Barrett-Jackson 2016: 1970 GMC K1500

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Despite my love for trucks, I’m admittedly not well versed in their history and model differences. When it comes to GMC, I know less than I do about it’s sister brand – my favorite truck brand – Chevrolet. Now when we talk about GMC trucks 1973 or newer, it’s really a moot point: Badge engineering is in full force. To that extent I can’t believe that people still buy into that “professional grade” nonsense they shill on the TV. It’s the same truck as the Chevy with some trim differences.

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Despite my lack of knowledge, I do know some GMC fun facts. A 1960 model could be had with a GMC-specific 370ci Oldsmobile-derived v8. They also ran some Poncho v8s for a while in the 50’s.

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Long before the Internet was a prolific source for knowledge, my dad showed me my first 60 degree, 305 cubic inch GMC v6 in a dump truck he had bought at auction.

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Thanks to the Internet I found out that huge 5.0L v6 was actually the smallest one GMC made and that they even had a v12 derived from that family. And while I’m on the topic of the v6, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the plaid valve covers available on the half tons of the 60s.

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What’s the point in glossing over this history? Well its not because I’m trying to show off. I’m sure I’m not long for an email or comment regarding how little I know from a truly die hard fan who is scoffing to themselves as they read this now.

The point is that I’m still learning passively with each vehicle I see at trade shows , car shows and meet ups. This is just one reason why I’m so strongly against the current homogenized restomod approach to building an older car or truck. You take a bit of what made unique, to impress the people that can only handle things that are easy, familiar and the same as everyone else.

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This 1970 GMC may not be anything flashy with its “350 crate motor” which is probably a goodwrench v8 that’s surely slower than what it had stock. The mild 2 inch lift and automatic transmission with shift kit don’t really bring much excitement to the table either. To me, this truck in it’s current state of modification is a great period piece of when Bigfoot was new and this truck was only a decade and a half off the lot. It’s aspiring to be something the everyman couldn’t yet achieve.

What would it add to this truck if it were to become victim to the latest trends? Flared prerunner fenders, late model bucket seats and an LS motor? I feel like at that point you’re just taking away from what it was.

I guess what’s funny to me is that what I learned is so minor in compared to my view of the history of this truck. I just always assumed GMC used the same 10/20/30/40 etc sequence for designating the tonnage of their trucks that Chevy did. When I first read 1970 1500, I figured it must have been an error on the owner’s part. However, I was wrong.

Huh, learn something new every day.

10 Weird Projects That General Motors Actually Did

General Motors is known as one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world. During its 105-year history, GM has built more than just cars and trucks. The company has also engaged in some projects which are, for lack of a better term, kind of weird.

Now, everyone already knows that car companies build concept cars which never make it to production. The purpose of this article is not to re-hash the same old stories everyone already knows about like the Buick Y-Job, the mid-engine Corvette, or the EV-1 electric car debacle. I want to talk about some General Motors side projects that you may not have heard about before.

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Snowflake Wheels and Rainbow Paint

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Is this the look for mini trucks nowadays? That paint didn’t even look good on the Cobra it came from, and those wheels look dumb on anything that’s not a holiday-themed parade float. What happened to all the hardbodies with the crooked plates in the tailgate and Escalade wheels? Those required some amount of brain power and skill to cobble together, which is at least basic hotrodding. Continue reading

BMW Powered Vixen 21 TD RV

This is probably one of the rarest vehicles I’ve seen that I’ve had the presence of mind to get a picture of. When I first saw this thing I thought maybe a section of the monorail train from Disneyland had derailed and somehow ended up on the I-17. When I got a little closer I was able to read the name on it. I had never heard of a Vixen before but I knew I was looking at something special.

Bill Collins was a car engineer who had worked for GM, quit to work with John DeLorean on the DMC-12 and later went on to work for AMC. After taking a trip in a GMC Motorhome, which is also a really interesting vehicle in its own right, Bill decided he could build a better RV that was meant to be easy to drive (well, easier, anyway) so he started his own company and designed one.

His first model was the Vixen 21 TD, which is what this one is. He went on to create two more models, which were the XC and the SE. The XC sounds pretty interesting. It was basically the same as the TD except instead of having a kitchen or any appliances, it was full of couches and seats so it was pretty much just a huge, weird van instead of an RV. They classified it as a Limousine. The SE was made later and by that point the company had started to stray from their original intentions. The SE was larger and looked a lot more like a traditional RV.

The first thing you notice about the Vixen is how low and wide it is. It really looks pretty cool going down the road. One of the reasons it was designed this way was to make sure it would fit inside a normal sized garage. Bill was obsessed with keeping the 21 TD low enough to do this, and that’s the reason for having then engine in the back.  The other reason for the low stance was to make the vehicle more aerodynamic to help the driver save on fuel costs. They say a 6′ 2″ person could stand up inside which would sound a little nicer if that weren’t my exact height. I have a sneaking suspension I’d feel a little claustrophobic inside one but the thing ended up with an amazing drag coefficient of .29. To put it in perspective, a C5 Corvette also has a Cd of .29.

The really interesting part of the 21 TD are those BMW badges it wears (or what they indicate, anyways.) This thing was powered by a rear mounted BMW M21 Inline 6 Turbo Diesel motor mated to a Renault manual transaxle. Although the RV only weighed in at 5100 lbs, I can’t imagine it was any fun to drive the thing at all, with the motor putting out all of 114hp and 162 lb-ft of torque. The M21 was actually the same exact motor Ford put in the super rare Mark VII diesels. (Interesting side note: my car actually has a “check turbo” indicator in the dash as a carryover from when this motor was an option years earlier.) As slow as the Vixen must have been, it sort of redeemed its sluggishness by offering up to 30 mpg on the highway. I really have my doubts as to whether this thing could make it up to Flagstaff though.

The 21 TD had some cool features, like the lack of a generator. Instead it just used one of the first inverters offered in a vehicle for its AC appliances, that way everything could be run off the same engine and fuel source. Instead of a more common propane heater, it used a smaller diesel engine to heat up the coolant of the BMW motor to get warmed up in the morning. The kitchen featured an alcohol-fueled “Hemingway” stove top.

Vixens in general are very rare since the company went under pretty quickly. 578 total vehicles were made, with only 300 of them being the TD model. It’s not likely I’ll ever see another one again to get a picture of the front but hey, I did happen to find myself driving alongside a Maserati MC12 down in Scottsdale once, and they only sold 50 of them so you never know. We definitely have a lot of interesting stuff driving around out here in Arizona.

FFT: The Big Day

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Let me start by saying that when I found out they made a longbed stepside for the 60-66 trucks, I wanted one. They’re super rare and reproduction parts are expensive to say the least, but I just like the way they look. They aren’t very well liked in the 60-66 community (like all long beds), but the guys that do have them, love them. I had convinced myself when I started this build that if I wanted one, I’d have to make one out of a short bed. A daunting task, but I added it to my list of things I would need to do to get the truck to where I wanted it. Thankfully, I have a craigslist addiction that knows no bounds. I found someone with a 1962 GMC long bed stepper (powered by a 305 v6 and a 3 speed manual no less) that wanted to trade for a fleetside. I emailed them immediately and we were both so excited to get what we wanted we scheduled the trade off for the next day.

What I didn’t know is that the wrap-around window 60-63’s sit on a different frame than the vent windowed 64-66’s. It took a little bit of convincing but eventually we finalized the even trade. One bed for another. Here’s the photographic tale of how it happened.