Good morning, Autopians! Today we’ve got a couple of old workhorses that have been put out to pasture, but they’ve still got a little life left in them. And they’re both going up in value, so we’d better check them out while we can afford them. But first, let’s find out which of Friday’s finalists is our new video star:
Close one, but the Oldsmobile wins it. That’s really the perfect Hollywood choice anyway; in showbiz, you can be kind of crap, as long as you’re pretty.
Neither of today’s vehicles is pretty; the best they can manage is “ruggedly handsome.” But they both run and drive just fine, and either one can still be useful. Or just cruise around and have a little fun. After all, all work and no play makes… well, you know. They’re both the same price, and while it may seem high, old trucks like these are having a moment, and that moment shows no signs of ending. They’ll probably be even more expensive next year, so if you want one, grab it now. Let’s check them out.
Engine/drivetrain: 350 cubic inch overhead valve V8, three-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Portland, OR
Odometer reading: 211,000 miles
This generation of Chevy truck is known as the “Squarebody,” because of its rectilinear shape. But the funny part is, if you really study the design, there’s barely a sharp corner on it, if you don’t count the bed. The end of every line is rounded-off, which may be why General Motors calls this era of truck the “Rounded Line.” Believe it or not, this truck was designed using a wind tunnel, even though it looks like it has the aerodynamics of a cinder block.
Whatever you want to call it, it’s a damn good looking piece of machinery. I’m especially fond of this early style, before the facelift of 1981 that squared off the front end even more. And it wears two-tone paint well, even when it’s as faded and weatherbeaten as this one is.
But before we talk more about this truck, I need to point out that I think this photo has been altered. It doesn’t look like western Oregon at all. It’s far too lush and verdant; nobody here actually has a multitude of hundred-foot-tall pine trees in their backyards. And we never get glorious sunsets like this after a perfect golden hour of late-afternoon sun. It’s nowhere near this pretty, so stop thinking about moving here.
Now, about this truck: it’s a C10, in the “Bonanza” trim level. It’s powered by the ubiquitous 350 cubic inch small-block V8, backed by a Turbo-Hydramatic 350 transmission. This drivetrain is legendary for a reason – it’s just about indestructible, easy to service, and dirt-cheap to repair if something does go wrong. This one purrs like a kitten, from the sounds of it, and the transmission was recently rebuilt. The 350 in these trucks is equipped with a Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor, capable of sucking down fuel at an astonishing rate. Luckily, it has two fuel tanks to feed that thirsty monster, one on each side – pull up to whichever side of the pumps you want.
The outside of this truck may have a near-perfect level of patina, but the inside needs some help. The bench seat is worn through, but in true work truck fashion, only on the driver’s side; the seldom-used passenger’s side is pristine. The carpet is missing, probably removed because the floors are rusted through. The seller says replacement floor pans are included – but you’ll have to weld them in yourself.
Engine/drivetrain: 318 cubic inch overhead valve V8, three-speed automatic, RWD
Location: McFarland, CA
Odometer reading: 115,000 miles
Runs/drives? Sure does!
Perpetual third-place Chrysler Corporation trailed GM and Ford in the truck market even worse than in passenger cars, until the radical 1994 Dodge Ram trucks were introduced. Since then, the gap has narrowed considerably, but Ram (they dropped the “Dodge” badge years ago) is still number three. Slow-selling though it was at the time, the D-series trucks like this are finally getting their due.
This Ram 150 is a 2WD short-bed model, powered by a 318 cubic inch V8 and a Torqueflite automatic. Short-bed trucks are often seen as playthings, but even without that extra foot and a half of bed length, it’s still a half-ton truck, still capable of doing truck things. It just can’t haul full sheets of plywood with the tailgate up. The 318/Torqueflite combination is every bit as stout and reliable as Chevy’s 350/TH350, and this one runs and drives fine. I believe, from the photos, that it’s being sold by a towing company, which would make it difficult to uncover its history, so we’ll have to assess it at face value.
This is a high trim level truck, with power windows and locks, cruise control, and a tilt steering wheel in addition to air conditioning. It’s not clear from the ad how much of that stuff works, and its presence is another indication that this truck was meant for play rather than work, but if you like that stuff in a truck, it’s all there. It’s a pity it has that hideous mid-1980s Dodge steering wheel, though. I hated these things in Daytonas and Lancers, and I hate it here too.
Outside, it looks pretty good, with only a few bumps and bruises. The mismatched tires are a bummer, and the scruffy black wagon wheels aren’t doing it any favors. A nice set of slot mags would look good on here, I think, if you could find them. Otherwise, it just looks dirty. I think some elbow grease would do it a world of good.
I fully expect some grousing about the prices of these two. We got used to old trucks like these being sub-$1000 beaters, and they made enough of them (even the Dodge) that for a long time they bounced along the bottom of the market. But this is what they cost now. And really, for a classic (or near-classic) that can earn its keep, it’s not too bad. Which one of these strikes your fancy?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)