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It's like having a lot of old friends I haven't met.
Ken Yanko
1952 GMC 1/2-ton

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Truck weights and ratings sure are confusing, aren't they? Come on, really? It's a "1.5-Ton" truck, yet the data plate says it's rated for 19,500 lbs? What's up with that? So just what *do* all those ratings and terminology really mean? Dave "53 Moneypit" Gentry (our moderator for the Engine Shop forum) has answered this question so many times in the various forums, we figured we'd make it a Tech Tip so he can just link to it for a change! Be confused no longer!

Gross Vehicle Weight of Your Old Truck
A short lesson
By Dave "53Moneypit" Gentry
1953 Chevy 5-Window
Bolter #3963
Elizabeth, CO
More discussion about this topic in the Big Bolts Forum July 29, 2013

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) and Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)



A little more info from Wikipedia

The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), or gross vehicle mass (GVM) is the maximum operating weight / mass of a vehicle as specified by the manufacturer including the vehicle's chassis, body, engine, engine fluids, fuel, accessories, driver, passengers and cargo but excluding that of any trailers. The term is used for motor vehicles and trains.

The weight of a vehicle is influenced by passengers, cargo, even fuel level, so a number of terms are used to express the weight of a vehicle in a designated state.

Gross combined weight rating refers to the total mass of a vehicle, including all trailers. GVWR and GCWR both describe a vehicle that is in operation and are used to specify weight limitations and restrictions.

Curb weight describes a vehicle which is "parked at the curb" and excludes the weight of any occupants or cargo. See Tare Weight, also.

Dry weight further excludes the weight of all consumables, such as fuel and oils.

Gross trailer weight rating specifies the maximum weight of a trailer and the gross axle weight rating specifies the maximum weight on any particular axle.

The topic of 1- vs 1.5- vs 2-ton trucks has come up many times in the forums. There really is only one way to determine the capacity of a truck chassis and this is by its GVWR and GAWR -- that's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating and Gross Axle Weight Rating.

It's the same for all trucks. Even our lil' Marianne (the '53 5-window) has a GVW tag. It works on old and new trucks from 1/4-ton (small Toyota/Ranger size) all the way up to Class 8 semi tractors and beyond. They are all engineered to take a specific load task so there you have it.

The rating describes how the truck was built and what the builder claims / intends as capacity rating. Forget that it is seldom considered when loading ... happens often to a great many trucks.

The terms "one-ton," "ton and a half" and "two-ton" are hold overs from the old days of the 1930's - 1940's and referred to the capacity rating of the front axle.

So if your truck was a "2-ton," it meant the front axle could support the truck's weight and a load of two tons. Now that isn't much but you must absolutely get a 1940's mind-set going, if this is to make any sense to you. It does to me but I'm older.

Thinking like this allows me to remember the size of delivery / farm trucks from earlier times and then I relate it to today's chassis. Nowadays, the capacities of chassis are considerably higher than from those from earlier times.

For example:

Wetwilly says his 1955 2-ton is rated at 18,000 GVWR. Let's see how that compares:

Today, that would equate to a Ford F450-F550 chassis or Navistar TerraStar which has 19.5' wheels and a low profile as compared to yesteryear's trucks which we consider as "real trucks" while newer ones are kind of puny-looking.

The best way to make a comparison is to look at the Class rating.

Today we have trucks divided into the following classification by GVWR:

Class   Weight / lbs   Examples
Class   0-6000    
Class II   6001-10000    
Class III   10001 - 14000   F350-GM3500-3500 Ram
Class IV   14001 - 16000   F450-4500 Ram
Class V   16001 - 19500   F550-5500 Ram- Isuzu NPR
Class VI   19501 - 26000   F650-F750
Class VII   26001 - 33000    
Class VIII   33001 - +   All tandem trucks and heavy single axles

As stated a great many of today's trucks and the older ones, too, are overloaded. I've often done it myself and with no repercussions worthy of report. So there is little of anything to be learned from the old terminology.

So, just do the math.

It's just another aspect of understanding your truck. Plus, we can all use the current terminology so that the "What did I buy?" questions can be laid to rest.

What you can load / haul will begin to make some sense, too.


Have you checked the forums? You have an old truck and an insatiable desire to work on it, drive it, learn more about it. You are not alone. There are others like you ... many others ...

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