GMC Electrics: The Early Years

Written by Mike Brazeau






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Electric powered cars and trucks are nothing new. GMC produced a complete line of electric trucks from 1912-1917. There were nine standard models ranging from 1,000 lb. to 12,000 lb. capacity. Some sources claim these trucks were also produced under the Rapid name in 1912. General Motors Truck Company was formed in 1911 to handle the sale of Rapid and Reliance Trucks. By 1913, all GM trucks produced were badged as "GMC" Trucks.

The Lansden Company of Newark, New Jersey was producing electric wagons in 1906. The origins of this company are sketchy, but an original catalog in the Thomas Van Degrift collection is proof of this. A February 1912 ad in the Commercial Vehicle magazine states that the GMC Electric is a product of John M. Lansden, Manager of the Electric Division of the General Motors Truck Company. A 1912 GMC Electric catalog states that every GMC Electric is built under the direction of John M. Landsden and of the 600-700 units built in 7 years, all are still in service. The catalog also states that Lansden and his associates were not hampered by expense and were given a clean slate in the perfection and new higher standard of electric truck construction. So somewhere between 1906 and 1912, John M. Lansden was hired by General Motors for his years of electric truck designing, manufacturing and marketing expertise.

A total of 173 electric trucks were produced by GMC in 1912. This accounted for 39.8% of all the trucks GMC produced that year. 509 more were produced between 1913 and 1917. By 1914, GMC Electrics accounted for 22.6% of production, 10.3% in 1915, and 3.2% by 1916. Only one GMC Electric was built in 1917.

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