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1976 GMC Jimmy Casa Grande

Gone Campin' - 70's Style

Rich Truesdell
Aug 11, 2015
Photographers: Rich Truesdell
The '70s must have been an interesting time for General Motors as its product planners were watching the recreational vehicle marketplace explode well beyond its Jeep CJ roots. Their first shot across the bow was the introduction of the '69 Chevrolet K5 Blazer, followed by the GMC counterpart, the GMC Jimmy. In their time, they were unique in that, instead of a purpose-built small SUV like the Jeep CJ or the International Harvester Scout, GM shortened its full-size C/K pickups to produce a unique, go-anywhere vehicle with its own singular set of attributes.
Photo 2/18   |   1976 Gmc Jimmy Casa Grande Passenger Side Front View
Dave Lindsley, a GM muscle car collector living in Southern California, brought this pristine example to our attention. "You must check out my friend Jack's truck. It's a '76 GMC Jimmy Casa Grande," he said. Not knowing what a Jimmy Casa Grande was but knowing Dave wouldn't turn us on to something that wasn't noteworthy, we made arrangements to photograph the truck. In the time between his phone call and our photo session a week later, we did our due diligence of the program's history.
The GMC Jimmy Casa Grande was a collaboration between GM and Chinook, a manufacturer of self-contained motorhomes and campers, being best known for their Toyota-based camper conversions.
The only instrumented road test of either the Blazer Chalet or the Jimmy Casa Grande was in the Feb. '77 issue of Pickups, Vans & 4WD, and the numbers were a bit surprising, considering that this was the era of diminished performance and fuel mileage. The Blazer Chalet could accelerate from 0 to 30 in a respectable 4.6 seconds, with 60 mph coming up in 13.3 seconds when equipped with the optional 400ci, 175hp V-8 that was also offered on the Jimmy Casa Grande. Top speed was 91 mph at 3,500 rpm. Fuel mileage was an entirely respectable 11.4 city/highway mpg combined. Not surprisingly, mileage off-road suffered, with the test vehicle measuring 7.1 mpg.
Photo 6/18   |   1976 Gmc Jimmy Casa Grande 350ci V8
Jack loves telling the story about how he found his latest acquisition. "I was having breakfast with a couple my friends and one of the gentlemen that was there started talking to me and mentioned that he had a GMC with a camper for sale," says Jack. "This was a Sunday morning and he invited me over to look at it. When I saw the GMC I told him that I never saw a GMC with a factory camper back end. He asked me if I wanted to buy it being he had no use for it. I told him I would think about it. I called and saw him the next day and purchased the truck."
Photo 7/18   |   1976 Gmc Jimmy Casa Grande Spare Tire
Jack started the truck's restoration the day he purchased it. He got the AC working, the interior cleaned, and the body buffed and polished. Next up is the rust repair and paint, which he plans to handle himself as well. The restoration timeline? Just three months according to Jack. And yes, as a life-long RVer, he plans to take it camping!
Photo 8/18   |   1976 Gmc Jimmy Casa Grande Driver Side Rear Quarter View
At some point in its life the original 400ci V-8 was replaced with a new-style 350 small-block and is equipped with an Edelbrock four-barrel carb, headers, and intake. The motor has around 20,000 miles on it since it was changed by the first owner, for more power and efficiency. With just a few, possibly 100-200 of the 1,800 Blazer Chalets and Jimmy Casa Grandes built having survived the last four decades, if you encounter a Casa Grade in the wilds of the Southwest this summer, there a pretty good chance that it will be Jack. Knowing Jack, we think he'll welcome you saying hello and we're equally sure he'll proudly want to show off his rig.
Photo 9/18   |   1976 Gmc Jimmy Casa Grande Dining Area
Specifications
1976 GMC Jimmy Casa Grande
Engine: 350ci V-8
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Transfercase: NP203 (full-time)
Ground Clearance: 7 inches
Overall Length: 218.1 inches
Overall Width: 79.6 inches
Overall Height: 92.5 inches
Photo 10/18   |   1976 Gmc Jimmy Casa Grande Driver Side Front View
Photo 14/18   |   1976 Gmc Jimmy Casa Grande Kitchenette
Photo 15/18   |   1976 Gmc Jimmy Casa Grande Gmc Brochure

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