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1988 Chevy/GMC C/K Series

The Truck That Launched A Trend

Bruce Caldwell
Jan 1, 1999
Maybe the '88 Chevrolet/GMC fullsize 1/2-ton pickups didn't launch the sport truck phenomenon, but they sure ignited the afterburners.
If any one truck can be credited with solidifying America's fascination with modified pickups, it's the '88 Chevy/GMC C/K series. The totally redesigned trucks were a major improvement over the previous generation of GM trucks. The '87-and-earlier trucks were refined versions of the truck that first appeared in 1973. A lot had happened during the intervening years. Competition was strong for trucks that could be driven like cars, and Chevrolet was falling behind Ford in the quality and comfort categories, but the new truck quickly put Chevy back at the head of the pack.
Consumer response to the new trucks was very strong. Aftermarket manufacturers were behind '88 GM pickups from the very start. The ready availability of suspension, performance, and cosmetic parts was a win-win situation. Truck owners had lots of great parts for turning nice factory trucks into great sport trucks. Manufacturers had an enthusiastic customer base that improved business and led them to offer even more parts.
All this Chevy truck activity was a boon to Sport Truck magazine. A red '88 Chevy C1500 Sportside pickup was the cover truck of Sport Truck's premiere issue in November 1988. It was apparent to the decision makers at Petersen Publishing that the '88 C1500 had tremendous potential. Fullsize '88-'99 C/K GM pickups have appeared on more covers of this magazine than any other truck. These trucks appear so frequently because they're incredibly popular. The trucks have provided lots of great editorial copy and attracted plenty of advertisers eager to reach truck owners.
As great as the '88-'99 C/K pickups were and are, the new '99 Silverado pickups are even better. That's great news for everyone. People who can afford a brand-new Silverado will be very pleased with the improved engines, brakes, comfort, quality, and safety. Buyers of used '88-'99 C/K trucks should get better prices because of all the advancements, but we don't expect prices to drop drastically. Tremendous popularity and the increasing prices of the new trucks will keep used-truck prices pretty constant.
Some excellent news for people looking to buy relatively new C/K trucks with reasonable miles and good care is the availability of lease-return trucks. Due to mileage and damage penalties, there are lots of well-equipped, well-maintained trucks (usually with less than 50,000 miles) coming in off three-year leases. These trucks are still in excellent condition, but they're being traded in for new trucks. Chevy and GMC used mostly similar nomenclature with a few differences. Basically, there were three series: 1500 (1/2-ton), 2500 (3/4-ton), and 3500 (1-ton). Two-wheel-drive models (in all series) use the "C" prefix and four-wheel-drive models use the "K" designation.
Trucks with flared rear fenders and which were previously known as Stepsides are called Sportside trucks by Chevrolet and Wideside trucks by GMC. In ascending order of luxury, the three Chevy trim levels are called Cheyenne, Scottsdale, and Silverado.
This guide is a good starting point for learning more about '88-'99 C1500 pickups. Looking through a stack of back issues will provide you with a gold mine of ideas and technical information. A subscription to Sport Truck is the best way to keep learning about these all-star trucks.


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