Curbside Classic: 1970 Chevrolet C10 – Fifty-One Years of Service? No Sweat

After a recent bout of two plus weeks of sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures, Mother Nature is offering up springtime weather for the foreseeable future.  Naturally, this turns one’s mind toward outside activities and needs around the house.  Part of those needs involve my tiller, which was requiring some attention.

Leaving the repair shop, my face brightened when I saw this old Chevrolet backing up to the loading dock.  Seeing the owner, I stopped and introduced myself, which led to a fantastic conversation with Jim, the second owner of our featured C10.

Jim bought his pickup in 1985 from Weidinger Chevrolet in the small town of Vienna, Missouri.  About forty-five minutes south of Jefferson City, Weidinger, which has closed within the past year, also sold Jim’s C10 new in 1970.  Jim said this pickup had about 70,000 miles on it at the time of his purchase.

Model year 1970 was the fourth year of this generation of Chevrolet pickup, the generation which is my unabashed favorite of all GM pickups.  It was also a year prior to a significant update being made – and not just in the nose which would be modified ever so slightly but obviously for 1971.

Jim’s pickup is from the last year Chevrolet had drum brakes on the front axle as discs became standard for 1971.  I was reminded of this change upon seeing the six lug wheel Jim had in the bed for his spare.  With the transition to disc brakes for 1971, wheels on half-ton models like this one became five lug affairs.

Another element about Jim’s pickup that grabbed my attention is the wood floor of the bed.  For 1970, as had been the case since 1967, one had the choice of a wood or steel floor with this availability continuing into the next generation which debuted in 1973.  However, the availability of a wood floor was limited to a dwindling number of models as time wore on.  Prior to 1967, GM pickups all had wood floors in the bed.

Chevrolet’s brochures for 1971 and 1972 state wood floors are preferable in some applications, such as moving livestock, stating it provides for more solid footing.  Given this pickup was sold in an area in which crops are on hoof and not in rows, I would hazard a guess this could have been a consideration when the dealer ordered this pickup.  Or maybe the dealer simply preferred wood.  It could go either way.

Jim said he’s hauled many things in this pickup but he didn’t mention cattle.

If I were ordering a new 1970 Chevrolet half-ton to haul cattle, or anything else for that matter, Jim’s pickup is packing exactly what I would have chosen for a pulling engine.  While there were two different six-bangers available, in 250 and 292 cubic inch varieties, along with a 307 cubic inch (5.0 liter) V8, what you see before you is the time tested and proven 350 (5.7 liter) V8.

The area around Vienna – and much of Central Missouri south of the Missouri River for that matter – was settled by German immigrants.  The terrain of this area reminded them of home, thus why they settled there, and they sometimes named the towns accordingly.

In turn, if the terrain reminded them of home, it means there are hills.  And there are hills aplenty for many miles in any direction of Vienna.  So if hauling any type of load in such hills, a 350 would be just the ticket.

Interestingly, Chevrolet published both gross and net horsepower and torque ratings for 1970.  The differences between the ratings are not consistent among these engines, with the 350 having a fifty-five horsepower and forty-five ft-lbs of torque discrepancy when going from gross to net.  Of note are the peaks being 400 to 500 rpm lower in net measurement than was the case with gross measurement.

In net form, this 350 made 200 horsepower and 310 ft-lbs of torque when new.

But time marches on and all things age.  Jim told me his C10 is using a bit more oil than it once did.  Plus, the transmission drips.

Jim said he long ago realized it is far cheaper to keep adding oil and transmission fluid than it is to overhaul everything, especially for the 1,000 miles per year he has averaged since 1985.  He knows a person who restores this generation of GM pickup, but he’s not seeing the need with his pickup.

A case in point is the seat.  Time has not been kind to the cloth.  Jim said he was quoted something over $1,000 to refurbish the seat.  He opted to simply sit on a towel.

Similar was the case with the air-conditioner.  Jim said it worked great but one day the compressor seized, causing the belt to smoke.  A quick snip to cut the belt solved that problem.

This leads to another realization.  This pickup is very well equipped for the time.  With the 350, air-conditioning, a radio, power brakes, fancier upholstery, a three-speed automatic transmission (the Powerglide was still offered in 1970), and likely power steering (I didn’t look), Jim’s pickup was not a low-buck stripper when new.

For comparison, the 1970 Ford F-100 my father purchased new had the standard 240 straight-six with a three-speed manual.  A heater and an AM radio were its only options.

A vintage pickup such as our featured C10 is a guaranteed conversation starter, at least in the Midwest.

There are many people who benefit from having a pickup. They’ve identified their needs and acquired accordingly.  Jim did so and it’s been serving him quite ably for thirty-five years – and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

May we all find such a pickup if our needs call for it.


Found March 5, 2021

Jefferson City, Missouri

Related reading:

1972 Chevrolet C10 – Justified and Ancient by JS

1972 C30 Longhorn Camper by PN