Pickup trucks have made a remarkable transition in the past decade. Once strictly the province of the construction and country-music industries, pickups have become the primary on-road vehicle for an astonishing number of drivers.

Between the Big Three automakers alone in 1998, sales of large pickup trucks numbered more than two million. Chevrolet has long been a player in this market. With the C/K series of trucks (the "C" indicates two-wheel-drive models, "K" four-wheel drivers), Chevy ranks a perennial number two in annual sales to the Ford F-Series trucks.

This year, with a ground-up redesign and evolutionary styling, they hope to sell more than 600,000 trucks annually (split between the renamed Chevy, now the Silverado, and the nearly identical GMC Sierra).Since the last version made its debut in 1988, the C/K trucks have amassed an enviable reputation among casual drivers and hard-core Home Depot fans alike. But what's it like to own and drive a used example? Mostly, it's a solidly enjoyable experience, as we found out.

 

What You Need To Know:

1. Review of a 1994 Chevrolet C1500 Pickup

2. Summary of Good and Bad Points by Owners

3. History of Intrepid

4. Review of Current Model

5. Basic Facts

6. Changes Year-to-Year

7. Safety Information

8. Value Guide

9. Option Installment Rate

10. Sales History

11. Awards and Commendations Earned

12. Other Reviews

13. Recall Information

14. Price of Spare Parts

 

1. Pre-owned Vehicle Review (1994 Chevrolet C1500 Pickup)

Likes: car-like ride, rugged reputation

Dislikes: dated interior with less than ideal ergonomics (improved in 1995)

Competitors: GMC Sierra, Ford F-Series, Dodge Ram, Toyota T-100 (and new for 2000, the Toyota Tundra)

Miles: 49,700

Condition: B+

Price (new): $18,602

Estimated 1998 value: $13,000

As I look out the front window of my house, I see a 1955 and a 1997 Chevy pickup truck. My neighbor to the left has owned his 1955 truck since new, while the one on the right has owned no less than five since his sixteenth birthday in 1963. Both use them as their everyday vehicles and neither of them need a work truck. I guess they are both typical loyal Chevrolet owners.

Pickup trucks have long been a favorite in rural areas. But in the past decade or so, full-size trucks have grown increasingly popular in urban areas as well.

While driving a 1994 C1500 truck, I could understand why it makes sense for a lot of people. Our test vehicle was a C1500 extended-cab model, a short-bed truck powered by a 305-cubic-inch V-8 engine. With two bench seats, there's room for six people, which makes it usable for a family. Of course, there's not much room for adults in the back, but kids seem to love riding back there. However, it's really more useful as a storage area for a brief case or to carry groceries.

The reality of all pickups is that the bed isn't much use for carrying cargo, unless it's big and heavy. Unless items are secured they will tend to roll around or get blown away. That's why so many people use camper shells -- in effect, getting the benefits of a van.

Our test drive reminded us that, despite being a ten-year-old design, the C/K was still a competent truck at the end of its life cycle. Its square design may have been more conservative compared to the macho Dodge Ram and the curvy Ford F-series, but that didn't seem to bother many truck owners. The ride quality of the C/K remained nearly as good as its newer competitors, in fact.

About the only area where the C/K falls short is the interior -- specifically, the dashboard. Despite a change in 1995, its truck-like look is dating rapidly, and its ergonomics aren't on a par with more modern designs. The front bench seat is not ideal for comfort, but it's convenient if you want to carry three people.

This particular truck belonged to an engineer who had spent the better part of a year building a new house in his spare time. Typically, the vehicle had suffered from the inevitable nicks and small dings from carrying lumber and the like. But it still rode well and its performance seemed up to par. There was a slight whine coming from the rear axle and its oversize, off-road style tires also created a fair amount of noise.

The owner said that he'd experienced no problems during the four years of ownership. He'd changed the oil every 5000 miles and the tires had to be replaced once every 20,000 miles. He said the turning radius took a bit of getting used to when he first bought it. The truck had been used to tow a 5000-pound boat several times. Several people had warned him that heavy towing might lead to transmission problems, but it had not proven true.

