It’s a big year for fans of the Bowtie. 2018 marks the 100-year anniversary of Chevy’s first truck, and as you’d imagine, the brand is celebrating in a big way. We attended some of the Centennial festivities in Texas earlier this month, when the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado was unveiled for the first time. Before we saw the new truck, though, we spent some time with some of the greatest hits from the Bowtie’s truck timeline.
1978 Chevrolet Performance Classic Truck Concept
If you’re a longtime SEMA regular, this two-tone C/K might be familiar. This is a SEMA special from 2013, created out of a semi-rough 1978 Chevy from Wisconsin. GM engineers stripped the truck down, performing a full restoration that included the excellent two-tone paint job and classic off-road wheels.
In place of the old workhorse heart is a 5.3-liter E-ROD crate V-8, pushing out 336 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque, hooked up to a modern 4L70-E four-speed automatic transmission. Aside from this updated powertrain, it remains mostly stock. Out on the road, it’s very characteristic of trucks from this era – wallowy handling, sketchy steering, and a great soundtrack.
2007 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
At first glance, this appears as the same truck your local contractor uses to schlepp drywall around town–right up until you see the odometer. When I drove this 2500HD, it had just 75 miles on the clock, even almost 11 years after it was built.
This unassuming HD truck is the very last Silverado on the GMT 800 platform to roll off the assembly line, immediately interred into GM’s massive heritage collection. Seeing as there is no real need to roll this truck out too often, the mileage has remained extremely low.
When properly preserved, even the mundane feels special. It’s not necessarily interesting in its own right, but as a time capsule, the last 2500HD was fascinating to drive. It was unsurprisingly modern and factory-fresh, all while wearing an exterior style and interior design ripped from the early 00s (the first of the GMT 800 2500HDs left the assembly line in 2000).
1956 Chevrolet 3100 “Task Force”
This handsome old-timer is part of the short-run of trucks following the Advance Design family that ended in 1955. Chevrolet rebranded its truck lineup as the “Task Force,” giving individual models aggressive names like the Apache, Spartan, and Viking, depending on their capability and size.
This bone-stock ’56 is before the aforementioned nomenclature, simply called the 3100 in this case. We didn’t get to drive this one on account of a tricky transmission, but a handler gave us an extended ride. For a 60 year-old truck, this was shockingly comfortable and smooth, with plenty of composure over rough road. Inside, the ‘50s décor was a charming reminder that trucks used to be implements, and not the massive, refined beasts they are today.
2014 Chevrolet Silverado Cheyenne SEMA Concept
Here’s a bittersweet glimpse into what could have been. For the 2013 SEMA show, Chevrolet outfitted a standard short-bed Silverado with a bucket of go-fast goodies lifted from the contemporary Camaro Z/28.
The wheels, carbon ceramic brakes, steering wheel, and Recaro seats were lifted from the Camaro, giving the darkened, lowered truck a hyper-aggressive appearance. Sadly, the mighty 7.0-liter LS7 V-8 from the Camaro never made the cut and the Cheyenne is instead powered by the then-new L86 6.2-liter V-8 that pushed out 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque.
1971 Chevrolet C/10
Of all the classic trucks from the Heritage collection, this was our favorite. Trucks don’t really look better than the late-60s, early 70s Chevys, and this was the first time we’ve ever driven one in such good condition. Power came from a trusty 350 small-block, providing more than enough power to trundle on down the sparsely populated service roads surrounding the Texas Motor Speedway. The steering was understandably vague, considering the intended use, but the ride was exceedingly comfortable.
1926 Chevrolet Superior Express Truck
This stake-bed was the biggest treat of the day. With rickety wooden-spoke wheels and a noisy 2.8-liter four-cylinder thumping away under the side-lift front hood, this shows us not just how far trucks have come, but how far the entire automotive industry has advanced.
It was a brisk 45-degree day at the Speedway, so with no doors or side windows, the ’26 was chilling. We were forced to play the role of passenger for this one, but with such convoluted driver controls and inputs, we were fine with that. With a top speed somewhere south of 40 miles per hour, non-existent brakes, and a busy suspension, we’re glad we’ve come this far.
Bonus: Pro-touring Race Trucks
Adjacent to the vintage truck drives, Chevrolet worked with RideTech to set up a full autocross cone course for ride-alongs in a handful of extremely capable pro-touring trucks. These are the same tube-frame, 600-plus-hp monsters you see competing at the Optima Ultimate Street Car events.