally mustered up the strength to ask the question we were both thinking, “Did you make this out of a van or did Volkswagen actually sell pickup trucks?” As I shuddered at my own ignorance the owner chuckled and introduced us to this alien body upon which we were gazing.
In order to use their current van platform, these trucks had a very different form factor than a typical American truck. Like a Volkswagen van you sat over the front tires, the 40 horsepower air cooled engine was in the back, and no 4×4 or all-wheel drive options were available. Although these are substantial disadvantages compared to an American truck, the Volkswagen makes up for it in many amazing ways. Its major advantage is that the bed has fold down sides and a perfectly flat load floor. Due to its small tires, the load floor is about the same height as a normal pickup. This makes hauling cargo more efficient than an American truck. Additionally, two large underbody storage compartments can be used to store tools and equipment out of the elements. As crazy as it may sound, even in modern times I think this truck would be a capable and efficient work vehicle for the right application.
If you look closely at the driver’s door you can see the words “Alto Manufacturing Company, Chicago IL” in faded paint. This truck started its life as a work truck for Alto, a steel manufacturing company. Most likely due to the low, flat load floor Alto decided this truck was the best fit for their business. Based on the condition of the bed when Chris got it, it was clear Alto had gotten their money’s worth throughout the years. Thankfully, it was eventually retired from duty and sold to Florida where Chris purchased the truck sight unseen. When Chris saw the ad he knew he had to have it. The remarkable condition for its abusive life and the company history made it the perfect truck for Chris. Its original paint job was unique and had the perfect patina that he was looking for. Upon arrival he replaced the floor of the bed and made it mechanically sound. He has been driving it ever since, not bad for a 50 year old truck!
Fortunately, in 2018 this truck will not be seen hauling heavy loads of steel or building materials for a manufacturing company. Instead, this truck from the middle of the country has two period correct surf boards above the bed, resulting in an interesting blend of corporate America and California surfer! Chris and his wife, Lori, primarily drive it to car shows and to get ice cream on the weekends. Apex would like to thank Chris and Lori Klish for showing us their beautiful 1967 Volkswagen T1 Pickup Truck!