Tag: 1980’s

Could this turbo engine have saved DeLorean? – Chris Theodore @Hagerty

Could this turbo engine have saved DeLorean? – Chris Theodore @Hagerty

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The twin-turbo kit from Legend Industries transformed DeLorean’s PRV V-6, and the potential was hard to deny. Courtesy Fred Dellis & Chris Theodore

Forty-two years ago, as rumors of strife and impropriety were only beginning to swirl around his fledgling car company, John Z. DeLorean entertained the idea of boosting his stainless steed. If ever a fast-looking slow car deserved more oomph, it was the DeLorean DMC-12 and its anemic 2.8-liter V-6. New York’s Legend Industries had just the thing—a twin-turbocharger upgrade that transformed the car from lamb to lion. For a tumultuous few minutes, engineer Chris Theodore and his colleagues thought they were on to something …

One day in mid-May 1980, I was sitting at my desk in Chrysler’s Highland Park Engineering Center when the phone rang. “My name is Fred Dellis,” said the voice on the other end. “I understand you’re an expert in turbocharging.”

“I have some experience,” I said. What can I do for you?”

Dellis told me he was president of Legend Industries, that they had several turbocharging programs in the works, and that Legend was looking for a vice president of engineering to lead them. I was gainfully employed at the time and told him I wasn’t interested. “You will be,” Dellis said.

He turned out to be quite persistent, and the calls continued. Finally, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to check out a potential opportunity, even if I was happy at Chrysler, so my wife and I flew to New York on a Friday evening to spend a weekend with Dellis. It was the beginning of a two-year saga I will never forget.

He turned out to be quite persistent, and the calls continued. Finally, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to check out a potential opportunity, even if I was happy at Chrysler, so my wife and I flew to New York on a Friday evening to spend a weekend with Dellis. It was the beginning of a two-year saga I will never forget.

The next morning, we were off to Long Island to visit Dellis’s Porsche/Fiat dealership in Amityville, where he introduced some of the Legend officers. In addition to his dealership, Dellis had successfully started an aftermarket turbocharging company called Windblown Systems. Emissions testing had already been completed and the kits could be dealer-installed; Windblown had even set up distribution throughout the country for Porsche 924 and VW Rabbit/Scirocco turbo kits that provided a full warranty. But Dellis wanted to take turbocharging to the OEM level. He already had a contract in hand from Fiat of North America to build a thousand Fiat Spider Turbos. He had also been in contact with John DeLorean, he said. Then he showed me the cryptic series of notes he had exchanged with John:

Dellis: “Are you interested in a turbocharged DeLorean?”

John: “Yes.”

Dellis: “Shall we meet?”

John: “Yes.”

Dellis: “When?”

John: “June 10.”

It was the John DeLorean part of the business that intrigued me. Every car guy dreams of designing his own car and starting his own car company. John looked like he might pull it off. Knowing that I would never fulfill my own dream, the next best thing would be to have a hand in helping someone else fulfill theirs.

“What will it take to bring you on board?” Dellis asked me. Before I’d even finished telling him I needed to think about it, my wife blurted out a figure. Dellis topped it, and now I was stuck. Joining Legend was a risky proposition, but I couldn’t resist the John DeLorean hook. Back in Detroit, I gave my notice at Chrysler and began preparing for the move. Then came another call from Dellis: “I need you to put together a proposal for John,” he said. “We’re meeting with him in two days.”

Proposal in hand, on June 10, 1980, I flew to New York. Dellis and I estimated the cost of the proposed twin-turbo, twin-intercooled package and headed to John’s office at 280 Park Avenue. Taking the elevator to the 43rd floor, we entered the magnificent lobby of DeLorean Motor Company.

John’s secretary, Marian Gibson, came out to escort us to his office (it was Marian who would later become a whistleblower to the British government). John was standing behind his desk as we walked in. “So you’re the guy who likes to write letters,” he said to Dellis. “Well, Mr. DeLorean,” Dellis said, “it got me in this office today.”

