I do like finding these 1970’s rolling time capsules with their bold graphics. And “Heavy Half”; what a great name. Of course it’s meaning is probably a bit lost in the mists of time for most folks, but this wasn’t just some empty-calorie graphics package; it defined a new class of pickups that were essentially 5/8 ton units, that slotted in between the 1/2 and 3/4 tonners. Why? To circumvent federal EPA regulations; why else?
Here’s what we’re looking at. And what a color combination: butter and cream. Yummy!
Starting in 1976 (IIRC) the pickup makers started exploiting the fact that light trucks with a GVW (Gross vehicle Weight) exceeding 6,000 lbs were exempt from the tightening light vehicle EPA standards. That meant no catalytic converters, better running engines, and big block ones at that, if you wanted one.
It essentially amounted to heavier springs to increase load capacity, while maintaining the typical 1/2 ton underpinnings, meaning no big full-floating axles and corresponding eight-lug wheels.
This created the Chevy “Big 10”, this GMC “Heavy Half” and of course the Ford F150.
In this fine example’s case, it’s a top tier Sierra Grande.
That didn’t exactly get you a tufted “pillow top” velour seats. Pretty basic still, although I suspect a cloth upholstery option was also on tap.
Matching yellow old-style Oregon plates.
It gleamed like the sun itself on this rainy spring day in Eugene. Dazzling, or light-full, one could say.
That appears to be in really nice shape! Haven’t seen one in years.
I drove a “Big 10” for an employer in college. I even used it as my daily driver for a month or two. I had no idea what the name signified until years later. I do remember that it was the only vehicle I ever drove that a girl turned down a ride in. She was a friend of mine too, but she wasn’t going to be seen riding in a truck. These days, women swoon for brodozers.
I didn’t pay much attention to trucks then, and like you, I did not understand that this was happening. I thought the “Big Ten” was a midwestern trim package named after the collegiate football conference. Oops.
A wonderful and once popular truck that isn’t covered in rust – jealous. I clearly remember these vehicles and they ran until rust rotted them away. My buddy’s new 1979 started rusting through by 1982, but it was on the road until 1992, after being thoroughly consumed.
I am also old enough to remember a time when selling trucks didn’t required stuffing socks in your crotch and ripping your shirt open, like they do today. The graphics here are fun, not testicular, and the truck wasn’t styled to bully other drivers. I find it rather odd that when this truck was built, there were a higher percentage of male owners than today, yet the style didn’t scream macho. It would be really nice to see a truck manufacturer with enough confidence to not need four foot high toothed grilles and ridiculous cartoon Tasmanian Devil stylings wouldn’t it?
Sweet old truck!
The image you conjure sort of was what the ’70s were all about…:)
Agree 100%. I can’t imagine piloting a vehicle that so blatantly has a chip on its’
shoulder, so to speak, as with (most) modern trucks. They remind me of
toys meant to appeal to toddlers in a cartoonish manner.
I did not know that about the pick-ups. Chevrolet used a “Heavy Chevy” moniker on probably several products, I was able to find a ’71-’72 Chevelle package using the name and associated graphics….
It wasn’t the first time Ford used the “F-150” designation either, in the mid-50s it signified a longbed half-ton, starting a couple years into the F-100/F-250/F-350 series designations. After a few years it was dropped to become a longbed F-100, I guess to save money on fender badges. Probably the same reason the F-100 was dropped upon the release of the Ranger.
Besides semi-floating/5-lug axles (and the wider factory-upgrade/aftermarket wheel choices they offered) another light-duty feature carried up to these “5/8 ton” trucks was the availability of a shortbed, at least on the GM offerings.
It was always due to be a short-lived class since the loophole was set to only exist for a few model years. Even at that, the Carter Administration began deregulating well before the 1980 election (even if in longer-lead industries like auto the changes wouldn’t reach the market until after Reagan was in office) so it may well have lasted longer than originally intended, flash in the pan that the Big 10/Heavy Half and the second F100/F150 concurrence were.
> in the mid-50s it signified a longbed half-ton, starting a couple years into the F-100/F-250/F-350 series designations.
I never knew that. I guess it makes sense in the face of Chevy using two numbers for their short- (3100) and long-bed (3400) half-tons.
I remember the first one I saw, I thought to myself: “Look how that idiot screwed up his brand new Chevelle.” lol
The Heavy Chevy was a poor mans SS, to compete with the Road Runner. The Nova version was the Rally Nova.
