COAL: 1999 GMC Sierra – Truck Number Six

Contact information in a classified ad is necessary, but by revealing it you can’t select who is going to contact you.  Its a double-edged sword.  You need serious, prospective buyers to be able to contact you, but you are also allowing literally anyone who finds the information to contact you.

I was looking for cheap transportation on the web local used junklist.  The photo of a row of Chevrolet Pickup trucks caught my eye.  They were all white, they all looked very used, very dirty, and some looked like they had been parked there a while.  They were in a grassy field, all facing the same direction.  The group appeared to be long bed, regular cab, Chevys of the 1988-1998 generation.  One toward the far end of the row appeared different, but I wasn’t sure.

The ad was short.  “Landscaper liquidating old inventory. Some don’t run, some missing parts.” And the price:  $700 each.  There was no phone number or location, just an email address.  I emailed and it immediately came back as not a valid email address.  I moved on.

A few days later the ad popped up again.  Same ad.  Still no contact information, just an email address.  I emailed again, it kicked back again.  What I had done was copy and paste the address into the “TO” field of my email.  I looked more carefully and realized that there was a period at the end of the email address – grammatically correct, because the address ended a sentence.  Unfortunately, the computer couldn’t process it that way.  I deleted the period off the address and re-sent it.

The next day I received a polite reply.  The trucks would be sold at 12:00 PM next Tuesday.  I was given the name and address and was welcome to come out and have a look around, but I was not to bother the employees.  Still no phone number.  Clearly, the seller didn’t want phone calls.

I was busy and didn’t make it out for “pre-inspection”.  So on Tuesday morning I stopped at the bank and got $700 cash and was there a half hour early.  The receptionist directed me around back and said the boss was running late.  He’d be there at 12:15 or so.

This landscaping business was a ghost town. There was no one around except for the receptionist I just met, and a mechanic repairing a weedeater in the corner of the shop.  I walked out and found the row of trucks, exactly like the photo.  But the row was not all 88-98 Chevys.  The second to last one was a newer body style: 1999-2006, and it was a GMC.  It had six lug wheels, so I thought it was a ¾ ton.  A look underneath revealed a transfer case and a driveshaft going to a front differential, it was four wheel drive!  It was absolutely filthy, and the tailgate was missing, but otherwise seemed complete.  There was no rust underneath – because Florida.

I was looking for a sticker in the driver’s door jamb when a voice caught my attention.  A guy on his phone was walking up while describing the scene to someone.  “Six.  They’re all 88-98s except for a newer one.”  He continued, “Some of ‘em are pretty beat up.”  He was quiet for a moment and then said “Only one other guy.”  Yep, I figured out the wonky email period issue.

The boss arrived and came out to talk with the two of us.   He told us that all the trucks had titles and keys and the price was firm at $700 each.  After he finished pointing out a couple of the older ones with bad engines and/or transmissions, my competitor said “I’ll take ‘em all.”  This made me a little frustrated.  “Whoa, I was here first, pal.” I impolitely interjected.  He backed down.  “I just want that one.” I smiled, as I pointed to the newest one. “Okay, go pay inside” the boss said.

I went inside and gave her the cash.  We began looking through a small stack of titles.  The newest model was 1999.  “This is the one I want.” I said.  “Okay, number six.” she replied.  Later, I noticed a “6” painted on the passenger fender.

The place where the battery should have been was air, so I went to buy a battery.  When I got back the mechanic and the boss had dragged number six up to the parking lot with a tractor.  “It should run good.” one of them said, as I was attaching those infamous GM side-terminal battery screws.  Sure enough, it fired up after just a few seconds of cranking.  I drove it home with no issues to report.  The engine even seemed kind of peppy.

In light trucks, GM offered three V8 engines for 1999.  All were gen III architecture, the so-called LS1 first appearing in the Corvette, two model years prior.  In the trucks they were cast iron, and technically not called LS.  Buyers could choose between the big 6.0, the 5.3, or the one I had, the “little” 4.8.  Interestingly, the 4.8 and the 5.3 had the same block with the identical bore.  The only difference was the crank/stroke. GM had six cylinder and diesel offerings too, but I digress.

It was the dirtiest vehicle I’ve ever owned.  I literally removed the carpet and sprayed it with the garden hose.  A brown river flowed down my driveway.  Ironically, the carpet was actually in decent shape because there was so much junk piled up on the floor “protecting” it.  After drying out in the hot Florida sun, I re-installed the same carpet. I scrubbed the seats and used an entire bottle of 409 on the rest of the interior pieces.

I spent a very modest sum on the truck.  Besides the battery, I transferred the title, did a couple small maintenance-type things, and ran it through a car wash a couple times.  At a junkyard I found a tailgate, it was even a matching white GMC one, although a Chevy one would have worked.  I put a set of used tires on it too.

I have to admit that I did take it off road. Just once.  I figured it would be the only 4×4 I’d ever own so I switched it into four low and drove around in a patch of sand.  It was anticlimactic.

About a month later I sold it to a guy who did landscaping work.   I think he paid me two grand for it so I made a little profit.  He seemed to really like the truck, and never asked about the six.