A word about nomenclature: the letters and numbers Chevrolet uses to name this full-size pickup trucks can be to be quite confusing. The "C" refers to two-wheel drive versions while "K" refers to 4WD models. The number that follows designates the traditional payload capacity of a truck (i.e., 1500 is a 1/2 ton, 2500 a 3/4 ton and 3500 a one-ton truck). It's no longer a formal classification system but it helps explain how heavy-duty a truck is. A regular cab seats three people and has two doors; an extended-cab model has a rear bench seat with two or three doors in later models. A crew cab has four doors and regular rear bench seat making it more like a car. Cargo boxes or beds come in two sizes, short (79 inches long) or long (98 inches). Know these well before you go shopping for a pre-owned model.

2. Summing It Up -Owners Views

Good:

"car-like ride, versatility, great for towing (with V-8 engine), seats six (extended cab), standard ABS (since 1995)"

Bad:

"poor ergonomics on dashboard (until 1995), poor turning radius."

Verbatims:

"I'd buy another one in a minute, but probably a 4WD next time."

"I found the V-6 engine had plenty of power -- and it helped fuel economy."

 

3. History of C/K Pickup

The lineage of the C/K pickup dates back to 1918 when Chevrolet first introduced a truck, but the C/K designation came into being only with the introduction of the last version in 1988. This model was fairly revolutionary when it arrived, as Chevrolet designed the model to be rugged but have a more car-like ride. In a world of work trucks and demanding users, that was not the norm.

Strong engineering and dependability have made it successful since then. The C/K trucks have consistently lead the pack as General Motors' top-selling vehicle. To wit: until just a few years ago, the combined sales of the Chevrolet and the all but identical GMC C/K (now known as the Sierra) put it ahead of the top-selling Ford F-series.

In 1996, the C/K became the first truck to offer a third side door (euphemistically called an easy-access system rather than a door), for easier access to the rear of the Extended-Cab model. It's not a full-size door -- it can only be opened after the regular front passenger door has been opened.

This summer, Chevrolet introduced the all-new replacement for the C/K, dubbed the Silverado. While the bodywork appears only slightly more rounded, Silverado has gained a much more modern interior design, a better ride, and a quieter cabin. Unusually, the old model continues to be built for some time which means there are both old and new 1999 Chevrolet trucks on the market. This will lead to some real confusion in the pre-owned marketplace in a few years time.

 

4. Review of Current Model

Chevrolet's full-size pickup truck is without a doubt on of the most important vehicles in GM's whole product line. GM has now introduced the first new version of the truck since 1988. It has also renamed the trucks: Chevrolet's version is the Silverado, while GMC keeps the Sierra name that has been used for the past few years.

In clinics current owners of the full-size pickups were pretty adamant that the vehicle was fine. More than any other segment full-size pickup truck owners are fiercely loyal to their brands. Not surprisingly GM chose to modify the looks of the new model only slightly.

Nonetheless underneath the new rounder body there are a myriad of changes. The body is nine inches longer and the wheelbase has increased by 1.5 inches on the regular cab models and two inches on extended cab versions, which also gets a third door as standard. The third door certainly is a boon, though it can only be opened once the passenger-side door has been opened. However, because it is hinged at the rear of the cab, once both doors are open there is no door pillar to get in the way. This makes for easy access to the rear seat. It also allows one to get awkward shaped objects into the cabin more easily.

The same wide range of engine and drivetrain combinations are offered as before. The base V-6 engine has a slight increase in power while the two V-8s have been replaced with new engines which both have less capacity (4.8- and 5.3-liters versus 5.0- and 5.7-liters) but offer more power (with slightly less low-end torque) and better fuel economy.

