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1955 GMC L'Universelle Concept Truck

In 1955, General Motors unveiled the GMC L'Universelle concept truck as a glimpse into the future of delivery vehicles. This innovative truck showcased front-wheel drive for increased load capacity, a concept ahead of its time. The L'Universelle's futuristic styling and forward-thinking design influenced the development of the first compact passenger van from Chevrolet, which was built on a Corvair chassis.


The L'Universelle's design was a collaborative effort between GMC and Pontiac, two divisions of General Motors known for their synergy. The truck featured a unique body design with a pair of frenched headlamps, a horizontal grille, and vertical turn signals inspired by Pontiac's design cues. Other divisional influences could also be seen, making it a true representation of General Motors' innovation.


Inside, the L'Universelle's interior was designed around the front mid-engine powertrain, offering a more upscale feel than typical commercial vehicles of that time. The compact and versatile vehicle boasted one of the best examples of component packaging and space efficiency to come out of Detroit in the '50s. Its twin side doors, opening in a "folding gullwing" fashion, provided easy access to the cavernous rear cargo area.


The unconventional driveline of the L'Universelle called for a rear cargo area with a low, flat floor and excellent space utilization, achieved through a radical front-drive powertrain layout. The custom longitudinal front-drive transaxle based on the four-speed GM Hydramatic transmission enabled this innovative solution. The 287 ci Pontiac V-8 engine with a 180 hp rating powered the L'Universelle.


Despite its potential for various applications, including a small bus, taxi, station wagon, or sportsman's car, the L'Universelle remained a dream machine, never making it to mass production. Nevertheless, its influence on minivan design and front-wheel drive technology was evident in later models.


The GMC L'Universelle Dream Truck stands as a testament to the forward-thinking spirit and innovation of General Motors in the 1950s. It left a lasting impression on the automotive industry, even though it disappeared without a trace.