Off Camber Editorial - June 2004 - Back In The Day
1980s Sport Truck Cover
There are probably only a handful of readers who will recognize this photo. Actually, this particular photo was never published, but the truck with the wild blower motor was on the cover of Sport Truck back in the day. The photo is of the owners, Jerry and Kathleen Covington, who now own a custom cycle shop in the growing metropolis of Woodward, Oklahoma, a tiny town just above the Texas Panhandle.
At one point, the Covington's owned Ultimate Hot Rods in Corona, California, and built some wild street rods and custom trucks. Their ultimate hot-rod truck was this bright-yellow phantom dualie Chevy stuffed with a polished and blown, all-aluminum ZL-1 427ci big-block. The truck was the epitome of the classic sport truck of the early and mid 1990s when the sport was in its heyday. So why is this important? Apparently, there are a good number of new readers of Sport Truck who might be interested in where and how things all began. And since I was around at the time - in fact, working on Sport Truck magazine - who better than to tell the story?
Fade back to the late 1980s. Big hair, guitar bands, and mullets were in, and Chevrolet had just come off one of its longest light-truck production runs in the company's history. The last time the C/K lineup was redesigned was 1973, so a revamp was definitely in order. In 1988, the same year Sport Truck magazine was founded, Chevrolet redesigned the C/K light-truck lineup. The new model featured more rounded body lines, fuel-injected engines, and a lot more customizing potential than the breadbox version it replaced.
To prove that point, famed hot-rod builder Boyd Coddington was one of the first to turn out what would later be known as a sport truck. The new standard cab Chevy was lowered 4 inches up front and 6 inches out back, and fitted with some of Boyd's newest creations: billet wheels. The rear bumper was removed and the gap was filled in with what would be known in the industry as a roll pan. Up front, the grille was fitted with a billet aluminum insert and the front bumper smoothed and painted body color. The end result was called a sport truck. The fad caught on like wildfire, and companies such as Traders and Stylin' Concepts started springing up, selling all the necessary sport truck accessories.
Another prominent player at the time was Bell Tech (before it began to spell its company name as one word). The company was a pioneer in developing lowering spindles and applied that technology in developing complete lowering kits for the C/K Chevys and GMCs. And at the time, airbags were only used as a helper spring for the rearend for carrying heavy loads or towing.
To say that the sport truck phenomenon has come a long way in 15 years is an understatement. Today, airbags are more than just helper springs, and if a truck doesn't lay frame or drag, it's not a true sport truck. Long gone are the 15- and 16-inch billet rollers; they've been replaced with 20-, 22-, and 24-inch wheels often fitted with "spinners." It's been a long journey from the sport's humble beginnings to the present, and quite frankly, not too many people thought the ride would last this long. We're seeing the second generation of sport truck enthusiasts take over the sport, and judging from the creations they are building, it should be another interesting 15 years.