During a drive in a 4WD Silverado K1500 I found the truck was much quieter and the interior quite spacious. The ride though was still as jittery as ever because of the Z-71 off-road suspension, which is accurately called a firm-ride suspension! It was very easy to spin the inside rear wheel without trying when turning tight corners. I want to reserve judgment on the ride quality until I drive a regular rear-drive model.

I am sure that true-blooded Chevrolet C/K pickup fans -and there are millions of them -will be happy with the new Silverado., It appears that GM has refined the vehicle where needed but left the basic attributes well alone. I know my neighbors would like to buy one!

 

5. Basic Facts: 1988 - 1998 C/K Pickup

Vehicle type: full-size pickup

Number of passengers: up to six

Origin of Assembly: Fort Wayne, Indiana; Pontiac, Michigan; Arlington, Texas; Flint, Michigan; Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

Engine (standard): 4.3-liter 200 hp V-6 (on C1500)

(optional): 5.0-liter 230-hp V-8; 5.7-liter 255-hp V-8; 7.4-liter 290-hp V-8; 6.5-liter 180-hp turbodiesel; 6.5-liter 195-hp turbodiesel

Transmission: five-speed manual (three versions) or four-speed automatic (two versions)

Length: 194 to 251 inches

Wheelbase: 118 to 169 inches

Width: 77 inches

Height: 71 to 76 inches

Curb weight: 3869 to 5527 pounds

Cargo volume: n/a

Fuel tank capacity: 25 or 35 gallons

Fuel economy (EPA city/highway): 8-17/12-22 (range)

 

6. Changes in the Chevrolet C/K Pickup Line 1994 - 1999

1994 Model Year

New side-door guard beams in both doors New roof-mounted center high-mounted stop light cargo light. Enhanced corrosion protection Standard 165-hp 4.3-liter V-6 with new extended-durability spark plugs, increased inlet airflow, a new water pump seal, and powdered metal balance shaft gears

1995 Model Year

Driver-side air bag (under 8500 GVWR) Four-wheel anti-lock brakes Brake transmission shift interlock. All-new interior featuring a new instrument panel, attractive new door trim panels, and new contoured seats

1996 Model Year

More horsepower and more torque Easy-access system (third door) which brings a new level of convenience to C/K1500 Extended-Cab models

1997 Model Year

An outboard front-passenger facial air bag is now standard on all models under 8600 lbs. GVWR Transmission improvements

1998 Model Year

PassLock theft-deterrent system added for increased anti-theft protection 4L60-E and 4L80-E automatic transmission enhancements for increased durability Lighter front half-shafts on four-wheel drive models for improved serviceability

1999 Model Year

Old model continues unchanged alongside a new model

Brand new model, renamed the Silverado, introduced, it has new sheetmetal a longer wheelbase, new engines, new interior and a host of other new features

 

7. Safety Notes

NHTSA crash rating (1995 Model Year): driver 5; passenger 5 (5 is best) 1995: driver-side airbag added. Four-wheel ABS introduced as standard on all models. 1997: passenger-side airbag added.

 

8. Value Guide

Prices listed are for base models. Options can add considerably to the lowest price listed as these are usually "stripped" models. In many cases, very few vehicles are ever sold at the lowest price listed. Source: Kelley Blue Book

1992 Model Year

New: $11,961 to $16,968

1993 Model Year

New: $12,486 to $17,691

1994 Model Year

New: $12,051 to $18,531

1995 Model Year

New: $12,770 to $20,056

1996 Model Year

New: $13,299 to $22,384

1997 Model Year

New: $13,776 to $23,168

1998 Model Year

New: $14,227 to $25,514

 

9. Option Installment Rate

Generally, when you order a new car you have a choice of factory-installed options. When you buy a pre-owned vehicle the choice is limited to what was actually installed on vehicles sold in that model year. Use this option installment rate as a guide to the chances of finding particular options on a pre-owned vehicle. Source: Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

(The installment rates listed below are for the C/K1500 models only)

1993 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.3-liter V-6 36%

5.0-liter V-8 8%

5.7-liter V-8 54%

Other engines 2%

Transmission:

Manual 16%

Automatic 84%

4WD 34%

Air Conditioning 92%

Power Windows 68%

Cruise Control 73%

1994 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.3-liter V-6 29%

5.0-liter V-8 7%

5.7-liter V-8 63%

Other engines 1%

Transmission:

Manual 9%

Automatic 91%

4WD 39%

Air Conditioning 94%

Power Windows 71%

Cruise Control 76%

1995 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.3-liter V-6 23%

5.0-liter V-8 13%

5.7-liter V-8 63%

Other engines 2%

Transmission:

Manual 16%

Automatic 84%

4WD 45%

Air Conditioning 94%

Power Windows 70%

Cruise Control 84%

1996 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.3-liter V-6 20%

5.0-liter V-8 25%

5.7-liter V-8 54%

Other engines 1%

Transmission:

Manual 8%

Automatic 92%

4WD 43%

Air Conditioning 98%

Power Windows 76%

Cruise Control 92%

Remote/Keyless Entry 37%

Leather Seats 4%

1997 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

4.3-liter V-6 20%

5.0-liter V-8 24%

5.7-liter V-8 54%

Other engines 2%

Transmission:

Manual 10%

Automatic 90%

4WD 44%

Air Conditioning 98%

Power Windows 78%

Cruise Control 92%

Remote/Keyless Entry 37%

Leather Seats 8%

 

10. Production/Sales Volume History

Normally, a model year runs from October to September. Often though, when a new version is introduced, it hits the market before October. Legally, a model year can start as early as January of the preceding year. Accurate model year sales counts are almost impossible to collect as different model year vehicles are regularly sold side-by-side for several months. Production figures, when listed, include vehicles made for export to Canada, Mexico and overseas. Source: manufacturers

1994 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1993 through Sept. 1994

Total number produced: 646,316

Total no. sold in U.S.: 540,965

1995 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1994 through Sept. 1995

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 517,900

1996 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1995 through Sept. 1996

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 527,500

1997 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1996 through Sept. 1997

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 523,743

1998 Model Year

Production run: Feb. 1997 through June 1998

Total number produced: n/a

Total no. sold in U.S.: 537,553

 

11. Awards and Commendations

1994

"Best Buy" - Consumers Digest

1995

"Best Buy" - Consumers Digest

"Best Overall Value Full-Size Pickup" IntelliChoice

1996

"Best Buy" - Consumers Digest

"Best full-size pickup in Initial Quality Survey" - J.D. Power and Associates

"A Best Value Full-Size Pickup 2WD" - - IntelliChoice

1997

"Best Buy" - Consumers Digest

1999

"Truck of the Year" - Motor Trend

"Four Wheeler of the Year" - Four Wheeler

"Sport Truck of the Year" - Sport Truck

 

12. Quotes

"While not the most sophisticated trucks on the market, these full-size Chevrolet/GMC pickups continue to deliver solid performance and unbeatable value in each of their many configurations." -- Consumers Digest 1998 Autos Yearbook

 

13. Recalls

(The following list does not include recalls for low-volume conversions. Also, some recalls covered a wider variety of models and years than listed here and some were also listed under additional ID Numbers.)

ID Number: 93V152000

Component: brakes: hydraulic: linkage: pedal

Year: 1994

Year of recall: 1993

Potential number of units affected: 70,154

Summary: The brake pedal push rod retainer is missing, mispositioned or not properly seated. Brake pedal push rod problems can cause the stop lampswitch and the brake booster push rod to disconnect from the brake pedal, resulting in loss of brake operation, and a vehicle crash could occur without prior warning.

ID Number: 94V060000

Component: suspension: independent front control arm: lower

Year: 1994

Year of recall: 1994

Potential number of units affected: 30,148

Summary: Trucks were assembled with the left-hand lower control arm to frame rear nut tightened below the specified torque. Low torque on this nut may allow the attachment bolt to loosed and subsequently fatigue and break. The bolt breakage can cause the left-hand control arm to separate from the frame. If this occurs, a loss of vehicle control and a crash could result.