Heavy Chevy was one year only Chevelle trim, look of the SS but not the power, it was not several…
What a time capsule! That one is in remarkable condition. I suspect most that are left have lost their stickers to a repaint/bodywork.
Like the Big 2 International also got in on the Cat dodging in 1975. The Scout II went from having 2700 lb front springs and 2500 or 2700lb rear springs to having 3100lb springs, standard, front and rear and became the Scout II XLC (Xtra Load Capacity) The 100 series pickup and Travelall were replaced by the 150 series and also came with a 6200lb GVWR.
Messing with GVWR to dodge regulations didn’t stop in the 70’s. As the minimum GVWR needed to avoid the Cat increased, so did the GVWR of most of the “3/4 ton” trucks. Even more recently GM cut the 1500 vans from their line up to get them out of their CAFE calculations and Ford increased the GVWR of their E-150 to just 40lbs under the E-250, giving their “1/2 ton” van a ~3000lb payload and exempting it from CAFE.
This truck is quite the survivor, I’m guessing like most of the Cat dodging trucks it was purchased not for the increased capacity but for the fact that they didn’t require unleaded gas and could still be optioned with the big block.
In a similar vein, I suspect the GVWR of the Nissan Titan XD and the “1/2 ton” Transit 150 van were increased to 8600 lbs. so that their diesel engines wouldn’t have to meet stricter emissions regs–rendered moot once those diesels were dropped from the lineup.
CAFE certainly played a factor in those decisions too.
Wow, what a sweetie ! .
I don’t see pretty ones like this any more .
There’s a same generation regular 1/2 ton a couple of blocks away from my Denver house. It’s been there for at least five years and it does get used because I’ve noticed different orientation in its designated parking space, but as of this past April the plates were two years out of date, which may be pandemic related. I haven’t checked it lately. It’s in nice shape but up close there’s surface rust creeping under the aluminum trim and a touch behind the back wheels.
Interesting about the Heavy Half – one of the many quirks in automotive nomenclature/history that I knew nothing about.
But this leads me to wonder… when/how did the Heavy Half trend end? I assume this was popular for a while, but did the EPA standards change to make the Heavy Half designation obsolete? Or did Heavy Half trucks (or their equivalents for other manufacturers) eventually just take over regular half-tons in the marketplace for full-size trucks?
It is a little of both. 1977 was the end of the line for dodging the Cat with a minimum 6000lb GVW. Over at Ford the F-150 soon outsold the F-100 as the F-100 morphed into a CAFE compliance vehicle that lost its reason to exist when the Ranger showed up and started selling in large enough numbers.
Thanks to both you and Drzhivago below for your responses. Makes sense, now that I think about it.
> but did the EPA standards change to make the Heavy Half designation obsolete? Or did Heavy Half trucks (or their equivalents for other manufacturers) eventually just take over regular half-tons in the marketplace for full-size trucks?
A little of both, yes. The higher-payload models like the F- and D-150 became more popular than the lighter 100s, especially once compact trucks gained a foothold in the ’80s. The de facto GVWR dividing line between traditional “1/2” and “3/4 ton” trucks also shifted from 6000 lbs. to 8500 lbs. for things like emissions and safety standards.
One area where 6000 lbs. GVWR is still an important figure is Section 179 tax deductions when purchasing a vehicle for business use. There are now quite a few minivans, large crossovers, and even mid-size trucks that have had their GVWRs inflated to juuuuust over 6K so they can qualify.
Dodge had a D-150 starting in ’76 or so too, when the regular models were D-100/200/200.
CC effect, about 2 or 3 weeks ago I saw the nicest one of these (a Chevy) I have seen in many a year – still moderately rusty, but still – to see any of the early versions at all is a minor miracle in saltland. The condition of this one is amazing.
Another loophole that affected purchases was emission testing was required on all vehicles under a certain GVWR. I may not recall the exact level, I think it was 8500 lbs. So fleets bought pickups and vans over that rating to avoid having the deal with the annual inspection.
Chevy and GMC did lots of these two tone and three tone paint jobs, some looked really nice and aged well others not so much. The red and cream ones were really revolting. The actual paint jobs were hit and miss, I inspected new trucks at delivery and was not unusual to find runs and sags in the paint, kept the body shop busy. These trucks were nice to work on, pretty straight up and the last generation before the electronics really took over.