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The History of the Chevy C10

by Rob Wagner

The model year 1960 brought the Chevrolet pickup into the modern era with its C/K series lineup. The “C” designation identified two-wheel-drive pickups, and the “K” identified 4X4s. The most common pickup was the C10, a half-ton truck with a 6.5- or 8-foot cargo box. The C/K series trucks remained essentially the same vehicle during a series of conservative redesigns, until 1997, when the 1998 Silverado replaced it.

Early Versions

During the 1950s, Chevrolet introduced V-8 engines to its trucks, but the vehicle more or less continued as an updated model of the early postwar pickups that debuted in 1948. The C10 was a completely new truck. Chevrolet gave the C10 better weight distribution by increasing the load capacity of the front axle, adding about 5.6 inches to the front and moving the front axle back about 2 inches. Engineers enlarged the cab for better comfort and added more windshield and rear window glass to increase visibility.

Models

Although the C10 most commonly identifies as the half-ton, short-bed pickup, it came in different styles. The C10 featured a 115-inch wheelbase for the pickup equipped with the 6.5-foot bed and a 127-inch wheelbase for models with the 8-foot bed. Chevy sold pickups as a chassis and cab that required buyers to custom-fit their choice of beds. Other styles featured the Fleetside, or flat panel cargo box, and the Stepside, which had the rear wheels outside the bed and a step mounted between the cab and wheelwells. C10 models also included a panel truck and the Suburban sport utility vehicle.

1968 Specifications

By 1968, Chevrolet began focusing on providing the C10 with a smoother ride, more room in the cab and some creature comforts that were once reserved only for passenger cars. The truck featured smoother lines, as Chevy marketed it as a second family vehicle. The 115-inch wheelbase version measured 186.75 inches in length, with a front tread width of 63.1 inches and a rear tread width of 61.1 inches. The 127-inch wheelbase model measured 206.25 inches in length, with the same front and rear track dimensions. Engine choices by 1968 were the 250- and 292-cubic-inch, in-line six-cylinders, and the 307, 327 and 396 V-8s.

Post Gas-Crunch Era

Chevrolet truck sales dropped by 1980 due to the 1970s fuel crises. Overall North American pickup truck sales dropped more than 50 percent in 1980, and Chevrolet fell behind Ford in overall sales partly due to the fact the Ford offered the popular extended cab pickup while Chevy didn’t have the factory tooling to produce one. Chevrolet attempted to boost fuel economy by using lighter materials, including lightweight rear bumpers, to drop about 300 pounds. Chevy also increased the efficiency of its venerable 350 (5.7 liter) V-8 with a new Electronic Spark Control system that constantly adjusted the fuel mixture for optimum fuel usage.

1989 Specifications

The 1989 C10 came with a standard 4.3-liter V-6 or an optional 6.2-liter V-8. The 1989 C10’s wheelbase gained 2.5 inches to reach 117.5 inches. It was 194.1 inches long and 76.4 inches wide. It had a 63.6-inch front track width and a 64.6-inch rear track width. The 1989 model looked trimmer than the variants of the 1970s, but otherwise kept the same styling and overall construction until production ceased in 1997.

About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.

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