Seventies and eighties have been the breeding ground for all kinds of special edition and limited run vehicles, but no models had more such iterations than ’73 to ’87 third generation Chevy and GMC C/K trucks. Then again, they lasted for 14 full years without any major redesigns, so it was kind off expected they’ll bring more than the average number of special editions for one generation. There were so many of them in fact, that we had to divide the article into two parts.
Back then, Chevy C/K trucks were offered in basic Scottsdale, mid-tier Custom Deluxe and top of the line Silverado trims, while GMC trucks from bottom to top corresponded to Sierra, Sierra Grande, High Sierra, and Sierra Classic. Most of these special edition packages were limited to one of these trims, but that wasn’t always the case. Take a look at these 73-87 Chevrolet and GMC limited runs and more, and see how many of them you can remember.
GMC Beau James
The Beau James was designed in an effort to attract more upscale buyers to the pickup truck segment. That’s rather common today with all the luxury $50,000 trucks, but it wasn’t all that widespread 40 years ago. Being a plushy pickup, the Beau James rides on top of the line Classic Sierra trim stacked with amenities such as full instrumentation, velour seats, air conditioning, cruise control and more.
You can recognize it by its distinctive blue/silver paint job, special Beau James ornament on the hood, unique floor mats, wire-look hubcaps and Beau James chrome decal on the rear bed side. The Beau James rode on C15 three-quarter ton chassis with cushier half-ton suspension, and could have only been ordered with the strongest of powertrains available – that being 4-barrel 350ci V8 and 4-barrel 454ci V8. Only around 4,000 have been ordered that way.
GMC Gentleman Jim
The Beau James wasn’t the only upmarket GMC pickup truck for 1975. The Gentleman Jim was the truck of choice for those who didn’t really dig silver, but wanted gold instead – with black being the second color. Completed in Sierra Classic trim, it had similar floor mats as its blue/silver counterpart (only in dark brown with Gentleman Jim inscription), and generally upscale brownish interior with wood grain accents, vinyl bucket seats and vinyl door storage pouches.
The Gentleman Jim also came with the air conditioner, AM/FM stereo radio with 8-track tape, power steering, tilt steering wheel, power brakes, Series 95 CIBIE halogen beams, etc. Moreover, just like the Beau James, the Gentleman Jim too rode on C15 chassis and could have been ordered exclusively with most potent of V8’s. Not more than 2,500 have been made.
Chevy “Spirit of 76” Edition
America’s Bicentennial theme was one of the biggest deals back in 1976, and car manufacturers naturally exploited that fact. Chevrolet, however, remained rather reserved, putting only 500 of “Spirit of 76” pickup trucks into the market. It appears most of them were white-blue or blue-white, but you might also bump into light blue version with red-white-blue stripe on the side.
What was the same in all of them, however, were unique interior with red-white-blue vinyl seat and “Spirit of 76” emblems on door panels. They were available with both the manual and the automatic transmission. As far as I’ve been able to establish, only 350ci V8 used to be the motivational factor behind them.
Chevy and GMC Olympic Edition (Canada)
Canadians didn’t get the “Spirit of 76” truck, but they got something equally cool and rare. You’ll remember that Summer Olympics were held in Montreal that year, and GM decided to commemorate the occasion with special edition pickups. OOC code ZE2 included the special white paint with red beltline stripe and hood, Olympic decal on the stripe (rear for GMC, mid for Chevy), and unique Olympic hood ornament. Apart from that, Chevy and GMC Olympic Edition also featured chrome grille, mirrors and front bumper, wheel opening moldings and rally wheels (except on larger 3/4 and one-ton trucks). As far as I can tell, OOC ZE2 also mandated the RPO Z62 which translates to GMC Sierra Grande and Chevy Scottsdale trims. Only 630 of them have been commissioned and they had the 165-horsepower 350ci V8 under those red bonnets.
You’ll likely notice the square gas doors on the bed of the GMC truck which started around 1979. The whole bed of the GMC truck pictured was likely replaced at some point (I’ve found Chevy versions with square gas doors too). That apparently happens a lot in snowy areas across Canada.
GMC Impact Edition
Impact ’76 Pickups are often confused with “Spirit of 76” trucks, but only thing they have in common (apart from the obvious), is the year in which they were available. Moreover, they quite resemble the 1975 Indy truck due to similar striping. Impact Edition was only available in half-ton and three-quarter ton GMC trucks, but both rear and all-wheel drive could have been selected.
In order to get one of these, buyers needed to opt for Motortown Corporation Basic Package which included wheel flares both up front and around the back, front air dam, dual custom outside mirrors and custom striping. Special hood stripe and strobe side striping came either in blue and red or orange and red. From there on, you could have stacked it with options however you deemed fit.
