The New Vintage
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.
For the 1988 model year, GM introduced a new line of light trucks under the internal designation “GMT 400.” To the public, the new generation of trucks was often referred to as the “C/K” series, combining the familiar C designation of two-wheel-drive models with the K of 4x4s. The new C/K line offered increased interior space, while appearing leaner and more svelte on the outside thanks to a “cab forward” design with a sloping hood and rounded prow. This was the first time GM had offered extended-cab variations on its pickups, and the traditional “step-side” bed was finally replaced with a new fiberglass Sportside interpretation.
Viewed today, the GMT-400 era of trucks was an excellent blend of then-modern technology merged with traditional pickup dimensions. Though some details are very of-the-period, like the mini quad headlamps of the earlier models and the plasticky dark-argent egg-crate grilles, GM’s stylists smoothed out many of the trim details as the generation evolved, and overall these trucks have aged well. Park a GMT 400 next to a 1967-’68 Chevy pickup and you might even wonder if GM’s stylists looked back for inspiration.