Curbside Classic: 1990 Chevrolet C/K 1500 – A Little Sheetmetal Surgery

1990 Chevrolet C/K 1500 pickup. Irving Park, Chicago, Illinois. Thursday, August 19, 2021.

I’m something of a popular culture junkie.  Perhaps not to the extent that I subscribe to any websites, blogs, or the like, but when I’m surfing the internet in my spare time, I often find myself drawn to stories about recognizable figures I find interesting.  My default setting is to want to think the best of people, so my intent in reading such stories usually isn’t to find fault or something tragic to discuss with my friends or for the sake of trolling someone I don’t even know.  I’m just naturally curious about the human condition and what makes people tick, including people from backgrounds and lifestyles that are different from my own.  Often times, I have read about a celebrity or well-known figure who has undergone the knife, so to speak, to enhance their appearance.

Most of the time, it’s women who are featured in such stories, but make no mistake – lots of men also have elective cosmetic surgery, even if it’s a small percentage of the general population that does so.  According to the American Society Of Plastic Surgeons, males accounted for almost 290,000 aesthetic surgical procedures in 2020 (better than 12% of the 2.3 million overall figure last year), with the five most popular for guys being, and in this order: nose reshaping (65,000), eyelid surgery (46,000), cheek implants (29,000), liposuction (23,000), and ear surgery (22,000).

1990 Chevrolet C/K 1500 Scottsdale photo, as sourced from the internet.

1990 Chevrolet C/K 1500 Scottsdale long-bed, with photo as sourced from the internet.

Without passing judgement on any of my favorite celebrities, male or female, who have had some work done, I’ll just say that I think it has worked really well for some, but not at all for others, some of whom simply became almost unrecognizable to me as the figures who had earned my admiration.  I suppose it’s different for those in the entertainment industry, in that their looks are more closely tied to their public images and success in the business.  Many of us want to emulate our heroes and heroines, so the more we might read in some clickbait article about a famous person who had just come back from the plastic surgeon, the more we might think it’s okay (or even encouraged) for us “regular folks” to do the same.

I’m in my mid-40s and it’s clear from looking at my face in pictures of myself from a decade ago that I’ve been doing a lot of smiling, which I view as a positive.  When people tell me I look youthful for my age, I’m careful to correct those who might also tell me dismissively that “Black don’t crack”.  I cite some of my personal choices as having inherent benefits to my appearance, in addition to (yes) fortunate genetics, on both sides.  Also, I hope it’s obvious in my writing that I’m proud of my African American heritage, but I’m also proud of the European half of my roots, which wasn’t magically “swallowed up” by my Blackness even from just a physical perspective.  I am not a clone of my father, great man though he was.  We all originated from two biological parents, each of whom had an ethnic background of his or her own.

1990 Chevrolet C/K 1500 pickup. Irving Park, Chicago, Illinois. Thursday, August 19, 2021.

Cultural identity is a separate topic (I identify as both Black and biracial), but my mom is 0% Black and my African immigrant father was 0% White, as also confirmed by DNA tests taken by my brothers.  With all of that said and to offer one example, I have a stout, west African nose that is also long, like those on my mom’s side of the family.  It’s there.  It’s prominent.  It’s a big, ol’ honker, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s a visual tie-in to where and from whom I came from.  My face is also asymmetrical, which becomes obvious when I flip selfies around to correct their perspective.  GQ material I may not be, but I like the way I look.  I’m me and wouldn’t want to look like anybody else – Black, White, or otherwise.  I could think of probably at least a hundred things I’d want for my money over Botox, rhinoplasty, or any other cosmetic procedure.  There’s more to me than what you see, and even so, for some it can be a profound act of self-love to embrace one’s natural appearance.

When I came across our featured truck, it took me a little bit to find some clues as to what the donor vehicle might have been.  I found my answer in looking at its greenhouse, with its smooth, aircraft-style doors.  A license plate search confirmed that this is a 1990 Chevrolet C/K 1500 pickup powered by an electrically fuel-injected 350 V8, which had 175 horsepower and 270 lb.-ft. of torque from the factory.  It’s got what appears to be the shorter six-and-a-half foot bed mated to the standard cab.  According to Consumer Guide, a “factory” example in this configuration was good for EPA ratings of 14 mph city / 19 mph highway with a three-speed automatic, though their combined test figure at the time was only 13 mph with the five-speed manual.  The base engine was a 4.3L V6 with 160 horses to haul around what originally had a starting weight of about 4,400 pounds.

1939 Ford DeLuxe brochure photo, as sourced from the internet.

1939 Ford DeLuxe brochure photo, as sourced from the internet.

Aesthetically, I think these trucks in their original form still look great today, with an almost timeless, modern-classic style to them.  Their utility, ease of operation, and reliability are also first-rate, from many articles I’ve read about them.  I drove one during my time as a landscaper and greenskeeper back in the ’90s, and it did what it was supposed to do very well.  I also like a customized vehicle, and I have been quick to defend more than a few rides featured here at Curbside Classic that have had their exteriors altered to some polarizing effect.  I think this one looks pretty cool, and it probably turned even more heads when the bodywork had been freshly completed.

My question here, though, is why what looks to have been a 1939 (or 1940) Ford DeLuxe was chosen as the inspiration for the customization of an example of one of Chevy’s few home-run hits of its era.  Talk about a mixed identity.  “Hey, man!  Check out my Chevy truck that looks like a vintage Ford!  Cool, huh?”  I’ll state my opinion that the 1939 and ’40 Fords are terrific-looking cars, and when I looked at pictures of Chevrolets from the same era, it becomes a little more clear to me why the owner of this truck had moved forward with the Ford theme.  I don’t think the ’39 Chevy looks bad at all.  It’s just that the essence of the 1939 Ford actually sort of looks correct to me on the front of this ’90s Chevy pickup.  This is just like how the results of plastic surgery are sometimes successful even when the newly-assigned physical features might be atypical of one’s family or ethnic background(s).

1990 Chevrolet C/K 1500 pickup. Irving Park, Chicago, Illinois. Thursday, August 19, 2021.

To this blue truck’s detractors, I’ll just remind you that you don’t have to drive or be seen in it.  And I’ll still sing along to Kenny Rogers’ (RIP) “The Gambler” in good company, regardless of whether or not people think his facelift was a good idea.  People may tell me, “Just you wait until you’re older,” with respect to my current ambivalence toward elective cosmetic surgery, but I’ve often thought that comfort in one’s own skin (sometimes with the help of a good therapist) can be one of the most physically attractive qualities in a person.  That’s my game plan for now, anyway.

Irving Park, Chicago, Illinois.
Friday, August 20, 2021.