The whole discussion that day was very casual. I took John through the proposal, and Dellis closed the presentation with the price of the kit. Before the meeting was over, we all agreed to draw up a contract. I couldn’t believe how easy it had been, even though it was what I call a “something for nothing” deal that would be hard for an automaker to refuse: Legend would do all the engineering, development, and tooling up front, with those costs amortized into the piece price. Dellis was on cloud nine when we left DMC, and we went out on the town to celebrate.

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The Sophisticated, High-performance Thunderbird Turbo Coupe Is a Surprisingly Durable and Affordable Collector Car – Mark J McCourt @Hemmings

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Photo by Ford Motor Company.

The Eighties were when American automakers affected European accents. A new generation of consumers appreciated the understated styling, buttoned-down road manners, and real or imagined prestige that vehicles from Germany, England, Sweden, Italy, and France offered. Even true-blue American icons like Ford’s personal luxury car, the Thunderbird, looked overseas for inspiration, the result being the Turbo Coupe that the company hailed as “A World Class Touring Car.” This popular flagship forever changed buyers’ perceptions of the Thunderbird, and nearly 40 years later, its surprisingly contemporary driving characteristics make it a modern classic worth owning.

The ninth-generation Thunderbird, which still shared Fairmont-derived Fox-platform underpinnings with the Mustang, rocked the market upon its 1983 debut. Adding fuel to the fire was the unprecedented Turbo Coupe. Introduced midyear, this top-of-the-line, forced-induction variant attracted well-heeled enthusiast buyers, those to whom its advanced appearance and technical innovations strongly appealed, to Ford showrooms.

While the 1983 Mustang looked trim, even the hatchback version of that pony car was a brick (0.44 Cd) against the new Thunderbird. Surprisingly, its smooth lines were a development of a Lincoln design proposal from Ford’s Luxury and Intermediate Studio. Gone were the 1980-’82 model’s formal lines, padded vinyl roofs, opera windows, and stand-up hood ornaments. Now we had a downsized two-door whose careful detailing resulted in a 0.35 coefficient of drag, in Turbo Coupe form accented with Euro-style blackout trim and sporting a thrifty four-cylinder making more horsepower on demand than the traditional V-8 more than double its displacement.

While it would retain exposed quad sealed-beam headlamps through 1986, the Thunderbird featured hidden windshield wipers and wrap-over doors concealing the rain gutters, these working in concert with the high rear deck and subtle lip that managed the wind. Turbo Coupes were further distinguished with dark headlamp housings, a front bumper with integral Marchal fog lamps and deep chin spoiler, and bold 14-inch alloy wheels. Inside, special fascia finishes, comprehensive gauges and diagnostic lamps, articulated front sport seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshift knob set the high-performance variant apart.

The Thunderbird Turbo Coupe evolved steadily, gaining an available automatic transmission in 1984 and a color-keyed grille, redesigned instrument panel, larger wheels, and a more powerful engine in 1985. This model took a major leap for 1987, when Motor Trend named it Car of the Year. A planned mid-cycle facelift ended up much more, the Turbo Coupe gaining flush-mounted window glass, a ducted hood, composite front lighting, a “bottom-breather” front bumper, and a smoother rear end. Mechanical updates included an intercooled engine, Programmed Ride Control electronic suspension, anti-lock brakes, 16-inch wheels, and more. A 22-gallon fuel tank ensured impressive high-speed-cruising range.

Ford’s premium two-door was a hot property in its ninth generation, selling nearly 884,000 examples. The North American Turbocoupe Organization (“NATO,” online at turbotbird.com) distills the Turbo Coupe from that total, suggesting 128,533 units were built over six model years, the final two selling the most copies. This Thunderbird benefits from its mechanical relationship to the Fox Mustang, but its unique body and sophisticated electronics pose more challenges for today’s restorers. Thankfully, these well-engineered sports-luxury cars are notably tough and enjoy a passionate, engaged enthusiast following that help each other with parts and information. Values are starting to tick up, with classic.com listing average sale prices nearing $12,500 and rising, so if you’ve always wanted a Turbo Coupe, now is your time to soar.

