COAL Update: Goodbye Prius, Hello Absolutely-Not-A-Prius!

[all photos by the author]

The Prius had given me great service over the past 3 years. It was fun to play with all the whizbangery, and 50MPG is nice to get. But it was giving me some warning signs (and occasionally, warning lights) of impending major expenses, and I decided to get rid of it while it was still worth something. I wanted to replace it with something completely opposite to a Prius, and I found this 2002 Chevrolet Silverado.

First, a brief model history. The GMT400 trucks were replaced for 1999 with a new truck, called “Silverado” in the higher trim versions, but with a designation of GMT800. This generation lasted through 2006, although some “fleet special” trucks were sold in the 2007 model year using the name “Silverado Classic”. There was a mid-cycle refresh for 2003, but GM did some de-contenting, most notably reverting to rear drum brakes from the rear discs that were standard equipment on the 1999-2002 models. I think that makes the 2002 model the one to have from this generation.

With a wad of cash in my hand, I went looking for a truck. I wanted to own something cheap, simple, and durable. I don’t know if I found this truck or it found me, but it pushed all the right buttons and levers for me. It had actually languished on several online sales venues for a month. What the seller told me was that he felt that nobody wanted a regular cab, RWD truck that was almost totally stripped out. But I did! Aside from the simplicity, one thing drew me in more than anything else:

As I had been looking at trucks for a bit, I’d noted that most trucks of this era were being sold with at or above 200,000 miles. Here’s hoping this one has another 105k of life in it! (side note of interest: these trucks also have a factory engine hour meter, and some math suggested it had not spent thousands of hours idling.)

The seller told me that he had purchased it near his family’s home in New Mexico, solely for the purpose of loading the bed and a U-Haul trailer full of personal belongings and driving it to his new home in Las Vegas. Not long after, he decided it was unsuitable for his needs, bought a car, and offered it up for sale.

As for the first owner? Your uncle. Also, my uncle.

With a little digging and research, I determined that this truck was used at the Mora Fish Hatchery in Mora, New Mexico. In its past life, it had a role in the restoration and recovery of the threatened Gila trout, a fish found only in the high desert and mountain watersheds of the American Southwest. Such a noble calling!

The government likes its trucks plain, and this one is no exception. As far as I can tell, this truck has precisely three factory options: 4L60E automatic transmission, cruise control (?!) and the Z85 “increased capacity chassis” package, which consists of the thickest front anti-sway bar I’ve ever seen and heavy-duty shock absorbers, sadly long since replaced. Once Uncle Sam got it in the driveway, he laid on his back and added a 2″ receiver hitch, trailer wiring, and a trailer brake controller. That’s all, nothing else. Rubber floor covering, manual windows, locks, and mirrors, and a somewhat beat-up vinyl bench seat.

I have to assume the USFWS isn’t in a hurry, because they only wanted the minimum number of cylinders, and that number is SIX. Here it is in all its glory, taking up very little space in an engine bay designed to hold 8.1 liters of V-8 fury:

It’s pretty banged up, as a work truck should be. The only panels that don’t have dents are the driver side door and the front fenders. There’s this particularly nasty gash on the passenger side:

And the bed looks like a truck bed should.

I’m sure our Northern readers will cringe at the missing paint. No worries here, for this is The Land That Rust Forgot™!

So what’s it like? I’ve only driven it a few hundred miles so far, and the honeymoon definitely is not over, but I love it! It’s just so honest and sincere. It brings me back to my first car, a Colonnade Malibu. The trim level and options set are about the same. Once again I have to take off my seat belt and lay over on my side to unlock the passenger door! In one regard, the truck is fancier than the Malibu was – whereas the Malibu only had an AM radio, the truck is all fancy and also includes FM radio! The truck has overdrive, though, and it gets 55 more horsepower from 88 fewer cubic inches. The fuel economy is about the same (the EPA says 14/17 for the truck) and interestingly, so is the curb weight, right around 4000 pounds. I think I’ll enjoy this one for a while, and when I no longer do, somebody always needs a beater work truck.