It may not be quite old enough to be a Curbside Classic (consensus seems to put the bar at around 20 years), but as the parts-runner and tow vehicle for many honest-to-goodness CCs over the years – and having played a significant part in my own automotive evolution – I decided to give it its moment in the sun.
I started doing freelance consulting work back in 2000. In 2005, I graduated high school. And by 2006, I had a little storefront office just off Main Street and a small but growing list of new clients. My personal vehicle was an ’85 Regal with a recently swapped-in 307 and a decent case of frame rot (which will likely get its own article soon), and while it was getting the job done, it wasn’t quite a work truck.
So as the summer of 2007 arrived, I began shopping for a truck – my first actual vehicle purchase, the Regal having been handed down through the family prior to my owning it. Craigslist wasn’t yet on my radar (or much of anyone else’s around here), so I was reduced to hunting the old fashioned way, by burning through newsprint and shoe leather.
My requirements? It had to be GM. It had to be clean and straight. It had to have a V6 – the Buick had taught me all I needed to know about commuting and V8s. It had to be something made within the last dozen or so years, so it wouldn’t be a turn-off to the clients (most of whom were of far greater means than I and wouldn’t ever consider driving something old). And it had to be reasonably priced.
In the weeks that followed I looked at umpteen different rustbuckets and rattletraps. People, it seemed, tended to be unkind to their trucks, second only to road salt in their indifference and will for destruction.
It wasn’t until I stumbled onto the lot of a implement dealer that I’d find my future work truck. As part of their relationship with a tire dealer in Iowa, they had taken a bunch of Chevy pickups on consignment in addition to the usual straight trucks and other heavy rigs. They were all decent enough, but one in particular stood out.
One-owner, fleet maintained, no rust, 140K miles, 4.3, auto, all for $3800. It was a little more than I wanted to pay, but I had grown weary of the hunt – so I took it. Since they wouldn’t come down on the price at all, I got them to throw in some parts for my old Farmall… gotta get something more for my money!
Many, many stories followed. Through both victory and defeat, the truck always kept on fighting.
My mechanical experience was fairly slim upon buying the truck. Sure, I’d done tune-ups on the Buick, and watched my dad do just about every automotive task known to man over the years, but doing it yourself was a whole different ball of wax. In the 108,000 miles I’d rack up over the next five years, I had the pleasure (ha!) of doing everything from wheel bearings and ball joints, to fuel pumps and exhaust… some before they failed, some after. (And a couple after spectacular failure while going down the road. You learn quickly which parts can wait, and which ones aren’t messing around when they threaten to go.)
At 200K the motor developed a bottom-end knock. I couldn’t risk having it blow up at an inopportune moment, so I bought my first-ever crate motor. My dad and I installed it outdoors, in the middle of winter, since that was really the only choice at the time. You haven’t lived until you’ve flirted with frostbite while laying under a truck for hours, struggling to break loose bolts stuck in place by a decade of rust.
Eventually I began buying and fixing vehicles on my own, as both a hobby and a supplemental source of income. I bought a car dolly. The truck didn’t exactly like being a tow rig, but it toughed it out and did its thing. In 2011 we moved the office into a new building. Again, the truck served admirably as we hauled load after load out of the old downtown office.
All those loads took their toll. Finally last fall, at 245K miles, the slushbox said ‘uncle’ and let go (such are 4L60Es). I had a low-mile tranny I’d been saving for such an occasion, so in it went.
But the truck’s days in my fleet were numbered. Just days before its tranny died, I had scooped up this 2003 Silverado for $825… wouldn’t run, shot tires, expired tabs, owner was in a jam and “just wanted it gone”. New tires and a set of junkyard injectors solved most of its problems. It was already in line to take the 98’s place as my company daily driver; the incident merely hastened the transition.
Once the transmission swap was completed, the old truck was immediately demoted to backup status. It accumulated another 3000 miles before I finally decided to cut it loose last week… better to pass it on than let it rust, I figured.
With the bedliner, headache rack, and all the other goodies removed, my old faithful rig went up for sale. An old man from a neighboring town bought it within hours of my parking it in the front yard. He was impressed by its refreshed drivetrain and body condition… this many years and miles later and it’s still well above average.
Like many of the vehicles I’ve owned, it’s hard to say goodbye – but the limits of practicality prevent me from keeping them all.
So here’s to you, old Silverado… the truck that my business grew up with, that taught me what owning a truck was all about, the rock-solid daily driver that carried me through those feast-or-famine years. There will surely be many more like you as the years go by, but never will there be another quite the same.
Farewell, old friend!