The Real Reasons Behind the Disappearance of Dual Gas Tanks in Trucks

Source: Wikimedia/dave_7 from Canada

Cars and trucks have undergone hundreds of changes in the more than one hundred years since the internal combustion engine was invented. The first cars that were invented by Henry Ford are a far cry from the cars that are being produced in auto factories today, and there have been some truly odd innovations of design over the decades of automobile development.

The First Car in the Twentieth Century

The Model-T was the first innovation of travel in the early twentieth century, utilizing the new resource of oil that had been found in the ground. The usefulness of car travel over horses or trains made it a necessity to produce a large number of cars very quickly, which was where Henry Ford truly thrived: the production line.

Source: Wikimedia/William Creswell from Bremerton, Washington, USA

Scaling and mass production became significantly easy through Ford’s system, though his contributions to society are not without some flaws. He was also one of the pioneers of the five-day work week, and believed that consumerism was the key to global peace. These are concepts that are being heavily challenged by the modern working society, but they had an important role when Ford was in business.

Significant Innovations From Ford

Ford’s commitment to lowering costs resulted in many technical and business innovations, including a franchise system that put dealerships throughout North America and six other continents.

Source: Wikimedia/

The Ford Motor Company is one of the oldest car companies in America, and Ford led the way to revolutionizing the way that Americans traveled with his invention of the Model-T, and the propagation of the automobile. 

The American Car Brand

It’s understandable, then, why Ford is still one of the most recognizable American brands when it comes to cars. Ford often leads the charge in innovation and affordability, much like the company did when its founder was alive.

Source: Wikimedia/Ivan Radic

The drive for innovation has led Ford to some truly odd choices regarding car design and function over the years. One of the most interesting developments in car design history is the use of a dual gas tank in trucks, a design that featured heavily in trucks of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

Dual Gas Tanks Were Common

This once-common design feature is now considered not only odd, but also potentially dangerous. The point of dual fuel tanks in trucks used to be highly beneficial. Older trucks were often heavier, and were used for heavy work loads such as hauling trailers or driving long distances with a heavy burden.

Source: Wikimedia/Henry.hilliard

Heavier cars necessarily use more gas, and earlier models of trucks were also significantly more inefficient when it came to their gasoline usage. Dual gas tanks would allow drivers to have a sense of security when it came to their fuel usage, since they had a backup if their fuel tank started to run low. 

Modern Cars with One Tank

Modern cars only have one tank, and for trucks, that tank is often quite big. Modern cars can have tanks up to forty gallons, and that is a significant space requirement in modern car construction.

Source: Wikimedia/Kiwiev

This was another perk of dual gas tanks. Splitting the gas burden between two different tanks allowed for smaller space requirements for cars, and less physical maneuvering when it came to the design process. Two 18 gallon tanks accomplished the same function as one 36 gallon tank, with much more flexibility as far as car design. 

Chevy Released Dual Gas Tank Trucks Too

Ford was not the only company that released trucks that featured dual tanks. During the 60’s through the 80’s, Chevy also released trucks that had dual gas tanks, which provided many advantages for both the manufacturers and truck buyers.

Source: Wikimedia/Raul Gonzalez

The flexibility of placement of the fuel tanks was one of the big perks when it came to car design. In the early ‘70s through the late ‘80s, some of Chevy’s trucks featured a side-saddle fuel configuration, with a tank on either side of the bed. Ford, on the other hand, placed its tanks in the front and rear of the pickup, and utilized a fuel tank selector valve.

Peace of Mind and Better Weight Distribution

The dual tank system, in addition to allowing for drivers’ peace of mind with extra tank and flexibility for manufacturers when it came to design, also allowed for improved weight distribution of the cars.

Source: Wikimedia/SG2012

Trucks with two tanks were able to more evenly spread out the weight of the vehicle across the chassis, which is the base metal of the truck that carries the entire body and engine on its structure. Improving balance led to better longevity of these trucks, and fewer repairs for the owners during the lifespan of the vehicle.

Major Downsides as Well

It cannot be denied that there were some significant perks that came with the dual gas tank design of older trucks. However, as with all things, where there are upsides, there are also downsides.

Source: Wikimedia/dave_7

One major issue with the dual tank design was inconvenience when it came to fueling up the car. Owners of trucks with dual gas tanks were required to pump gasoline into two separate tanks in order to completely fill the car, which was annoying, at best.

Valve System Issues

Another issue that these trucks ran into was the valve system malfunctioning. The valve system in these early trucks was the mechanism that would allow drivers to select between different tanks for which was fueling the car, which was one of the major perks of these dual-engine gas tanks.

Source: Wikimedia/RL GNZLZ

Unfortunately, issues with these valve systems were common. Some of the problems included the fuel selector valves experiencing electric shorting and ceasing to function, and even bigger issues like one tank overfilling the other through the system. 

A Problematic Design

One of the most troubling problems with the dual gas tank system, though, involved Chevy’s side saddle design. This is where the automaker put a tank on each side of the truck, outside of the frame.

Source: Wikimedia/Prins Autogas

The design left the gas tanks vulnerable to outside influences, because they weren’t protected by the body of the truck the way traditional gas tanks were. This meant that, during collisions, these tanks were less protected and posed a greater risk of puncture, leading to fire and potential explosions.

Multiple Fatal Accidents

This unfortunate risk was realized multiple times over the lifespans of these trucks. According to The Center for Auto Safety, more than 2000 fatal accidents involving fire occurred between 1973 to 2009 in Chevy Trucks with side saddle fuel tanks.

Source: Wikimedia/Palauenc05

The danger of this particular design is what pushed automakers to change their tune, as well as advancements in fuel efficiency. 

Still Available in Some Cars

While the dual gas tank is no longer as common as it once was, it can still be seen in some models of special commercial trucks. One model is the RAM 4500 Tradesman, which allows you to add 52 and 22-gallon dual fuel tanks for an additional fee on the purchase price.

Source: Wikimedia/TaurusEmerald

The increased fuel efficiency is compounded by increasing size of pickup trucks in recent years, allowing for manufacturers to make fuel tanks as large as necessary without compromising design. While the dual gas tank was an interesting feature of car making history, it’s likely one that’s better left in the past. 

A Fun Marvel

For those fascinated by car history, the existence of dual gas tanks in old pickup trucks is something of a quirky marvel. They’re not necessary anymore, much like CD’s gave way to MP3 players and digital tunes, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not a fun collectible if you’re so inclined.

Source: Wikimedia/Reinhold Möller

The safety issues mean that this particular design is better left in the past, though, something that auto manufacturers seem to agree on. Ford thought that consumerism was the way to world peace, and that means that the consumer, ultimately, needs to come first.

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James Cross

Written by James Cross

James Cross, an enigmatic writer from the historic city of Boston. James' writing delves into mysteries, true crime, and the unexplained, crafting compelling narratives that keep readers and viewers on the edge of their seats. His viral articles, blog posts, and documentary-style videos explore real-life enigmas and unsolved cases, inviting audiences to join the quest for answers. James' ability to turn real mysteries into shareable content has made him a sensation in the world of storytelling.

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