The dashboard of 1983 and ‘84 Turbo Coupes was held over from the 1982 Thunderbird, albeit enhanced with a different finish and instrumentation.
Thunderbirds received an updated dashboard for 1985 that was retained through the major 1987 revamp. The electronic systems in Turbo Coupes are largely reliable, but replacements are rare.

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Saving Saturn: A different kind of car collector – Eric Weiner @Hagerty

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The most interesting car collection you’ve never heard of lives in a subdivision just outside Princeton, New Jersey. Nestled between patches of bucolic farmland and aging equestrian stables, in the cool shadow of a nature preserve, the neighborhood looks like any other. Drive past too quickly and you might miss the vast horde of Saturns, fanned out in the driveway of a single house like paint swatches in a catalogue. Before that rainbow array of plastic body panels stands its caretaker, a soft-spoken 26-year-old woman named Jessieleigh Freeman.

She fiddles with a scrunchie on her wrist and purses her lips as I wander, speechless, among the coupes, sedans, and wagons. “Seventeen of them,” she says, one hand idly playing with the Saturn pendant on her choker necklace. “I’ve got one in every body style—a few doubles, even.” The skateboard she carries displays the same two words you’ll find all over her Instagram: Saving Saturn.

How did Saturn get to the point that it needed her help? At the outset, the new brand lived up to its slogan, “a different kind of car company.” It was announced as the newest addition to GM’s household in 1985, the result of a bright-eyed dream that an all-American economy car with a unique approach could best Japan’s imports. Like the United States, Saturn was indeed a Grand Experiment. Most people remember the brand’s plastic body panels, meant to stave off rust, but Saturn’s true brilliance lay in the approach it took to people. Attempting to operate outside of the way Detroit had long done business, Saturn built its first plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Employees were recruited from various GM factories, and these people were eager to join an energetic culture offering the promise of a clean slate. Having signed up with Saturn, they then benefited from an unprecedented arrangement with the UAW chapter that allowed them to sidestep the complex web of union job classifications, participate in key decision making, and earn wages based in part on quality and productivity goals. GM even instituted a profit-sharing program in place of the traditional fixed-income pension. At retail locations, Saturn pioneered no-haggle pricing that immediately attracted thousands of hopeful customers.

This concept was so appealing that demand for new Saturns outstripped the Spring Hill plant’s production capability for the first five years. The brand’s early years were by and large successful, with massive customer satisfaction and an eclectic owner demographic that seemed all-in.

Not everyone at General Motors shared that enthusiasm. The rest of the company lived on the main deck of a corporate battleship—the kind of place where a proposed update to the bathroom tile might have to pass through multiple floors of executives—and it didn’t take long for resentment to boil over. Saturn was sucking up valuable resources, and as the brand’s initial momentum waned, the goodwill that had paved the brand’s road ran dry. The original S-Series ended production in 2002, by which point the larger L-Series line was being produced under traditional UAW labor rules in a Delaware plant. Soon after came the Vue SUV, the Ion sedan, the Relay minivan, and the Sky roadster—all of which were based on other GM models, and not unique to Saturn. An attempt to sell the brand to Penske fell through, and the dealership body closed for good in October 2010. That’s the end of it.

But not for Freeman. When she talks about her cars, she speaks slowly, surveying the breadth of her collection.

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The unibody XJ Cherokee blazed the trail for today’s popular, car-based crossover SUVs – Mark J McCourt @Hemmings

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It was a gamble for American Motors Corporation’s Jeep division to introduce the “XJ” Cherokee, using a venerated nameplate on a new 4×4 that was very different from any Jeep that came before. This compact, efficient, and stylish people mover was thoroughly reimagined for the 1980s and became an immediate best seller in its first year on the market. With decades of hindsight, the XJ Cherokee proved a winning formula with incredible longevity, and 1984 was where it all began.

