Courtesy of Leake Auction Co.
  • Fresh 350-ci V8 engine
  • Rebuilt TH350 automatic transmission
  • Body-on frame restoration
  • Entire powertrain is brand new
  • Power steering and brakes
  • Power windows
  • Air conditioning and heat
  • New paint and interior
  • AM/FM radio

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1985 Chevrolet K10 Silverado SWB pickup
Years Produced:1981–87
Number Produced:1,325,491 (all 1985 Chevy light duty) Original list price: $9,719
Original List Price:$9,719
SCM Valuation:$14,445
Tune Up Cost:$250
Chassis Number Location:Top of the dashboard on the driver’s side, decal on the driver’s door jamb
Engine Number Location:Passenger’s side of the block, just forward of the cylinder head
Club Info:American Truck Historical Society
Alternatives:1981–87 GMC K1500 Sierra Classic, 1980–86 Ford F-150 XLT Lariat, 1981–89 Dodge W-150 Power Ram
Investment Grade:B

This truck, Lot 147, sold for $19,250, including buyer’s premium, at Leake Auctions’ Oklahoma City sale on February 22, 2019.

The 1981 GM refresh on the 1973–79 generation light-duty trucks was barely noticeable. These trucks featured new rectangular front ends, squared dashpads over the previous forward-sloping ones, and squared-off wheelwells.

Some of this inspiration may have come from Ford’s squared-off 1980 trucks, but it was likely more organic than that — GM probably used that design to reaffirm their suspicions of what truck buyers of the 1980s wanted. And let there be no doubt, with a second OPEC oil embargo and a downturn in the U.S. economy, GM wanted a trimmed-down but familiar look to its products.

It took a few years, but the economy — and the truck market — recovered and blossomed. All three of the domestic builders saw increased sales of light trucks as the 1980s progressed.

More folks want to drive one

All pickups from the 1980s (regardless of manufacturer) are doing well in today’s vintage market based upon several factors.

The core pool of truck buyers today either previously owned one, had one in their family, were related to someone who owned one, or were well-acquainted with someone who had one. There’s a sense of nostalgia for a truck like Uncle Bob’s.

With a large pool of survivors, there are plenty to choose from, and not many years ago, all trucks from this era ranged from cheap to reasonably priced. As such, they also appeal to the person who’d like an earlier generation of pickup but can’t spend that much scratch for one. Today’s buyer may dream of a light blue 1972 Cheyenne done to the nines, but they’re actually buying rigs like this ’85 Silverado.

Since 1980s trucks qualify for specialty/collector/vintage licensing in more and more states and provinces, they are the newest technology for reliability and safety for a vintage truck in original form.

Finally, part of the draw for lightly modified pickups like this is that this sort of thing happened to them from day one. Actually, more like day two, when the new owner of a K-10 would buy a set of aftermarket wheels, a lift kit, a tonneau cover, and a better stereo.

I lived with these trucks in the 1980s and beyond, and darn few were kept exactly as they left the factory. Even my ever fiscally prudent and practical dad had a topper, tachometer, J.C. Penney’s “on-board computer” (mostly to calculate gas mileage), and custom striping added within six months of buying his then-new 1984 F-150.

This truck

I was at the Leake Auction in Oklahoma City. Initially, I considered writing this truck up for my report. However, I chose to report on a stock 1984 C10 Custom Deluxe short box with a standard V6. I figured that enough of our other correspondents write up modified 1980s 4×4 pickups and nobody else would do a lowly 2-wheeler with a 6-banger under the hood. Call it a greater sense of overall market equity over being more open to what the 80-percentile want — but it’s the 80-percentile that really drives the market.

An engine swap, big wheels and a lift kit don’t do anything for me anymore, but for the majority of those interested in these trucks today, a rig like this is just about right.

While the wheels and suspension lift are rather obvious, the balance of the changes are not obvious with the hood shut. Looking inside the cab, only the radio isn’t bone-stock — even the seat upholstery is OEM.

Bolt-on — and off

The bulk of today’s buyers want an ’80s truck that has a few bolt-on tweaks but otherwise is largely stock. They seem to be attuned to the fact that if they sell the truck, it may be hard to find a buyer who shares their exact same tastes, so easy-on and -off mods are the best way to go.

The VIN decodes as originally having a 4-barrel 5.0-L/305-ci V8. In some circles, that mill gets a bad rap simply because it’s not a 350. The natural choice of most folks redoing one of these trucks is to swap in a 350 or LS V8. You could almost read the minds of most people looking in the engine bay of the ’84 C-10 Custom Deluxe I reported on… “needs a 350 V8” was the universal vibe.

Options also sealed the deal here. Power steering, power brakes and air conditioning are almost mandatory nowadays, yet this Silverado (the top trim level by 1985) also is equipped with power windows, power locks, tilt steering column, bumper guards and dual fuel tanks. All of that, and the short-bed configuration, makes it a top-tier example among this new era of classic truck.

Those who are buying these trucks like their creature comforts, especially since they want to use these trucks to some extent. Maybe not for a coast-to-coast road trip or rock-hopping on a black diamond trail, but driving to a local event or hauling a couple of bikes in the back to go to a trail is definitely in the cards. As such, the lower Condition 2 through strong Condition 3 rigs are a lot more popular than low-mile garage queens.

Overall, this truck may not be everything to everyone, but it’s interesting enough to enough people that it didn’t have to go slumming to find a new home. Call this one the upper end of market correct even if it’s not bone-stock correct — or perhaps because it isn’t.

(Introductory description courtesy of Leake Auction Co.)

Comments are closed.