The Chevy C/K Started the Sport Truck Movement
One of the most influential automotive trends that swept the nation was the surgent rise of sport trucks. In the mid-’80s, the sport truck craze fueled a movement similar to hot rodding. Also, like hot rods, the sport truck craze began in Los Angeles and Orange County, which bore witness to the beginning of converting pickup trucks into street cruisers.
Retiring the Square Body Meant Big Shoes To Fill
In 1987, General Motors moved away from a fan favorite – the square body. It was a challenging transition to kill off something so popular – which many hope will be revived today – but it all started with a new line of GMC and Chevrolet pickups to pick up the slack. The new line of old body style (OBS) C/K trucks were another instant classic that resonated with fans, but they changed the landscape more than intended.
In the past, lowering a truck was a foreign concept. These rugged machines weren’t designed to be “sporty.” Back before the popularity surge of trucks and becoming the top-selling vehicles in the United States, they were the workhorse of America. Lowering a truck took away its purpose, which was to tow, haul, and be tough.
Once the idea to lower a truck came into play, it soon rose to the top of “cool things to do,” fueling a movement that swept the nation known as sport trucks.
What is a Chevy C/K Sport Truck?
A sport truck is any truck that’s been modified to enhance its appearance and performance. It can be called a “lifestyle vehicle.” Think of it this way – a sport truck is to truck as a sports car is to a car. One shared characteristic of sport trucks is the lowering, otherwise known as a “drop” or “slam.” Sport trucks rely on a lower center of gravity to enhance handling and cornering. Why lower a vehicle designed to go off-roading? Well, it allows you to have sport and utility, giving you the ultimate package.
A properly built truck will perform and haul at the same time. Sport trucks are typically two-wheel drive. Some other common factors you’ll find on sport trucks are custom interior and exterior modifications. Since sport trucks are designed for performance, they must have an engine to match. While some start with a new intake and exhaust, others take it a step further by adding a supercharger, camshaft, heads, performance pullies, and more. Others opt to drop in a new engine.
Needless to say, sport trucks are proper performance-built machines. Prior to the scene, we saw more engine parts added to help towing and improve performance. When the C/K truck debuted, we saw more suspension kits, soft tonneau, grilles, hard tonneau, roll pans, body kits, and side skirts for an enhanced appearance.
The Chevy C/K Started a Entire Culture
When the Chevy C/K was released, it caused a jump in the restyling industry. It started everything. The 1988 line of C/K trucks were cleaner, smoother, lower, and more “car-like” than their predecessors. It was unlike anything seen in a truck, regardless of who manufactured them.
Big names like Boyd Coddington were involved from the get-go. It didn’t take long for Hot Rods by Boyd to create two-wheel drive lowered sport trucks alongside his hot rods fitted with Billet Wheels. A name you might know, Jesse James, was working with Boyd at the time. He purchased one of these trucks, later restoring it on TV. The famous Eddie Van Halen also had to have one, equipping his with a Corvette IRS and LT1 engine.
Bell Tech was another company with a significant impact on the industry by building the “best performing” lowering suspensions for the Cheverolet pickup truck. Jim Ewing, an old hot rodder who owned Super Bell Axle Co. in Monrovia, California, was responsible for getting quality parts to lower the trucks properly.
Even Chevrolet dealers wanted in on the action and set up in-house sport truck conversion shops. The California Street Rods shop, owned by Chuck Lombardo, based in Huntington Beach, California, was involved to help produce dealer trucks for GMC.
Lastly, another big name you might recognize, The Drop Shop in Chino, California, was also a big player in these pioneering years because they built trucks for magazine covers and did marketing for the components to lower trucks. They were responsible for the recognition brought to the sport truck scene.
Despite this all happening decades ago, a lot of these trucks have withstood the test of time. The Chevy C/K fueled an entire culture, but we’ve seen a resurgence of old body style trucks today.
Modifying OBS Trucks with Modern Parts
There’s still immense support behind the sport truck lifestyle today, and it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since modern trucks aren’t comparable to the trucks of old.
Instead of a square look, trucks today are more rounded and have all the creature comforts we could ever need. Nothing compares to the classic look, and we’d sacrifice heated seats and better fuel efficiency for some cleaner lines. So, adding modernized equipment to complement the older style is something that makes sense. It’s possible to have the best of both worlds – that’s if you can find an old body style laying around.
You’ll see upgrades that include refined and fully adjustable air suspension systems, large diameter disc brakes all around, and efficient supercharged engines if you decide to go that route. A naturally-aspirated 600 horsepower 406 LS would also suffice.
It’s hard not to get a little nostalgic when you see one of these trucks on the road, modified or not. It transports you to a time when they reigned supreme, but with the uprise on OBS trucks, it’s bound to take over again sooner or later.