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Author Topic: 1983 GMC Stepside with a 6-Banger  (Read 611 times)

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Offline Built in 57

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1983 GMC Stepside with a 6-Banger
« on: November 03, 2020, 09:29:08 AM »
Greetings to all on here (esp. AD  :D). I hope this finds you all well and preparing for winter (or summer, as-the-case-may-be).

I thought I would regale you with the story of the '83 GMC stepside pickup I bought a couple of months ago. The truck is now known around here as "Jimmy" or "James". Why those names, you may ask? Well, as many of you probably know, the Jimmy was GMC's version of the '70s and '80s Squarebody Blazers, and yes, I realize this is a pickup and not a Blazer, but the original owner's name was Clayton Dean and I immediately thought of another Dean named James, so the name became James Dean, now shortened to Jimmy (which fits as it's a GMC).

As some of you may know, I have a strong affinity for unusual original GM-produced vehicles that originally came with Chevy straight-6 engines, and I have owned quite a few of them. This truck is another in that interesting group. It was sitting at a classic car consignment dealership's lot in Joplin, MO. My son and I had stopped in Joplin to see an old Navy shipmate from 40 years ago and pulled off the Interstate (I-44) to gas up and see Greg after many years, and there sat this beautiful GMC in the front row.

I spent about 20 minutes looking the truck over before ever taking it for a test drive. It had a 350 SBC and a TH-350 tranny, a relatively clean interior, and appeared to have no rust. On the back below the tailgate was a metal dealer emblem for Midwest GMC in Oklahoma City. Inside the glove box was the original plastic pouch with the owner's manual, several misc. GM pamphlets for the tire warranty and fuel economy, and the original warranty booklet which was filled out for Clayton Dean (I looked him up later on "Familytreenow.com" and learned he lived in Shawnee, OK and died in 2004 at the age of 59). I borrowed the keys to the truck and my son and I went for a 30 minute torture test of the truck. It was a good driver, but had a very sharp pull to the right whenever the brakes were applied hard, and it needed a front-end alignment. Under the hood I could see that its original emissions sticker showed it was built with a 6-cylinder, and the shifter quadrant on the dash was blank which showed it was originally shifted by a manual tranny...how cool! The odometer showed 96,483 miles, which the dealer said was correct.

The dealer wanted $9,995 (he said he had started out wanting $12,995, but a recent test driver had backed the truck into a telephone pole while backing it out of the lot for a test drive which caused approximately $1,000 in damage to the truck). Needles-to-say, the truck was now more difficult to sell and the price had come down quite a bit. I offered $7,000 and the salesman came down to $9,000. I stuck at $7,500 and then left when the price didn't come down more. My son and I spent the night at a motel in Joplin and I got a call the next morning that the dealer would take my offer of $7,500 in cash...he wasn't happy about the deal, but had told me that it was difficult getting the truck's primary customers (hillbillies and rednecks) financed on a 37 yr-old truck that the banks didn't think was worth over $5,000.

The truck ran great for the 701 miles to Columbus, OH...not a hiccup, but only 12.1 mpg (the biggest part of the problem was a driver...me...who couldn't keep his foot out of the gas pedal   :(). It had a small radiator leak, but no other major issues. Once I got it home to Ohio I realized it would never get decent gas mileage and consigned myself to that fact. It got plenty of looks wherever it went due to its beautiful lines, rarity, and excellent condition.

Inside the glovebox was a sticker with typed information that listed the option codes that the truck had come with originally...6-cylinder, 3-speed manual, power steering, HD shocks, front stabilizer bar, windshield antenna (it was ordered without a radio), cigarette lighter, tinted glass, sliding rear window, power windows (a rare option in a pickup back then), alloy wheels, and fat raised white letter tires. It was a good-looking truck with an economical drivetrain and a few comfort options to please its first owner. The wiring for the power windows was still in place, but they had been replaced by standard roll-up versions at some point in the past (probably because power windows from that era weren't exactly reliable).