Chevrolet Sport package enjoyed the longest run among all 73-87 special edition GM trucks. During the course of five years, it also changed a lot in both offering and appearance. Sport package started exclusively on stepside models, but added fleetside Chevy trucks into the equation later on as well. Both two and four wheel drive were available and so were most of the engines. Chevy Sport could have been ordered with 250ci six or 2-barrel 350ci V8 as standard. Options included the 4-barrel 350ci V8, 400ci V8 (only four wheel drive) and 454ci V8.
Only thing that a Chevy pickup needed in order to get the RPO Z77 Sport package, was the RPO Z62 Scottsdale trim. As mentioned before, Chevy Sport evolved and changed over the years. It started with simple white stripes back in ’76 and ended with multi colored bodies in ’81. Other appearance goodies include a hood ornament, rally wheels, deluxe front bumper and many more, but this mostly depends on production year.
GMC Indy 500
1977 marked the fourth consecutive year (fifth overall after 1925) that GMC provided the official support vehicles for 61st annual Indy 500 race, so they decided to mark the occasion with yet another special edition. GMC commissioned 500 replicas of the official support truck in both fenderside and wideside body styles equipped with 6 and 1/2 foot beds. 8-foot bed was reserved for wideside body style alone. Both C10 and K10 trucks were subject to Indy 500 conversion in 1977.
They all featured black and white paint with red pinstriping and official Indy 500 decals. Furthermore, GMC likely also commissioned 500 3/4 ton 1976 Indy 500 trucks and another 500 half-ton 1975 pickups. Plus, you could have bought some of the official trucks from other years as well (including 1974, 1980, 1981, 1983 and 1984), from participating dealerships. Not many of any year have survived to this day, however.
GMC Desert Fox
Arguably one of the best looking GMC special edition trucks, the Desert Fox was available across fenderside and wideside body styles, 2WD and 4WD configs, and short and long wheelbase models. It was also available with the GMC Jimmy. Apart from the coolest of paint schemes which consists of Buckskin base and five different stripe colors, the Desert Fox offered the top bar with dual CIBIE lamps, PA6 sport wheels, red or buckskin interior, air conditioning, tilt steering, cruise control, etc.
While most of these were optional, paint scheme and striping, top bar and sport wheels were mandatory equipment coming with Hickey Enterprises package. As far as we know, GMC Desert Fox pickup could have been ordered with all of the available petrol engines.
GMC Sarge package wasn’t limited to pickup trucks alone as it appeared in GMC Vandura van and GMC General class 8 truck. In GMC pickup, however, the Sarge edition was strictly limited to three-quarter ton workhorses with either two or four wheel drive.
The cool silver paint job was complemented by three-tone multicolor brown-red-orange stripe on the side, Sarge lettering on the rear quarter panel and hood ornament up front. Forged aluminum wheels only served to further soften Sarge’s blue collar demeanor. Inside, Sarge came with the CB radio and AM/FM 8-track stereo, and leather-wrapped sport steering wheel.
GMC Street Coupe
Street coupe wasn’t limited to GMC fleetside and wideside pickups exclusively. It could have been ordered with the Jimmy and Suburban too. Although offered through more than one nameplate and for more than one year, Street Coupe remained one rare special edition model. Recognizable by its ZY5 two-tone paint scheme, Street Coupe also featured the recognizable hood ornament and striping. It was available with 350ci V8 and 454ci V8 making 140 hp and 205 hp respectively.
As its name suggests, the Street Coupe was more comfortable on the roads than off roads. Moreover, it was an expensive affair compared to other truck workhorses from back in the day. Maybe that’s the reason it remained rather rare. At least it delivered in terms of luxury, sort of. It needed to do so in order to justify its hefty price tag which often ended up being in 5-digit territory.
Amarillo was a GMC offering during the 1979, and it could have been ordered in three forms: the base Amarillo, slightly more upscale Amarillo GT and top of the line Amarillo Cowboy Cadillac. Base offering included the rainbow-like three tone yellow-orange-red paint with stripes, Amarillo identification decals on rear quarter panels and LR 60 BF Goodrich tires. Stepping up to the GT added LR 70 radials, finned wheels, blending front air dam, roof spoiler, chromed side pipes, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Finally, Amarillo Cowboy Cadillac included most of that plus plushier interior with matching upholstery, door panels, headliner, carpet and “truckers lounge” seat. Amarillo was built by American Coach Corporation from Warren, Ohio, and costed anywhere between $450 and $2,300 based on offering of choice.
Numerous mags tested the Amarillo back in the day. Hot Rod Magazine achieved 15.6 second quarter mile with it, which was the best pickup truck time then – better even than the mighty Lil’ Red Express. All that was possible due to upgraded 240-horsepower 454ci V8 and already mentioned BF Goodrich radials.