Images from the Hemmings Brochure Collection, courtesy of Bruce Zahor

The Cherokee and Wagoneer being sold in 1983 had their origins in the early 1960s, being large, six passenger, two- and four-door SUVs. Those “SJ”-chassis models were powered by inline-six and V-8 engines, and their traditional body-on-frame construction was rugged, if not particularly intended for daily driven on-road comfort. A clean-sheet replacement for those near 4,000-pound, 186.4-inch-long trucks had long been in the making, and the new versions of these models reached AMC/Jeep showrooms for the ’84 model year, having modernized four-wheel-drive motoring.

The crisply attractive design shared by the new Cherokee and Wagoneer variants was drastically downsized, their “UniFrame” integrated chassis-bodies measuring 21.1 inches shorter, on a 7.3-inch shorter wheelbase, and weighing in an average of 800 pounds less than the original design that stayed in production as the upmarket Grand Wagoneer. The XJ came as a basic two- or four-door Cherokee, a well-trimmed two- or four-door Cherokee Pioneer, a sporty two- or four-door Cherokee Chief, and as a plush four-door Wagoneer and premium Wagoneer Limited.

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Which Eighties television hero vehicle would you choose for your dream garage? – Matt Litwin @Hemmings

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n our latest edition of This or That, we’re continuing our selection of hero cars, though this time from a 1980s small-screen perspective. One-hour action dramas were hardly new to television audiences; however, rather than the generic good guys versus bad guys, a la the Dragnet / Adam-12 style of story telling, writers, directors and producers – in most cases – took things to a whole new level of weeknight entertainment. Thus, once again we’ve picked four different rides from four different shows that debuted (with one exception) during the Reagan administration. Let’s take a look at this week’s big impact players, in order of appearance, all of which are currently available in the Hemmings classifieds.

1969 DODGE CHARGER SE

Though it made its debut in 1979, the Dukes of Hazzard was a staple of early Eighties television; save for the delayed start of the fifth season initiated when Tom Wopat and John Schneider – disenchanted with scripts, salaries and royalties – opted to walk out in protest. They were famously replaced by Byron Cherry (as Coy Duke) and Christopher Mayer (as Vance Duke). Bo and Luke were explained as having joined the NASCAR circuit; a laughable situation considering their probation for peddling moonshine was a direct violation of the famed stock car governing body’s rule book. Ratings plummeted, and 19 episodes later Tom and John were back in action. Ratings recovered, but only slightly. The one constant, of course, was the 1969 Dodge Charger – such as this example for sale – that arguably was the biggest star of the show, which ended in 1986. It’s no secret that a couple hundred were callously destroyed in the making of the Dukes. As to our featured example, portions of the seller’s listing states:

Original Window Sticker, Broadcast Sheet, Build Sheet. Original 383 Car, has the original engine. Has paperwork on car with receipts and other items added to car. Painted Light Green Metallic, Hood mounted turn signals, roof drip rail moldings, newer green vinyl roof, dual outside mirrors, window moldings, felt and rubber, tinted glass, door handles, gas cap, taillights and trim, backup lights, front & rear bumpers and bumper guards, headlight doors, grill, antenna, wiper arms, side marker lights all look great. Original rims with BF Goodrich radial T/A white letter tires. The interior is the Original Green on bucket seats with headrest, back seats, door panels, arm rest with bases, back side panels, door handles, window cranks, rearview mirror, Woodgrain on gauge cluster, Factory AM/FM radio. Factory A/C vents in dash, Pioneer AM/FM/CD/XM radio mounted in glove box with remote. Factory console with woodgrain. Green headliner and Sunvisor’s, seat belt and shoulder belts. Door sill plates, dark green Carpet, black carpeted floor mats. Package tray, all factory gauges and clock. Powered by a 440 engine that has been rebuilt, 727 Torque Flite transmission that is automatic. Weiand intake, Edelbrock carb, original air cleaner is chrome. Chrome oil breather, stock exhaust manifolds, power steering, power front disc brakes. Rear drum brakes, dual exhaust with stainless tips. Factory A/C.

