Following up on Paul’s book review of “Driving While Black” (a really great book, available at your local bookstore), and my writeup on Ford Parcel Delivery Trucks, here’s a GMC Value-Van I came upon today during one of my Corona-walks, featuring some commentary on recent events.
I’ve been delving into the “Driving While Black” book, and it really does make you think.
Have you ever been pulled over for speeding? For having a turn signal light out, or expired registration? Do you remember the terror you feel as the officer comes to your door, wondering what will transpire next? Have you ever been driving and had a police car tail you for a number of blocks, seemingly waiting for any minor transgression? I remember in my younger, faster-driving and uglier-car days the low-grade terror I felt when being followed by a cop-car for a few blocks.
Many folks of color live with that terror every day, magnified even more so by the realization that if they do get pulled over, or stopped while walking down the street, or in any number of other situations, they are many more times likely to be subject to arbitrary arrest/detention and/or violence against their person, with the further knowledge that the courts are predisposed against them. As has been documented many times in recent days, polite cooperation is not always sufficient to avoid such treatment.
The thing is, those indignities still happen today, with soul-deadening regularity and with no end in sight. Despair has finally led to indignation, which has led to the protests we are experiencing over the past few weeks.
Buried within the anger is the simple plea to be finally treated in all respects and with all the rights and considerations due to each and every one of us, as human beings, and as full citizens of the United States of America.
GMC Value-Vans and the identical Chevrolet Step Vans were available from 1958, with the third generation debuting in 1967 and production continuing all the way to 1992. (Thank you the very interesting Czech-based website chevroletclub.net).
In 1969 Value-Vans and Step-Vans were available with either aluminum or steel bodies. Different from Ford, General Motors built their standard bodies in-house, in a dizzying array of styles and sizes, in 1500, 2500, and 3500 sizes for the GMC version, and with gasoline six and V-8, and THREE CYLINDER Detroit Diesels, and 3- and 4-speed manual transmissions along with the Hydramatic.
By 1976 the diesel was gone, and the 400 cid V-8 was available, with a 4-barrel carb. Transmission choices were down to a 3-speed manual or the Hydramatic, and there are no changes of significance to the outward appearance. I would guess that at this time what is now Morgan-Olson produces the aluminum body and Union City produces the steel one. I don’t understand why the grille is different on the aluminum body.
By 1985 the choices are down to the 5.7 L V-8 or the 6.2 L Diesel. Outwardly no differences are apparent.
The last brochure I have been able to track down is for the Chevy version in 1990, though both the GMC and Chevy versions were apparently produced until 1992. After that General Motors just produced stripped chassis for folks like Utilimaster to put their bodies on.
I have no idea what year the subject Value-Van is from, though I note it does has an automatic transmission. That gauge cluster looks slightly modern, but this truck didn’t show up on the smog-check database, so I’m going to guess 1976.
I still remember the actual terror that enveloped me in the early 1990’s when I was pulled over, arrested (and very roughly treated), for speeding on a sleepy Saturday afternoon on a highway outside a small town in North Carolina. I was driving just like a kid in their early 20’s who grew up in Southern California would drive, if they found themselves with a few hours to kill before their flight-cost-saving Saturday-night stay was over, and were driving a rental car which was in much better shape than anything they had ever driven before, with an empty open road in front of them.
There is a long story about that, which ended up o.k. for me, but I wonder what would have happened to me if I had been of a different color. I never thought about that incident this way before, but after reading “Driving While Black” and listening to the many stories which have made their way through newspapers and social media over the past few weeks, I do now. Let’s hope things get better – a whole lot better.
Related Curbside Classics Articles: