I’ve always liked the 1973-87 Chevy trucks. This one stood out among the lease vehicles and other Los Angeles commuter warriors, a little after 8 one morning. I was able to pull up alongside the truck, but not to squeeze off a photo in position. It’s a C-10 (2WD) “Bonanza” truck.
The profusion of truck trim levels isn’t something that Ford invented in the last decade, though the Harley-Davidson and King Ranch pickups may represent the perfection of truck optioning. Chevy offered the Custom Deluxe, Cheyenne, Scottsdale, and Silverado trim levels. How do people even know what kind of seat cushion they’re getting, now that every pickup is a Silverado?
According to the Chevy enthusiasts, Bonanza was a factory option package consisting of Scottsdale trim plus automatic, power steering, and tilt wheel, and further tiers to include air conditioner and cruise control. So if 4 levels isn’t enough, maybe 5 will do.
I always saw these and the square F150s as the quintessential “truck” growing up. I remember especially how a friend’s dad had one, it was two tone red and silver and really sharp.
Also remember back in the day a lot of people putting those white caps over the rear bed. This doesn’t seem to happen now, maybe SUVs or new regulations?
My father still has a camper shell / topper on the ’98 Dodge Ram 1500 he purchased new. He had one on the ’84 F-150 before it. My father-in-law has one on his ’01 Ram.
I find them a nuisance as visibility is greatly diminished.
I used to get one of those fiberglass caps each time I bought a new pickup, mostly for sleeping in on camping trips. Im too old to do that anymore. I have a slide in camper with more luxury now. The caps also kept cargo dry and protected from theft.
We allowed passengers to ride back there decades ago, so seat belt laws indeed may also be a factor.
Yes….I would very much, love to get my hands on one of these. They are few, and far between, here in Southern Ontario. I’m comfortable with” natural Patina” . I still see a few carefully, rust proofed examples on the road here. A journey down to the USA, might just be in my future ???
Plan on going far south or west, as these early ones just dissolved anywhere salt was used, as you know well.
These used to be thick on the ground here in southern Indiana/western Kentucky but the tin worm has gotten most of them by now. One of these is on my Powerball list but it is hard to imagine ever finding one that isn’t ready to dissolve completely.
This generation’s bodies rusted from the top down here on the foggy West coast. GM used its first water based paint in California assembly plants with disastrous results. I just dont see any survivors out here, only the inland desert areas.
There aren’t a whole lot of these left here in central VA…though rust isn’t a huge factor around here due to a lack of road salt, I think it got a lot of them in the end.
They did used to be everywhere though. When I was in the Boy Scouts two of the leaders had Chevys of this generation, both single-cab 2wd models with bed toppers, which served as equipment haulers on our camping trips.
Orrin, truck caps are plenty prevalent in Michigan. In fact, my Grandfathers last two trucks have had them, and that includes his current one. They have become harder to find because they do not actually decrease drag, as some believed. They are also harder to find due to the prevalence of tonneau covers.
It was very much a product of the RV boom in the late 60s…depending on where you lived, they were called “toppers” (like around here), or they were called “camper shells.” Also depending on where you lived, practically the only pickups you wouldn’t see with a topper on would be jacked-up 4x4s or crew cab construction trucks.
Nowadays if you see a truck set up like they were “back in the day” (RCLB, 4×2, topper), 99% of the time the driver will be over 65.
We still have a 6.5′ fiberglass topper that gets put on the “nice pickup” in winter, mostly to keep cargo out of the snow. I think it gives about .5 better MPG, too, but that’s not worth keeping it on all year.
Took me a moment to unpack RCLB as “regular cab, longbed”; I’ve seen (here?) optioned-up versions of such referred to as an “old-man pickup”.
I have owned about 5 of the 74-87 Chevy pickups and have had a couple more in my family. They were a pretty easy “flip” in the nineties and weren’t hard to come by.
Camper shells on the other hand were a total waste of time for me. You usually could pick one of the old school aluminum ones up for around a hundred bucks around here and I have seen people use them as shelter for their dogs but they usually screwed up the loading and carrying in the back of a working truck.
These ’73 GM trucks were a real big step in making trucks more “car like”. The previous generation, my favorite, had a plain, flat, painted metal dash that I really liked. All these fancy trim levels also didnt exist. There was a base model, which I had, Custom with a bigger rear window and some exterior chrome, and the Custom Sport Truck (CST) which was fairly rare that had some fake wood bits along with extra chrome.
What is really odd is that on the later generation, ’88-’98, Cheyenne was the base trim, below Scottsdale, reversed from the brochure page shown above.
I own a 1987 Custom Deluxe, and we used to have a 1989 Scottsdale. The GMT400 Scottsdale sure is a rare beast! Ours had A/C, full instrumentation, AM/FM radio, vinyl floor covering, and a headliner. The only luxury amenity that it didn’t have was power windows or locks.
The Custom Deluxe wasn’t very “deluxe”. There are no dashboard vents, no A/C, no headliner, ….
I’d have the Scottsdale personally.
I always thought model/trim names like Custom Deluxe or Special Deluxe were a bit silly. I mean, wouldn’t something that’s deluxe be “special”? Or wouldn’t something “custom” be deluxe?
That said, I’ve always loved these trucks and that yellow color….or nearly any shade of yellow.
Drove my father’s F-100 with a “topper” on it. It makes the truck’s cab darker as it blocks direct sunlight, has added blind spots, blocks you from carrying REALLY odd sized items without removing it….a job that requires a small team.
Well, Custom was usually the basic trim, because it came with nothing, and if you wanted any options it became a “custom order.” “Special” is much the same way–I recall John Deere made a 1010 Special tractor, which was their regular 1010 with several options and conveniences deleted to save money, stuff like hydraulics or a cushioned seat. “Deluxe” implies something fancier than your basic model but is mostly just an empty marketing term.
It was like the old Sears Catalog: Good, Better, or Best. There was no Poor or Mediocre grade.
Maybe “Custom” was a reminder to buy more options.
There was some name debasement involved.
Custom was originally the (only) upgrade in the ’60s, then the CST was added above it, and the Cheyenned above that in the ’67-72 era. For ’73 Custom became the base model with Custom Deluxe a step up, and from ’75 the base model was Custom Deluxe.
Camper shells were really common with single cab trucks for weather protection and lockable storage. With most trucks today being king or crew cabs, you have room for lockable storage out of the weather and also the ability to carry tall loads in the bed without the limitations of space under a camper shell. Makes for a useful combination. I doubt there will ever be a time again where you see one basic body style for 14 years like these 73-87 Chevys.
Actually, that is 15 model years. Plus, the same bodystyle was used on suburbans and 1-ton trucks through 1990 I believe.
To follow up on your lemon merangue pie theme, this one even has the perfectly browned edges in the merangue. 🙂
This generation of Chevy trucks never did it for me. Going from 72 to 73 got you the same fall-off in body qualility that you got at Dodge the year before, just without the chassis upgrades of the Dodge. So, while the Dodge made that tradeoff worthwhile, there never seemed like much reason to replace a 67-72 Chevy with one of these.
This particular vintage of Chevy truck has a special place in my heart. My step-grandfather had one much like it, and I would spend hours playing in it. Often, he would let me steer while on the road, which almost ended badly only a handful of times.
Nice picture. My first “drive” with the steering wheel was also in one of these, my grandfather’s 1976 Custom Deluxe.
Sure looks rusty for a California truck, but the license plate must mean it is a California Native and wonder if that is a third brakelight on the rear of the cab? I suspect if this was inland more it would be rustier and more faded. Wonder how hard it is to get this to pass the Smog test every year since everyone of these gives off that old car exhaust smell. Looks like the Merc decided not to brake for a yellow or red light, wonder if the camera dinged them?
They didnt get EFI until the last year, ’87, so many have been scrapped due to failed emissions tests (every other year). That is very little rust for a coastal one, inland CA is much drier. The hood was the first part to go and we cant see it in this picture.
Which is why it is great to go to California, buy a vehicle that cannot pass emissions, and take it to a state that does not give a hoot if you are into that kind of thing. Thank you for the information
My custom Cameo II 1986 GMC squarebody.
Teddy, I’m pretty sure the light on the top of the truck cab is a floodlight that lights up the bed area. I remember that (and the sliding rear window) as popular options “back in the day.”
I was figuring as much since even the Dodge Ram Van did not have a 3rd brake light until the refreshed 1994 model year.
The light is a cargo light and has a switch on the inside of the driver’s side C pillar to have it turn on with the opening of the door and headlight dome light switch. On my truck, I wired it to be a Third Brake Light, using a red LED lamp so that it remains clear when it is not lit. Of course I had to move it from the back of the cab to the back of the extension when I added the cab extension. Then I added two mid 1980s GM dome lights under the cab extension to serve as the cargo lights.
There are still a few of these chev pickups around here they were sold new in NZ pretty much the last Chevs sold through the ancient dealer network before Vauxhall and Chevrolet signage was taken down, and Holden was the only thing on the market.
My dad had ’74 and ’79 GMCs, both at the same time for his glass business. No two-tones, meringue or otherwise – only option on the ’79 besides the long bed was an AM radio.
