The ’70s and ’80s were a breeding ground for all kinds of special edition and limited-run vehicles, but few models had more iterations than the ’73 to ’87 third-generation Chevy and GMC special edition pickup trucks. Then again, these C/K trucks were produced for a full 14 years without any major redesigns, so it makes sense the trucks came with a more than the average number of special editions for one generation.
Chevy and GMC Trucks: ’73-’87 Special Editions
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, came with Sierra, Sierra Grande, High Sierra, and Sierra Classic. Most of the special edition packages were limited to one of these trims, though that wasn’t always the case. Below are some of the best and most memorable of the 1973-1987 Chevrolet and GMC limited runs.
GMC Beau James | 1975
The 1975 Beau James was designed in an effort to attract more upscale buyers to the pickup truck segment. Although this marketing strategy is common today, it wasn’t all that widespread in the ’70s. As a plushy pickup, the Beau James rode on the top-of-the-line Classic Sierra trim and was stacked with amenities like full instrumentation, velour seats, air conditioning, cruise control, and more.
You can recognize the ’75 edition 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 side of the truck bed. The Beau James rode on a C15 three-quarter-ton chassis with a cushier half-ton suspension, and could only be ordered with the strongest of powertrains available — a 4-barrel 350ci V8 or a 4-barrel 454ci V8. Only around 4,000 were produced.
GMC Gentleman Jim | 1975
The Beau James wasn’t the only upmarket GMC pickup truck for 1975. The Gentleman Jim was the truck of choice for drivers who didn’t really dig silver but wanted gold instead. Finished out in the Sierra Classic trim, the truck had similar floor mats as its blue/silver counterpart (only in dark brown with a Gentleman Jim inscription), and a generally upscale brownish interior with wood grain accents, vinyl bucket seats, and vinyl door storage pouches.
The Gentleman Jim also came with an air conditioner, AM/FM stereo radio with 8-track tape, power steering, a tilt steering wheel, power brakes, and Series 95 CIBIE halogen beams. Moreover, just like the Beau James, the Gentleman Jim rode on C15 chassis and could only be ordered with the most potent V8. Only 2,500 were made.
Chevy “Spirit of ’76” Edition | 1976
America’s Bicentennial was a big deal in 1976, and car manufacturers naturally exploited that fact for themed limited edition runs. Chevrolet, however, was rather reserved, manufacturing only 500 of “Spirit of ’76” pickup trucks. Most of them were white-blue or blue-white, but you might also run across a light blue version with a patriotic red-white-blue stripe on the side.
All versions came with a unique interior highlighted by a red-white-blue vinyl seat and “Spirit of ’76” emblems on the door panels. The truck was available with either a manual and automatic transmission mated to a 350ci V8.
Chevy and GMC Olympic Edition (Canada) | 1976
Canadians didn’t get the “Spirit of ’76” truck, but they got something equally cool and rare. In 1976, Montral hosted the Summer Olympics, and GM decided to commemorate the occasion with a special edition pickup. OOC code ZE2 included special white paint with a red beltline stripe and hood, an Olympic decal on the stripe (rear for GMC, mid for Chevy), and a unique Olympic hood ornament.
The Olympic Edition also featured a chrome grille, mirrors, and front bumper, wheel opening moldings, and rally wheels on the light-duty version. The limited-run truck could be had in either the GMC Sierra Grande or Chevy Scottsdale trims. Only 630 were commissioned with a 165 hp 350ci V8 under those red bonnets.
GMC Impact Edition | 1976
Impact ’76 Pickups are often confused with “Spirit of ’76” trucks, but the only thing they have in common (apart from the obvious), is the year in which they were available. In reality, the Impact more closely resembles the 1975 Indy truck due to similar striping. the Impact Edition was only available in half-ton and three-quarter-ton GMC trucks, but both rear and all-wheel-drive versions were options.
For this special edition, buyers had to opt for the Motortown Corporation Basic Package which included wheel flares up front and around the back, a front air dam, dual custom outside mirrors, and custom striping. The special hood stripe and strobe side striping came either in blue/red or orange/ red. From there on, you could stack it with whatever options you deemed fit.
