Curbside Classic: 1977 Chevrolet C10 Pickup – GM’s Deadly Sin #33 – Where’s the Damn Extended Cab?

Chevrolet utterly dominated pickup and light truck sales for decades, probably ever since the 1920s, along with GMC trucks, which tried not to compete with its sister division in the early years. This is most evident in the immediate post war years and through the ’50s: The Chevrolet “Advance Design” trucks were everywhere, and still are, while Ford and Dodge were very much less common.

But that all started to change in the ’60s. After Ford’s disaster trying to go head-to-head with GM’s divisions in the late ’50s, they changed their strategy to find niches that they could exploit profitably. And pickups was one of them; it turned out to be the biggest slice of the market, with a bit of time and cultivation. In 1974, Ford introduced its extended cab “Super Cab”. Three years later, in 1977, Ford’s F-Series became the best selling pickup for the first time. It took GM fourteen years to finally bring out an extended cab pickup in 1988. Once again, GM was asleep at the wheel.

Dodge pioneered the concept of an extended cab in 1972, with the Club Cab. It turned out to be a bit too short, at 18″, so it was never a really big seller. But it certainly pointed the way forward with pickups, which had been becoming more wife/family-friendly ever since the first efforts to civilize them in the mid ’50s.

Ford saw the light, almost instantly. Just two years later in 1974, it had its Super Cab. And it was 22″ long, which made it big enough to have a genuine seat across the back, unlike the tiny fold down transverse jump seats in the Dodge. That made all the difference. And Ford sold almost 40k Super Cabs in its first year. That jumped to 68k in 1975. Not exactly peanuts.

This ad sums it all up; there’s nothing more to add. The modern pickup had arrived.

And in 1977, just three years later, Ford overtook Chevy in pickup sales, and they’ve never given up the title since.

And this happened just one year after GM introduced its all new 1973 trucks!

Ironically, GM did offer a new double cab on this generation, the 3+3 model. But it was only available in the C20 and C30 lines, and only with an 8′ bed. Meaning it was huge, especially so in the terms of the times. It ended up being a decidedly low-volume proposition, and all it really did was catch up to Ford and Dodge, both of which had offered factory-built crew cab pickups for some years.

The Japanese saw the light very quickly too, and in 1977 Datsun brought out its King Cab 620 pickup.

Toyota took a few more years, but in 1984 joined the extended cab party. And the rest of the Japanese did too, although I’m not going to look up all the first years for them just now.

You would have thought that GM would rush out an extended cab too, to protect its vaunted #1 sales position for Chevrolet. And don’t underestimate the value of that claim, being the best selling truck in the land. Yes, GM’s combined sales were still #1, but Ford made a lot of hay with its F-Series sales position. Everyone loves a winner.

And its success in comparison to the Dodge Club cab wasn’t just the extra 4″ of cab length; unlike the Dodge, the Ford Super Cab was available with a 6.5′ bed as well as an eight footer, and in F100, F150, F250 and F350 versions, and of course 4x4s. This was a key difference: Ford was truly committed.

If you were a rabid Chevy lover, your only choice was to buy an aftermarket conversion, like this one. They just chopped the front of the bed and added 18″ to the cab, which of course was the same as the Dodge, meaning a bit too short. And it undoubtedly cost a lot more. It clearly didn’t look as good as what GM woulda’ shoulda’ coulda’ done from the factory.

Other than sheer incompetence, why didn’t GM follow suit with the rest of the industry and build an extended cab at the time? One reason may well be the monopoly GM had with its Suburban, a highly profitable vehicle. Presumably Chevrolet didn’t think the market for extended cab pickups would be big enough to justify the investment. Or maybe they were already production constrained? GM did some odd things back then including building the Suburban on the old platform for several years after the new GM400 trucks arrived in 1988.

GM wasted no time with an extended cab on its compact S-10 truck, which arrived in 1983, just one year after the regular cab version premiered. So they were perfectly capable of it, obviously. It’s not like it was all that hard.

In the meantime, Chevy full size truck buyers had to just suck it up. By the ’80s, this cab was getting a bit elderly, even with a few cosmetic upgrades.

Finally, in 1987, for the 1988 model year, the new GMT 400 arrived, with an extended cab. But still only with the long 8′ bed.

Two years later, for 1990, the extended cab short bed Silverado finally arrived. A full 16 years after the comparable Ford version. Who’s in a hurry? Not GM.

Chevrolet once practically owned the pickup market. They gave up the #1 slot to Ford in 1977. Now they’re desperately trying to hold on to the #2 slot from Ram. Who would have predicted that?