I’ve mentioned before that over the last few years I’ve evolved from not particularly liking this generation of Chevy Trucks to finding them one of the most attractive trucks ever made and a serious contender for an in-town truck for myself should I find myself in need thereof as well as a decent one being available at the same time. Sadly they are thinning out in general and I was excited to find one in quite complete condition while in Southern California as I took an afternoon to walk through a local-ish junkyard while the family was doing something I had no interest in.
I’ve always considered this generation as being pretty much a default 350/3speed automatic bearer so was surprised to note that it wasn’t endowed with either. In fact as it sits it’s kind of a newer version of the official CC truck. But we’ll get to all that, in the end what’s most surprising is that it ended up here, after all, this is a very basic truck and the less “features” that something possesses usually means that there are less potential failure causes.
GM built millions of these in many different formats both as Chevrolet as well as GMC over the years of 1973-1987 with a mid-cycle refresh in 1981. As a 1983 this is obviously towards the end of the run, relatively speaking and has the square headlights with grille mounted turn signals. GM was definitely considering fuel economy with these trucks as they spent a fair amount of time in the windtunnel and a large focus of the refresh was that aspect with various surfaces being smoothed and fettled.
If one didn’t know any different, one would assume that “Custom Deluxe” sounds pretty fancy and is likely slathered with all kind of options and luxury touches. Well, no, not at GM. In fact this is the base truck, Scottsdale and Silverado are the two upper trim levels.
This truck does have the desirable long bed option which makes all the sense in the world for a truck, especially a regular cab such as this one for maximum utility. I don’t think they had plastic bedliners back then so this was likely added later. The sliding rear window adds useful ventilation as well as an easy pass through to toss the empties into the bed for later disposal.
The hood is slightly kinked (more noticeable in the first picture), this is usually due to the springs getting out of adjustment, and as a result when someone pulls the hood down it gets hung up and bends about a foot back from the leading edge. This truck has the Exterior Decor Package which equips the truck with one of three different two-tone paint schemes (and in this case the colors appear to be Light Bronze Metallic over Almond), with tape stripes over the paint borders as well as the hood ornament. The light damage to the lower side of the bed was almost surely done by the yard forklift, at least judging how the driver was moving vehicles around while I was there.
This truck is equipped with the base engine, the 4.1l I-6 producing 115hp@3600rpm and 200lb-ft of torque at 2000rpm. It’s a bit shocking how much space there is in the engine bay as a result.
This view really shows how much extra room there is, you could almost keep a crate of spare parts in there as well or use it as a partial frunk…
Taking a gander inside one is immediately drawn to the third pedal on the floor, this is a manual. But where’s the stick? Ah, obviously a three-on-the-tree, the standard feature on this truck with this engine. Check out the bench seat, only one small tear in the typical wear spot at the side edge, not bad at all for a 37-year-old truck. The dash mat speaks to the typical 1980’s cracked dash which it also has although reproductions are easily available (as with most parts on this line of trucks).
The interior trim color looks like the Medium Almond to me, and surely brightens things up quite a bit. I do like that the exterior paint color carries over to the dash and doors, with the black trim pieces this is a lot friendlier looking than it could be and has significantly more personality than almost any modern truck interior. No carpet and with vinyl, hose that out as desired!
No air conditioning which is somewhat rare for a California vehicle, although this was quite close to the ocean so likely perfectly livable. The gauge panel, while sparse, at least has no blanks with the extra gauge pods being used for large individual warning lights.
We’ll never know how many times the odometer has swung around but this truck would be so easily and eminently repairable it wouldn’t even matter; the basic goods are so stout and long-lasting in this climate that it could last pretty much forever. The last time it passed an emission check was in 2016, but there was no bi-annual entry for 2018, leading me to believe it was taken off the road before then, there is no failure noted at the end of the test timeline.
I even like the clean simplicity of these hubcaps and this truck still had all four of them. The tires were Kirkland Signature brand, as a longtime Costco shopper I didn’t realize they offered their own brand of tires, but when I zoomed in and found the tire date code (4300) it looked like the tires were produced back in the 43rd week of the year 2000 along with plenty of fine sidewall cracking.
I wasn’t in the truck market back then so have no way of knowing if this type of truck (2WD long bed, very basic spec but in an interesting color combo) would have been a standard lot item for a lot of dealers or more likely to be a custom order. Someone or many of you will have an opinion. This particular one was built in Janesville, WI, just one plant among fourteen that produced this generation at one time or another over its span.
One thing I’m sure nobody misses are the insanely heavy tailgates from back then. I opened it with one hand while holding my phone with the other and it pretty much slammed down without much braking from me. Lifting it back up was a serious chore with my weaker hand, very unlike almost anything today that seem to lift with very little effort and some even being powered (as with GM’s heavy duty trucks for one, which seems ridiculous and a problem just waiting to occur).
But I will miss these trucks when they are all gone, especially the non-white ones that have personality such as this one. I understand why and how the Big Three got to where they are with this line of product and seeing bits of the history makes clear that a huge amount of refinement, thought, and focus has gotten today’s products to where they are. A very basic and extremely functionally useful truck such as this one though is nowadays sadly in the minority, often replaced by pure overkill for most situations and consumers.