Chevy Sport | 1976-1981
The Chevrolet Sport package enjoyed the longest production run among all ’73-’87 special edition GM trucks. During the course of its five years, it also changed a lot in both offering and appearance. The sport package was first offered exclusively on stepside models and later added to fleetside Chevy trucks. Both two and four-wheel drive were available and so were most of Chevy’s engines. The Chevy Sport could be ordered with a 250ci 6-cylinder or 2-barrel 350ci V8 as standard. Options included the 4-barrel 350ci V8, 400ci V8 (only four-wheel drive), and 454ci V8.
To add the RPO Z77 Sport package, the Chevy pickup had to be outfitted in the RPO Z62 Scottsdale trim. As the Chevy Sport evolved over the years, the simple white stripes of ’76 were traded out for multi-colored bodies in ’81. Other appearance goodies include a hood ornament, rally wheels, and deluxe front bumper, depending on the production year.
GMC Indy 500 | 1977
1977 marked the fourth consecutive year (and fifth overall) that GMC provided the official support vehicles for the 61st annual Indy 500 race, so GMC 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 6.5-foot beds. An 8-foot bed was reserved for the wideside body style. Both C10 and K10 trucks were subject to Indy 500 conversion in 1977.
All of the trucks featured black and white paint with red pinstriping and official Indy 500 decals. GMC also commissioned 500 three-quarter-ton 1976 Indy 500 trucks and another 500 half-ton 1975 pickups. Buyers could also opt for the official trucks from other years as well (including 1974, 1980, 1981, 1983, and 1984), from participating dealerships. However, not many of these trucks have survived making this one of the more rare GMC pickups to spot on the streets.
GMC Desert Fox | 1977
Arguably one of the best looking GMC special edition trucks, the Desert Fox was available across fenderside and wideside body styles, with both 2WD and 4WD configs and short and long wheelbase models. It was also available with the GMC Jimmy. Apart from the cool paint scheme which consisted of a 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, and cruise control.
While most of these features were optional, the paint scheme and striping, top bar, and sport wheels were mandatory equipment coming with Hickey Enterprises package. The GMC Desert Fox pickup could be ordered with all of the available gas engines.
GMC Sarge | 1977
The GMC Sarge package wasn’t limited to pickup trucks alone as it also appeared in GMC Vandura van and GMC General Class 8 truck. In the GMC pickup, however, the Sarge edition was strictly limited to three-quarter-ton workhorses with either two- or four-wheel drive.
The truck’s silver paint job was complemented by a three-tone brown-red-orange stripe on the side, Sarge lettering on the rear quarter panel, and a custom hood ornament up front. Forged aluminum wheels further softened Sarge’s blue collar demeanor. Inside, Sarge came with a CB radio, AM/FM 8-track stereo, and a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel.
GMC Street Coupe | 1978-1980
The Street Coupe wasn’t limited to GMC fleetside and wideside pickups and could be ordered on the Jimmy and Suburban, too. Although it was offered on more than one nameplate and for more than one year, the Street Coupe remained a rare special edition model. Recognizable by its ZY5 two-tone paint scheme, the Street Coupe also featured a unique hood ornament and striping. It was available with either a 350ci V8 or 454ci V8 making 140 hp and 205 hp respectively.
As its name suggests, the Street Coupe was more comfortable on the roads than off them. Additionally, it was an expensive affair compared to other truck workhorses of its day. Maybe that’s the reason it remained rather rare. At least it delivered in terms of luxury to justify its hefty price tag which ended up in the 5-digit territory.
GMC Amarillo | 1979
The Amarillo was a GMC offering in 1979 that came in three forms: the base Amarillo, the slightly more upscale Amarillo GT, and the top-of-the-line Amarillo Cowboy Cadillac. The base offering included 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, a blending front air dam, roof spoiler, chromed side pipes, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Finally, The Amarillo Cowboy Cadillac included most of that plus a plushier interior with matching upholstery, door panels, headliner, carpet, and “truckers lounge” seat.
The Amarillo was built by American Coach Corporation in Warren, Ohio, and cost anywhere between $450 and $2,300 based on the offering of choice. Hot Rod Magazine reported a 15.6-second quarter mile when testing it, which was the best recorded pickup truck time — better even than the mighty Lil’ Red Express. That was courtesy of the upgraded 240 hp 454ci V8 and aforementioned BF Goodrich radials.