While looking on Craigslist one evening I chanced upon an '83 Chevy half-ton pickup with a 6-cylinder and a 3-speed manual that was being parted out 2 hours away in SE Indiana. I called the number and spoke with Mike, the owner of a towing company that had received the truck for free from a family who wanted to get rid of their deceased uncle's old pickup that no one knew how to drive (another wacky "3-on-the-tree" shifter...the kind I love more than any other). I drove to North Vernon, IN (pop. 6,800...pretty small) to see and hear the truck run. It started right up and ran smooth with no apparent smoking issue. Mike said he would take $750 for the engine and tranny, radiator, steering column and manual shifter rods, engine wiring harness, engine and tranny mounts, and power steering pump and alternator. I offered $650 and it was accepted. Mike agreed to remove all of the parts and have it ready for pickup in 3 days.

I have a good friend nearby (Scott) who is an excellent mechanic and he agreed to do the engine and trans swap at his house, plus swapping the steering column and getting everything running properly for $750 (a real bargain in my opinion).


Offline b_hill_86

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Re: 1983 GMC Stepside with a 6-Banger
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2020, 04:38:57 PM »
Iím digging that truck. Kinda torn honestly. I like, and appreciate, a factory 6 banger like that but Iím not sure Iíd go through the trouble of converting it back. That truck could be fun with a V-8 and manual trans. The straight 6 is cool though too.

I also like those jeep trucks there too. Wouldnít mind having one of them
-Brian-

1977 Trans Am 400 4 Speed Hardtop

Offline Built in 57

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Re: 1983 GMC Stepside with a 6-Banger
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2020, 09:14:03 AM »
Brian, I decided to return it stock only after finding a completely original, untouched donor vehicle...otherwise, I would've left it alone. I'm a young 62, but I'm still 62, so I don't need to have a fast vehicle...I like the way original GM vehicles drive and I like the attention they get at car shows (usually far more interest than modified vehicles receive). The increase in fuel economy could become important as time goes by, and the fact that the truck is now with its original-style drivetrain will probably boost its value in the future.

Here are some pics of the donor truck and drivetrain.
« Last Edit: November 05, 2020, 09:17:04 AM by Built in 57 »

Offline b_hill_86

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Re: 1983 GMC Stepside with a 6-Banger
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2020, 11:28:00 PM »
Youíre probably right about the value and I definitely agree on the attention at a show. Iíll almost always walk past an LS swap vehicle or something similar. But thatís just me.

I think I posted it last year but I ran across a straight 6 68(I think) Firebird at a show I frequent often. Not something you see often anymore
« Last Edit: November 05, 2020, 11:31:59 PM by b_hill_86 »
-Brian-

1977 Trans Am 400 4 Speed Hardtop

Offline Burd

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Re: 1983 GMC Stepside with a 6-Banger
« Reply #4 on: November 06, 2020, 08:24:15 AM »
I finally got a chance to read this story with my coffee, I removed a wall here at my house and havenít been on much in last last few days,  nice truck Al, I guess we should change your name to 2cylís short lol
1978 YEE

trunalimunumaprzure

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Re: 1983 GMC Stepside with a 6-Banger
« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2020, 08:57:59 AM »
Burd, just a heads-up...you're about to be banished forever from this website  :P. Oh yeah...Happy Veteran's Day.

Don't change my name just yet, as I'm changing the truck back to the 350-TH350 I bought it with. In the 3 weeks that it has had the 6 it has been beaten by an old lady (maybe as old as me...I don't know) in a Prius with a rainbow sticker, and a construction truck hauling a back hoe. The problem is the 6 just isn't torquey enough to haul the truck's bulk, and the column shifter is extremely notchy from 1st to 2nd, which loses time during stoplight duels with old ladies. The truck's engine is a 350 from the mid-'80s with 1.94 heads, an Edelbrock 650 cfm carb, and a mild Comp Cams camshaft. It was a good runner on the street.

Brian, thanks for the photos of the 6-banger F-bird...I love original cars like that.