Collectible Classic: 1960-1966 Chevrolet Pickup Truck

Brian Konoske

Bruce Parker's remarkably original 1966 Chevrolet C-10 half-ton pickup - a two-owner vehicle with 8900 miles on the odometer - stands as a testament to the qualities that once made the American automobile industry the envy of the world. It's a plain-Jane work truck with an in-line six, rather than the prized 327-cubic-inch V-8, and a three-on-the-tree transmission instead of the upmarket Powerglide automatic. The only option ticked on the build sheet was a deluxe heater. And yet, utilitarian as it is, and despite the slapdash build quality, it manages to be both aesthetically graceful and mechanically formidable - a fitting artifact of an era when working class didn't mean second class. "It's got character and style," says Parker, a carpenter whose throwback collection includes a variety of mid-'60s Chevrolets such as split-window Corvettes and other trucks. "It's old enough to be vintage, but it's not so antique that it's a relic."

Although pickups came of age after World War II, they continued to evoke a postwar sensibility until Chevy introduced a groundbreaking generation of trucks in 1960. Not only were these C/K pickups - a designation that is still in unofficial use - equipped with the segment's first independent front suspension, but a new drop-center X-shaped frame reduced the height of the vehicle by up to seven inches. The lower stance was emphasized by an attractive, pinched-waist body marred only by a fussy front end featuring "jet pod" eyebrows over the grille. Over time, the hoodline was lowered and the front fascia simplified, and by the end of the model run in 1966, the pickup was an exemplar of restrained elegance.

Chevy dominated the pickup market during this era, setting all-time sales records in 1964, 1965, and 1966. Central to the truck's success was a seemingly endless array of options available to buyers. In 1958, Chevy offered 136 distinct models. By 1962, it was up to no fewer than 203 - two-wheel-drive C models, four-wheel-drive Ks, Stepsides, Fleetsides, Custom Cabs, Corvair-based trucks, Suburbans, half tons, three-quarter tons, one tons, long beds, short beds, and scads of drivetrain combos. By 1966, for example,C/Ks were being sold with 250- and 292-cubic-inch in-line sixes and 283- and 327-cubic-inch V-8s mated to one of four transmissions.

These days, the larger V-8 is the option most sought by the collectors who are just now discovering mid-'60s Chevy pickups. (John Gunnell, the author of Chevrolet Pickups 1946-1972, attributes this belated interest to the fact that the '50s- and late-'60s-era trucks are already fully priced, whereas the first-generation C/Ks are still relatively cheap.) In terms of collectible value, more options are better. But Parker opted for a stripper with humble dog-dish hubcaps and a diamond-plate rear bumper. And he wanted something original and unmolested. He found it, on eBay, in the form of a pickup that had been used briefly on a berry farm in Washington and then pretty much garaged for four decades.

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