GMC Mule is one of the most mysterious special edition trucks ever to have come from the GM. It was apparently only available through one of 19 GMC Chicagoland truck dealers, and only for the limited time period too. That’s the main reason why it’s remained obscured to date. All GMC pickup truck combos were eligible for the Mule conversion. Apart from the obvious Mule logo on the rear tailgate and front quarter panel, all of these trucks featured special spoke wheel covers, yellow pinstriping and solid oak side rails reminiscent of wagons of old. Sadly, we’re still waiting for one of them to appear in some barn or somewhere.
Chevy Rollin’ Rebel
Rollin’ Rebel was also commissioned by a third party manufacturer. Choo Choo Customs out of Chattanooga, Tennessee collaborated closely with Chevrolet on numerous occasions and short wheelbase 1981 pickup here is one of these projects.
Completed in peculiar silver paint scheme with awkward graphics, Rollin’ Rebel also sported a roofline spoiler, special wheels and radial tires, front air dam, aerodynamic side steps and chromed bumpers. It could have only been ordered with Custom Deluxe trim package, single cab and 305ci V8 engine. The interior was unique too. Apart from the numbered plaque upon the dash, Rollin’ Rebel featured one-off red upholstery and corresponding dash inserts. There weren’t more than 200 of them overall.
Chevy Sno Chaser
Available only in snowy states and other wintry areas, Sno Chaser is as rare as special edition pickup trucks get. Being marketed in snowy states, it’s natural that Sno Chaser was offered with mandatory all-wheel drive. It also had two-tone paint job separated by a stripe with lower paint being a protective layer. As for the rest of its look goes, Sno Chaser distinguished itself thanks to bed-mounted cab spoiler and side cab rails.
Exact numbers of these limited run special edition trucks are unknown, but they were extremely rare to begin with. Furthermore, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one today since they rust much quicker in humid and cold weather for which they were intended in the first place.
GMC California Sundancer
California Sundancer was basically the opposite of the Sno Chaser. As its name suggests, it was exclusively offered in southern California where surfer’s scene was going strong. Bright yellow paint couldn’t have agreed with it more, and it was complemented by gunmetal gray inserts and blue pinstriping.
As a sport truck by vocation, California Sundancer came with BF Goodrich sport radials, 15-inch Mag Sprinter Western wheels, Bilstein shock absorbers, and Smittybilt dual-tubular front and rear bumpers. Optional equipment included driving lights, a sunroof and a rollbar (in a sport truck?).
Chevy Blazer Chalet and GMC Jimmy Casa Grande
Not exactly special editions, but both Chalet and especially Casa Grande were extremely rare. Approximately 1,780 Chevy Blazer Chalets have been produced between April 1976 and January 1977, while GMC Jimmy Casa Grande numbers were considerably lower. Both campers were practically identical in terms of their offering, however. Standard 350ci V8 and optional 400ci V8 were the engines, while 3-speed manual and 4-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic were transmissions. Furthermore, most of them were conventional all-wheel drive models, while those with the auto could have been ordered with optional full-time all-wheel drive.
The Chalet and Casa Grande sported standard two or optional four bunk beds, dinette table with two sofas for four people, stainless steel sink, stove, etc. They also cost a lot. Rarely were they priced in intended 4-digit figures as optional equipment quickly raised the stickers into a five-digit category. That may be one of the reasons so few people decided to buy one of them. Others were, as you can imagine, not that great of a practicality, high weight, low gas mileage, etc.
GMC Royal Sierra
Royal Sierra too wasn’t a special edition per se, but that doesn’t make it rarer than other limited run models. In fact, only around 500 or so of them are believed to have been ordered that way. Royal Sierra is basically nothing more than a special trim offered as year-end promotional package. It’s analogous to much more widespread Chevy Bonanza.
Everyone ordering a Royal Sierra trim got the opportunity to stack it with groupings of both appearance and convenience options at discounted prices. That’s why they’re usually mildly upscale models, although pretty much every GMC truck option could have been ordered with it. What it did was to basically replace the Chevy Scottsdale/GMC Sierra Grande decals. In other words, RPO Z62 trim continued serving as its base, but under a different name. That practice was abandoned after 1979 and so was the mandatory Z62 trim. Z84 or YE9 interiors were also available at a discount from 1980 onward, but they were never again named differently.
GMC Foxy Sierra
Very little is known about the GMC Foxy Sierra apart from the fact that it was a 73-87 special edition manufactured by Alpha Vehicles Inc. from South Elkhart, Indiana. Apparently, people down at Alpha weren’t very impressed with basic GMC Sierra package and decided to spice things up, hence the name. Foxy Sierra came with special exterior with stripes upon the hood and sides, and equally unique interior with special upholstery and a console ice box between the buckets. CB radio and 8-track AM/FM system were included in the package, while bed-mounted roll bar with driving lights could have been ordered as an option. Alpha Industries recommended ordering future conversion GMC Sierra with a smaller V8, fenderside body, solid color and auto trans. How many of them have been made or how many have survived is still a mystery.