Last Updated on October 28, 2022 by Victor A
SUVs have a long history, they’ve been with us for a while, however, most people believe that they are a recent trend and that they appeared out of nowhere a few years ago.
The reality is that SUVs have been around us for more than eighty years. Their market share started growing in the 90s, and in the past fifteen years it accelerated, but you could find many before that.
Now that you know about this, the next curiosity that might pop up in your head is to know what was the first SUV ever made, and who made the first-ever SUV. Well, no worries about that because we are going to solve all your questions and give you some extra history classes. So let’s get started!
The first SUV ever made, the 1935 Chevrolet Carryall Suburban
Chevrolet can be credited to be the first automaker to introduce a mass-market SUV to the automotive world, the Suburban Carryall can be considered the father of today’s full-size SUVs.
It was a vehicle conceived to be used for transporting commuters to and from train stations, it had two doors, it could carry up to eight occupants or you could take out most seats so it could be used for transporting cargo.
The 1935 Chevrolet Carryall Suburban was powered by an inline six-cylinder engine that could produce 60 hp, and it would be considered the most powerful SUV for ten years since there weren’t many competitors in the following years.
When it came to off-roading capabilities, the 1935 Suburban was a car that couldn’t do much in those conditions as its ground clearance was low, and it was a rear-wheel-drive vehicle. However, the vehicle was built on a pickup truck chassis which gave it more durability.
Four-wheel drive was non-existent in the first SUVs
The first SUVs were low-volume vehicles that used sedan and station-wagon body style with a more rugged look, some of those vehicles were the 1936 Opel Geländesportwagen, 1938 GAZ-61, and the 1941 Volkswagen Kommandeurswagen; SUVs started appearing all over the world, they weren’t limited to only the USA.
Between 1930 and 1948, the first SUVs were rear-wheel drive as the cost of producing the vehicles was lower than four-wheel drive. If manufacturers wanted to manufacture four-wheel-drive SUVs they would’ve ended up paying double the costs due to the lack of some critical parts, plus the need for more parts, and the complexity in the manufacturing process.
Thankfully this was solved in 1942 when Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge joined together to produce the critical parts in mass quantities so the cost would reduce and it would lead to a new era of four-wheel-drive SUVs.
The first SUVs had military roots
The US Army needed vehicles that were capable and durable, they needed them to carry soldiers through the roughest terrains, and by putting out a request to over 130 companies they managed to get a response from two of them.
Willy’s Overland was one of them; they came out with a prototype called the Jeep, which the US government commissioned over a hundred of these off-road SUVs before World War II. The Ford Motor Company was the other company to respond, they helped with production and they managed to manufacture over 700,000 cars for the US Army.
Two British brothers Spencer and Maurice Wilks used similar specifications as the Jeep to create the Land Rover, a 4×4 vehicle that was launched in April 1948 and that would be designed to fit more the needs of farmers rather than the military, however, it would also be used by the army.
Japan also had its share in the SUV beginnings, in 1950 the US military needed vehicles when the Korean War broke out. By 1953 Toyota already had an answer, the Toyota Land Cruiser, an SUV that was rugged, large, had 4-wheel drive, and that was later used by the Japanese National Police Agency.
The first SUV ever made was also born because of war
The 1935 Chevrolet Carryall Suburban was the first-ever SUV, but it also had military roots. In 1933 Chevrolet built a Suburban for the National Guard and the Civilian Conservation Corps. It could seat up to eight passengers and most of the body was made from wood.
The name “Suburban” is among the longest-lived names in automotive history; it’s still used today, over 80 years later. And Chevrolet didn’t trademark the name “Suburban” at its time, which led other car manufacturers to use the name.
Today, the Suburban is in its 12th generation, the car boasts strong sales and a wide following.
And in case you were curious, the 1935 Chevrolet Carryall Suburban used to cost $675 (about $13,500 in 2022 dollars), while the latest-gen Suburban has a starting price of $51,700.
There are more examples of SUVs with a military heritage, like the Mercedes G-Wagon, etc. But you get the idea, today Chevrolet, Jeep, Land Rover, and Toyota are among the most important car manufacturers that offer SUVs in their line-up, the Suburban and the Land Cruiser are still alive today boasting of the best technology and incredible capabilities.
SUVs have a rich heritage, even though today most are less capable and look less rugged as the needs have changed and technology and a mature market has allowed automakers to produce them at a lower cost, they are still great cars, they provide comfort, space, and a sense of security that no other vehicle segment can achieve.
SUVs have changed a lot
As time went on, the market evolved, which led to an increased effort from the brands to develop new types of SUVs, and new options. We aren’t limited to the same type of SUVs, they have more technology, they come faster, some even are more capable than ever.
We went from having boxy SUVs that were meant to be used off-road, to seeing sleek crossover SUVs that are meant to be driving only in the cities while having very few capabilities.
As the segment exploded in popularity, it gave us countless options, we can still find affordable SUVs that can be used in the harshest conditions, while we can find luxury SUVs that can be used anywhere.
Today, we have SUVs in every price range, and for every necessity. And that’s a good thing, the more options the better.
We can expect to see many new types of SUVs in the following years as the growth continues, and brands keep on giving us exciting models.