ID Number: 95I005000

Component: engine: diesel

Year: 1994

Year of recall: 1995

Potential number of units affected: 60,000

Summary: Dealers will install some recently developed enhancements which will improve the overall driveability of these vehicles. Light duty pickup trucks, vans and motor homes equipped with electronically fuel injected 6.5-liter diesel engine. This is not a safety recall in accordance with Federal regulation 573. However, it is deemed a safety improvement campaign by the agency. The campaign will improve the overall driveability of these vehicles. Consequence of problem: certain vehicles can exhibit some driveability concerns such as poor throttle response, stalling, misfire, poor hot or cold starting, extended cranking of a hot engine, or stalling after start. Trucks with manual transmissions can exhibit poor acceleration from start or could stall during deceleration.

ID Number: 95V241000

Component: interior systems: seat belts: lap: front

Year: 1994 -- 1995

Year of recall: 1995

Potential number of units affected: 630,099

Summary: If both the lap-belt and shoulder-belt energy management loops on the front seat belt assemblies release at or near the same time, acceleration forces can cause the buckle release mechanism to activate and allow the buckle to separate from the latch. If the buckle released, the system would fail to provide adequate occupant restraint protection.

ID Number: 95V246000

Component: interior systems: seats

Year: 1994 -- 1995

Year of recall: 1995

Potential number of units affected: 675,661

Summary: The seat recliner to seat frame attaching bolts on these vehicle could loosen, fatigue and fracture, allowing the seat back to suddenly recline. If this were to occur to the driver's seat, this could result in a sudden loss of vehicle control increasing the risk of a vehicle accident.

ID Number: 96V057000

Component: fuel: throttle linkages and control

Year: 1995 -- 1996

Year of recall: 1996

Potential number of units affected : 379,004

Summary: These vehicles were assembled with the throttle cable contacting the dash mat, which could bind the throttle. This does not meet with the maximum return times required by federal motor vehicle safety standard no. 124, "accelerator control systems." Consequence of non-compliance: the engine speed may not return to idle increasing the potential for a vehicle accident.

ID Number: 97V037000

Component: interior systems: seats

Year: 1995 -- 1997

Year of recall: 1997

Potential number of units affected: 624,433

Summary: Extended cab and two-door utility vehicles equipped with reclining seats and the Easy-Entry feature. These vehicles exhibit a condition in which a pinch point exists in the recliner mechanism that can trap and pinch a person's hand or finger(s) when the Easy-Entry feature is activated. This pinching can cut the hand or possibly sever the finger(s) without prior warning.

ID Number: 96V082000

Component: suspension: single axle: rear: leaf spring: u-bolt

Year: 1996

Year of recall: 1996

Potential number of units affected: 16,918

Summary: The four u-bolt nuts on either side of the rear axle were under-torqued. Vehicle usage could cause the nuts to loosen and eventually fall off the u-bolt. This could result in sudden loss of vehicle control increasing the potential for a vehicle crash.

ID Number: 97V176000

Component: interior systems: seat tracks and anchors

Year: 1997

Year of recall: 1997

Potential number of units affected: 6,418

Summary: One or two of the front seat mounting bolts were not installed. This does not comply with the requirements of FMVSS 207, "Seating Systems." In the event of a vehicle crash, a seat with this condition will not protect the occupant as required by the standard.

 

14. Cost of Parts and Service (relative to other vehicles)

Headlight unit: $47 (below average)

Side marker lamp: $9 (below average)

Door (left front): $358 (below average)

Fender (left front): $136 (below average)

Note: these are estimated retail prices for commonly replaced body parts on a 1995 model. Prices are current as of mid-1998 but will vary from region to region and are subject to change at any time. Source: ADP Collision

 

The Rettie Report and Pre-owned Profiles contain objective information from a variety of sources. The subjective comments are those of John Rettie.

 

 

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