1983 PONTIAC TRANS AM

The Eights delivered a new array of technology to mainstream America. Artificial intelligence, wider use of digital equipment, and sleek aerodynamic automotive designs all came together in one tidy package called KITT (or Knight Industries Two Thousand), a highly modified, third-gen 1982 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am developed for the use of Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG) field agent Michael Knight, formerly known as police Detective Lieutenant Michael Arthur Long in the opening segment of the 1982 pilot episode of Knight Rider. Unlike this 1983 Pontiac Trans Am for sale, reportedly the studio built the initial KITT at the cost of $100,000, which included the car’s iconic side-to-side light beam in the nose cone, apparently modelled after the the Cylons’ light beam in Battlestar Galactica. Equipped with an array of surveillance cameras, bulletproof shielding, a security system, remote communication devices, insane turbo boosters, autonomous driving mode and the ability to fly like a certain orange General, it’s really no wonder Knight Rider was an instant hit. All good things come to an end – or at least the original series – which lasted through 1986. According to portions of the seller’s listing:

t’s only showing just over 1,300 miles; clean Carfax with no accidents. It’s of course a numbers matching car; All the lines flow perfectly down the sides and the fit of all the panels is equally impressive with every gap being even and symmetrical. This is a factory Bright Red car that has clearly been garage stored and kept polished to a mirror finish; this car is factory rear hatch car with T-Tops. Every piece of glass in this ’83 checks out to be original. This Trans AM was factory ordered with the rear spoiler that’s done in black. It also has the Black Side Trim, Lower Black Accents and the black grill that really makes the Bright Red pop. To finish off the exterior it’s sitting on the original 14” Finned Cast Aluminum Wheels with Uniroyal White Letter Tires. On the inside it’s done in the factory Two Tone Charcoal interior with Black Accents; All the door panels are in excellent condition; the dash shows no signs of sun abuse or any damage. It comes with factory AC that blows cold and even the original radio is still in it; has the factory steering wheel and does come with cruise and tilt wheel. The center console is in excellent condition. Under the hood it’s powered by the matching numbers 305 V8 engine dressed in the original valve covers and air cleaner that seals to the Power Bulge Hood. The V8 is mated to the Matching Numbers 700R Automatic Trans and 10 Bolt Rear End with 3.23 Gears. It comes with Front Disc Brakes and Rear Drums.

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In Case You Forgot, Here’s A Little Detail To Remind You How Much GM Sucked In The 1980s – Jason Torchinsky @Jalopnik

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Nostalgia is a potent drug and, like any old bastard, I’m highly susceptible to it as well. Hell, I work in a sort of idiotic shrine to a very specific kind of nostalgia. But there are some details of the past that, even with the rosiest-colored glasses, are still very clearly garbage. I’m talking about being a kid in the back seat of many 1980s GM cars, specifically the GM cars (and one Chrysler) that, somehow, didn’t let you roll down the rear windows.

These cars — which were GM’s A- and G-bodies from 1978 to 1983, and the 1981 Chrysler four-door K-cars — represented a huge percentage of cars on the road when and where I was growing up, in 1980s America. I feel like pretty much every family I knew at the time had at least one car from this lineup, and the reason I remember this so well is because of the painful memories of sweltering in the back seats of these metal mausoleums, in the heat of a North Carolina summer, with rear door windows that remained steadfastly and cruelly fixed.

The list of dirt-common cars that were like this is ample: Buick Centuries, Regals, Oldsmobile Cutlasses, Pontiac Bonnevilles, Chevy Malibus, and those early K-Cars. I think there were some others, as well, but these sorts of cars formed the backbone of the carscape of America at the time, which means the plague of no-open-rear-seat-windows was widespread.

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Four cylinders, two turbos, and the world closed-course speed record: How Oldsmobile proved the Quad 4 – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings

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In the automakers’ standardized playbook for promoting something new, going after a record—particularly a speed record—is a time-honored tradition. Given that the world land-speed record has for decades now been pushed beyond the reach of anything remotely resembling a production car, that meant from the Sixties onward, car manufacturers and racers have turned to the closed-course speed record.

