All of 73-87 Chevy and GMC Special Edition Pickup Trucks Part I
Seventies and eighties have been the breeding ground for all kinds of special edition and limited run vehicles, but no models had more such iterations than ’73 to ’87 third generation Chevy and GMC C/K trucks. Then again, they lasted for 14 full years without any major redesigns, so it was kind off expected they’ll bring more than the average number of special editions for one generation. There were so many of them in fact, that we had to divide the article into two parts.
Back then, Chevy C/K trucks were offered in basic Scottsdale, mid-tier Custom Deluxe and top of the line Silverado trims, while GMC trucks from bottom to top corresponded to Sierra, Sierra Grande, High Sierra, and Sierra Classic. Most of these special edition packages were limited to one of these trims, but that wasn’t always the case. Take a look at these 73-87 Chevrolet and GMC limited runs and more, and see how many of them you can remember.
GMC Beau James
Beau James was designed in an effort to attract more upscale buyers to the pickup truck segment. That’s rather common today with all the luxury $50,000 trucks, but it wasn’t all that widespread 40 years ago. Being a plushy pickup, Beau James rides on top of the line Classic Sierra trim stacked with amenities such as full instrumentation, velour seats, air conditioning, cruise control and more. You can recognize it by its distinctive blue/silver paint job, special Beau James ornament on the hood, unique floor mats, wire-look hubcaps and Beau James chrome decal on the rear bed side. Beau James rode on C15 three-quarter ton chassis with cushier half-ton suspension, and could have only been ordered with the strongest of powertrains available – that being 4-barrel 350ci V8 and 4-barrel 454ci V8. Only around 4,000 have been ordered that way.
GMC Gentleman Jim
Beau James wasn’t the only upmarket pickup truck for 1975. Gentleman Jim was the truck of choice for those who didn’t really dig silver, but wanted gold instead – with black being the second color. Completed in Sierra Classic trim, it had similar floor mats as its blue/silver counterpart (only in dark brown with Gentleman Jim inscription), and generally upscale brownish interior with wood grain accents, vinyl bucket seats and vinyl door storage pouches. Gentleman Jim also came with the air conditioner, AM/FM stereo radio with 8-track tape, power steering, tilt steering wheel, power brakes, Series 95 CIBIE halogen beams, etc. Moreover, just like Beau James, Gentleman Jim too rode on C15 chassis and could have been ordered exclusively with most potent of V8’s. Not more than 2,500 have been made.
Chevy “Spirit of 76” Edition
America’s Bicentennial theme was one of the biggest deals back in 1976, and car manufacturers naturally exploited that fact. Chevrolet, however, remained rather reserved, putting only 500 of “Spirit of 76” pickup trucks into the market. It appears most of them were white-blue or blue-white, but you might also bump into light blue version with red-white-blue stripe on the side. What was the same in all of them, however, were unique interior with red-white-blue vinyl seat and “Spirit of 76” emblems on door panels. They were available with both the manual and the automatic trans. As far as I’ve been able to establish, only 350ci V8 used to be the motivational factor behind them.
Chevy and GMC Olympic Edition (Canada)
Canadians didn’t get the “Spirit of 76” truck, but they got something equally cool and rare. You’ll remember that Summer Olympics were held in Montreal that year, and GM decided to commemorate the occasion with special edition pickups. OOC code ZE2 included the special white paint with red beltline stripe and hood, Olympic decal on the stripe (rear for GMC, mid for Chevy), and unique Olympic hood ornament. Apart from that, Chevy and GMC Olympic Edition also featured chrome grille, mirrors and front bumper, wheel opening moldings and rally wheels (except on larger 3/4 and one-ton trucks). As far as I can tell, OOC ZE2 also mandated the RPO Z62 which translates to GMC Sierra Grande and Chevy Scottsdale trims. Only 630 of them have been commissioned and they had the 165-horsepower 350ci V8 under those red bonnets.
You’ll likely notice the square gas doors on the bed of the GMC truck which started around 1979. The whole bed of the GMC truck pictured was likely replaced at some point (I’ve found Chevy versions with square gas doors too). That apparently happens a lot in snowy areas across Canada.
GMC Impact Edition
Impact ’76 Pickups are often confused with “Spirit of 76” trucks, but only thing they have in common (apart from the obvious), is the year in which they were available. Moreover, they quite resemble the 1975 Indy truck due to similar striping. Impact Edition was only available in half-ton and three-quarter ton trucks, but both rear and all-wheel drive could have been selected. In order to get one of these, buyers needed to opt for Motortown Corporation Basic Package which included wheel flares both up front and around the back, front air dam, dual custom outside mirrors and custom striping. Special hood stripe and strobe side striping came either in blue and red or orange and red. From there on, you could have stacked it with options however you deemed fit.
Chevrolet Sport package enjoyed the longest run among all 73-87 special edition GM trucks. During the course of five years, it also changed a lot in both offering and appearance. Sport package started exclusively on stepside models, but added fleetside trucks into the equation later on as well. Both two and four wheel drive were available and so were most of the engines. Chevy Sport could have been ordered with 250ci six or 2-barrel 350ci V8 as standard. Options included the 4-barrel 350ci V8, 400ci V8 (only four wheel drive) and 454ci V8.
Only thing that a Chevy pickup needed in order to get the RPO Z77 Sport package, was the RPO Z62 Scottsdale trim. As mentioned before, Chevy Sport evolved and changed over the years. It started with simple white stripes back in ’76 and ended with multi colored bodies in ’81. Other appearance goodies include a hood ornament, rally wheels, deluxe front bumper and many more, but this mostly depends on production year.
GMC Indy 500
1977 marked the fourth consecutive year (fifth overall after 1925) that GMC provided the official support vehicles for 61st annual Indy 500 race, so they decided to mark the occasion with yet another special edition. GMC commissioned 500 replicas of the official support truck in both fenderside and wideside body styles equipped with 6 and 1/2 foot beds. 8-foot bed was reserved for wideside body style alone. Both C10 and K10 trucks were subject to Indy 500 conversion in 1977. They all featured black and white paint with red pinstriping and official Indy 500 decals. Furthermore, GMC likely also commissioned 500 3/4 ton 1976 Indy 500 trucks and another 500 half-ton 1975 pickups. Plus, you could have bought some of the official trucks from other years as well (including 1974, 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984), from participating dealerships. Not many of any year have survived to this day, however.
GMC Desert Fox
Arguably one of the best looking GMC special edition trucks, Desert Fox was available across fenderside and wideside body styles, 2WD and 4WD configs, and short and long wheelbase models. It was also available with the GMC Jimmy. Apart from the coolest of paint schemes which consists of Buckskin base and five different stripe colors, Desert Fox offered the top bar with dual CIBIE lamps, PA6 sport wheels, red or buckskin interior, air conditioning, tilt steering, cruise control, etc. While most of these were optional, paint scheme and striping, top bar and sport wheels were mandatory equipment coming with Hickey Enterprises package. As far as we know, GMC Desert Fox pickup could have been ordered with all of the available petrol engines.
GMC Sarge package wasn’t limited to pickup trucks alone as it appeared in GMC Vandura van and GMC General class 8 truck. In GMC pickup, however, Sarge edition was strictly limited to three-quarter ton workhorses with either two or four wheel drive. Cool silver paint job was complemented by three-tone multicolor brown-red-orange stripe on the side, Sarge lettering on the rear quarter panel and hood ornament up front. Forged aluminum wheels only served to further soften Sarge’s blue collar demeanor. Inside, Sarge came with the CB radio and AM/FM 8-track stereo, and leather-wrapped sport steering wheel.