Trucks, or rather, utility-type vehicles were not federally required to have third (high mount) brake lights until 1994, passenger-type (cars) vehicles started in 1985. anything mounted on a truck before 1994 is likely a cargo lamp. Many manufacturers incorporate a cargo lamp into the required high mount light as standard equipment now.
I recall when these trucks came out in 1973 the trim levels were Custom, Custom Deluxe, Cheyenne, and Cheyenne Super. On 1974 the Cheyenne Super designation was replaced by the now venerable Silverado. In 1975 the grille and trim emblems were changed, Custom Deluxe replaced Custom, and Scottsdale was introduced to replace the former Custom Deluxe slot. In 1976 the chrome dog dish caps were redesigned. In 1977 the grill was again changed; also the upper and lower body side moldings used on the Cheyenne, Silverado, and all tu-tone models had the insert painted gold, rather than black as in all other years before and after, to commemorate the golden anniversary of Chevy trucks. It was 1977 or ’78 that Chevy introduced the short-lived Bonanza package on Scottsdale trim as a response to the very successful Explorer option available on Ford Custom trim trucks. Not to be confused with the Heavy Half, a beefed up GVWR option on Custom Deluxe trim, which was available about the same time as the Bonanza option. In 1979 the grill again was redesigned, and the leading edge of the hood received a slight crease. 1980 saw another new grill, and I believe was the last year painted dog dishes were available on the Custom Deluxe, in 1981 chrome dog dishes wre standard across the entire line-up. In that year a new front clip came out, also the dash was slightly squared off as was the tailgate’s concave indentation. Through the years seat fabric changed incrementally, too. Ah, forgot, the 307 V8 was replaced in 1975 by the 305 V8; and catalytic converters and unleaded gas were introduced in 1975. The motors were incrementally changed year to year, too, I’m sure, but as a kid on a bicycle I just focused on styling features. By the early 80s I’m driving now, looking at girls rather than cars now, but the grill changed again in 1983, and again in 1985. That last grill was the only one to last 3 years. During the ’81-’87 phase the Custom Deluxe was relegated to only 2 headlights, while the upper trims received a stacked quad set-up. The last year did see the fuel injected emblem on the tailgates. These trucks also suffered from serious bad press because the fuel tanks were mounted outside the frame rails; in side collisions the tanks were prone to rupture and that led to fire casualties. The next generation of Chevy trucks in 1988 had their tanks mounted inside the frame rails for better protection.
Now, if only I could remember what I had for breakfast this morning…
A suprisingly well preserved 73-74 around here
Nice find. It’s been repainted in what appears to be original colors. Probably an upper trim level evidenced by the wheel lip moldings and chrome mirrors (which are correct). All the upper and lower body side moldings and the cab back appliqué are missing, replaced by thin paint break stripes. I don’t understand the painted front bumper, unless the mirrors were replaced with the chromed ones. The back bumper looks like a late 80s/early 90s Ford bumper. Lastly, the hubcaps are 1976-up design. This looks like a well maintained, used, but not abused, working truck.
I’d love to get my hands on a 2wd shortbed version of these and do a full “Pro Street” version on it.
These were the last real trucks GM made , sadly they were made of tin foil and had many designed in debris traps sp even in Los Angeles they rust terribly , they’re hard to wear out or beat to death ad I still see them daily doing Yeoman Duty .
I had a 1976 GMC C2500 long bed (3/4 T) with the long stroke 292 CID i6 engine and SM465 Muncie tranny , nothing else ~ a total stripper bought new by North American Van Lines then by a Mexican fellow who put a base shell on it and drove it back and forth to Mexico monthly until he stopped driving , his Grand Son bought if for his 16 Y.O. Daughter’s first vehicle and seemed surprised she refused to be seen anywhere near it .
I don’t have pix of it on this ‘puter but can find some of anyone cares .
Good trucks ! .
The hoods were bad to bend in front of the hinges on these trucks.
How have I managed not to have one of these at some time? They made a bajillion of them. Yes, I know they rusted. My Dad had a body shop and by the mid-’80’s replacing lots of sheetmetal was common… but so easy. Working on the 350 was easy and famiilar for me by then (I had a ’71 Chevelle.) Spending $500 at Nordan got you both fenders, a hood, door shells and a tailgate.
I don’t have a truck right now and I really want/need one.
Not long ago I read that the current generation Silverado’s design (2014 – 2015) is a tribute to the 1973 – 1987 models. (I’ve heard it described as a “fist in the wind” look). In fact the lead stylist at GM responsible for this newest Silverado design recently won an industry award for the effort.