Which was just what the team behind Oldsmobile’s Quad4 decided to pursue, albeit with a much-modified 900-hp version of the dual overhead-camshaft four-cylinder and a sleek racing body designed by Ed Welburn and refined by aerodynamicist Max Schenkel. Dubbed Aerotech, it’d be piloted by A.J. Foyt. Foyt had previously set the record in 1974 at Talladega and had racing experience in the March 84C chassis on which the Aerotech was based, so he made perfect sense as the driver to reclaim the record from Mercedes-Benz. The Sam Posey-narrated video below goes into detail how GM’s engineers and staff prepared for the record and went about capturing it in August of 1987.

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Buyer’s Guide: The plentiful, affordable, 5.0-powered 1987-93 Ford Mustang – Mike McNessor @Hemmings

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A new Mustang GT hit the ground galloping in 1982 and Ford shouted its return with the slogan: “The Boss is Back!” Hitching the Boss legend to this new pony made good marketing sense, but the Fox was no retro-themed throwback. It would go on to inspire a new generation of enthusiasts and launch dedicated magazines and websites, as well as become a darling of the aftermarket.

Old-school, American rear-drive performance mounted a comeback in the 1980s, ushered in by cars like the Buick Grand National, the Chevrolet Monte Carlos SS, and the Camaro IROC-Z. But, when new, these vehicles were priced out of reach of many young people on entry-level salaries. Also, the GM contingent offered manual transmissions only as exceptions rather than the rule.

Not so the 5.0. Ford priced the Mustang GT affordably and, beginning in 1983, offered a real-deal Borg-Warner T-5 fives-peed manual transmission. For ’86, Ford dumped the Holley carburetor and made multiport fuel injection plus a roller camshaft standard—exotic parts for a low-dollar production car back then.

While Chevrolet charged a premium for all the good stuff, Ford lowered the price by offering the el-cheapo LX with a 5.0 powertrain. Not only was it less expensive, but the notch-window body style, exclusive to the LX line, was lighter than the hatchback/convertible GT.

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Buick G-bodies did nothing less than dominate the Pure Stock Drags scene in the Eighties – Josh Skibbee @Hemmings

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Turbos and Regals and Grand Nationals, oh my! In the ’80s, the high-performance muscle car was supposedly a dying breed — fuel and emissions standards stifled manufacturers and forced them to put the kibosh on performance.

Starting in the late ’70s, though, General Motors searched for unorthodox methods to pump out performance while staying within emissions and fuel guidelines, a quest that led the company to Buick’s turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6.I know what you’re thinking… “V-6 engines don’t belong on the strip!” “Turbos are for imports!” or, “My great-grandfather had a Buick.” Take a look at the vintage Pure Stock Drags video below and see just how that little Buick V-6 ate Foxes, 442s, and IROCs for dinner — and even a 1985 Omni GLH for dessert.

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Exploring Chevy’s 1988-’98 pickups as affordable projects – Terry McGean @Hemmings

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As the humble pickup truck’s place in American culture steadily evolved from simple-but-valued tool to modern fashion statement, it gained a huge fan base. While admiration grew and trucks aged, restorers began returning some of them to showroom shape.

Meanwhile, hot-rodders and customizers crafted their own interpretations of the classic pickup.

The years rolled on and certain models emerged as favorites, spawning a vast aftermarket blooming with reproduction and upgrade parts and kits. So widespread is this enthusiasm for classic pickups today that values of the most popular models have swelled substantially during the past decade or so. It’s good news if you already have one, but not so great for anyone on the hunt for a budget-friendly alternative to pony cars or muscle machines.

Consider the 1967-’72 Chevrolet trucks, popular from new and long adored by enthusiasts. Today, they’re nearly as sought after as the muscle cars of the same era, and values have followed suit, making them less accessible to the younger builders trying to get into a vintage project.

More recently, the following generation of Chevy trucks— the 1973-’87 “square-body” era—has been following the same trajectory, with values escalating rapidly.So, where does that leave the aspiring young builder on a budget? Or even the seasoned tinkerer looking to start a new project with a casual cash commitment? Fortunately, GM kept right on building pickups, and its next generation proved to be a winner.

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