GMC Mule | 1979
The GMC Mule is one of the most mysterious special edition trucks to come from GM. It was apparently only available through one of 19 GMC Chicagoland truck dealers and only for a limited time period. And it’s remained obscure to date. Interestingly, all GMC pickup truck combos were eligible for a 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 as a barn find.
Chevy Rollin’ Rebel | 1981
Chevy’s 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 this short wheelbase 1981 pickup was one of those projects. Notable for its silver paint scheme overlaid with graphics, the Rollin’ Rebel also sported a roofline spoiler, special wheels and radial tires, front air dam, aerodynamic side steps, and chromed bumpers. It came with the Custom Deluxe trim package, single cab, and a 305ci V8 engine. The interior was unique too, with one-off red upholstery and corresponding dash inserts. No more than 200 were produced.
Chevy Sno Chaser | 1984
Available only in snowy states and wintry areas, the Sno Chaser is as rare as special edition pickup trucks get. Made for the snow, the Sno Chaser was only offered with mandatory all-wheel drive. It had a two-tone paint job separated by a stripe with a protective layer on the lower paint. As for the rest of its looks, the Sno Chaser could be distinguished by its bed-mounted cab spoiler and side cab rails.
The exact number produced is unknown, but this is one limited edition truck that was extremely rare to begin with. You’ll be hard-pressed to find one today since they rust much quicker in the humid and cold weather where they were intended to be driven.
GMC California Sundancer | 1987
The California Sundancer was basically the opposite of the Sno Chaser. As its name suggests, it was exclusively offered in southern California where the surfer’s scene was going strong. The bright yellow paint, complemented by gunmetal gray inserts and blue pinstriping, couldn’t have agreed with it more.
As a sport truck by vocation, the 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.
Chevy Blazer Chalet and GMC Jimmy Casa Grande | 1976-1977
Though not exactly a special edition, both the Chalet and especially the Casa Grande were extremely rare. Approximately 1,780 Chevy Blazer Chalets have been produced between April 1976 and January 1977, while the GMC Jimmy Casa Grande numbers were considerably lower.
Both campers were practically identical in terms of their offering and came standard with a 350ci V8 or an optional 400ci V8. A 3-speed manual or 4-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic were the transmission options. Furthermore, most of them were conventional all-wheel-drive models, while the auto could be ordered with optional full-time all-wheel drive.
The Chalet and Casa Grande sported standard two- or optional four-bunk beds, a dinette table with two sofas for four people, stainless steel sink, and stove. They also cost a lot with optional equipment quickly raising the sticker price into a five-digit category.
GMC Royal Sierra | 1976-1979
The Royal Sierra wasn’t a special edition per se, but it was rarer than other limited-run models. In fact, only around 500 are believed to have been sold. The Royal Sierra is basically a special trim offered as a year-end promotional package, analogous to the much more common Chevy Bonanza.
Buyers of the Royal Sierra trim got to stack it with both appearance and convenience options at discounted prices. These mildly upscale models basically replaced the Chevy Scottsdale/GMC Sierra Grande trim packages. 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, though they were never again named differently.
GMC Foxy Sierra | Unknown
Very little is known about the GMC Foxy Sierra apart from the fact that it was a special edition manufactured by Alpha Vehicles Inc. from South Elkhart, Indiana. Apparently, Alpha wasn’t impressed with the basic GMC Sierra package and decided to spice things up. The Foxy Sierra came with a special exterior with stripes upon the hood and sides and an equally unique interior with special upholstery and a console icebox between the buckets.
A CB radio and 8-track AM/FM system were included in the package, while a bed-mounted roll bar with driving lights could be added as an option. Alpha Industries recommended ordering future conversion GMC Sierra with a smaller V8, fenderside body, solid color, and auto transmission. How many of them were made or how many have survived is a mystery.
Nothing Beats Classic Chevy and GMC Special Edition Pickup Trucks
Though you may never spot these ultra-rare special editions on the road, these third-generation “square body” pickups are a fun batch of GM trucks. Whether you are looking for some classic styling cues or simply enjoy eyeing a blast from Chevy and GMC’s pickup past, these special edition pickups are some of the best of the bunch.