By on January 6, 2014

cst10

I used to daily drive a 1969 Chevrolet CST/10. The 1967 to 1972 Chevrolet and GMC trucks were a big step towards what we see now as a modern pickup. Gone were the divorced hood and fender styling, strong (uni)brow hood line, and lean-forward look of the cab. This bodystyle would later define the bodylines and grille design of the later trucks, especially in the early GMT800 trucks where they share the same hood and style-line down the side.

What arrived was a clean-cut design, with more upright styling, streamlined front and side sheet metal, and modern proportions. The coil spring trailing arm suspension in the rear was a revolution in handing and ride comfort; so much so that NASCAR still uses an identical rear suspension today. The long control arms are resistant to axle hop, and improve the behavior of the rear axle. The front suspension was a short/long-arm design, similar to contemporary GM sedans at the time, though much stronger.

And for HD applications, you could still get a traditional leaf sprung rear end, though on paper the two were rated for the same payload. By far, GM had the best truck chassis at the time compared to Ford and Dodge’s relatively uncivilized pickups. Dodge was still using a dead-beam front axle, and Ford was in full swing with their front swing arms; which after recently driving one makes me appreciate my CST/10′s SLA suspension.

Settling into the 2000′s, these attributes made the truck popular with hotrodders of all types. The custom truck scene clamored to shove airbags into the trailing arm trucks for a cheap and easy bagged suspension. The Pro-Touring scene found that overall suspension package was relatively capable. And the muscle truck guys found comfort in the fact that a fair number of them came with a 396 big block and 4spd, or often a TH400 auto — making these a decent drag truck.

I was in high school when I first started seeing these trucks, but my tastes ran towards the mini-truckin’ scene, and I read Truckin’ mag religiously. Pages and pages of air kits for Hardbodies and S10′s, wheels of every shape and taste and a wealth of custom suspension to gawk at in the various feature trucks. The ’67-’72′s always stood out, since they were just damn good looking no matter what you did, while the platform lent itself to an array of different builds and drivetrains.

My neighbor, also a gear head, had brought home a ’69 CST/10 one day. It took all of five minutes for him to realize it wasn’t going to fit in his garage once he got it here, and offered it to me for $500. It was a rolling shell, no motor or transmission. I scrounged up cash from my parents, and in January of ’07, it was mine.

Most of the big money parts came from my family during Christmas and my birthday. New light lenses, door panels, giant 4-core radiator, lights, etc. I dredged through the 67-72Chevytrucks.com forums for build ideas. Some of what I took back were upgrading to 73-87 “Heavy Half” 12.5” disc brakes up front, seats out of a modern ’08 Silverado (GM has used a flat floorpan since forever, seat swaps are easy), shoulder belts out of an 80′s S10 (the cab has threaded anchors for the upper belt), and H4 conversion headlights. In the winter of ’07, I sold my ’90 Pontiac Firebird and used the cash to finish the truck. It eventually gained a new gas tank, 3” lowering springs and shocks, and a few other tricks before hitting the streets.

On my birthday, February of ’09, I took it for its first legal drive. To say that it was the baddest truck at the highschool parking lot was an understatement. My orange, low, loud, black-steelied CST/10 stood out from the cookie-cutter bro trucks, with its retro looks and the distinct rumble from the mild cam in the 350 small-block.

I drove it hard for four years, before driving it from Austin to College Station for a weekend of drinking and partying, and then to Houston to store it. At the time, I was flipping cars to pay for college, and making half-decent cash. But storage was an issue, and I was stuck with 4 cars at once. My dad had a side driveway for a trailer that I could stash the truck in for the time being.

The truck ended up sitting for three years, partly due to unresolved mechanical issues. I would take it out every few months to go around the block and burn off some fuel, and top it off with fresh gas to keep the fuel happy. Unfortunately, during one nostalgic full throttle run, it blew a freeze plug, and began to overheat. While my Dad was confident that I could drive it the last mile home by driving to speed and coasting with the motor off, I was unsuccessful

I managed to push the orange behemoth into a parking lot and started walking home. I was surfing Craigslist for a new small block, or cheap LS 5.3 truck motor. A buddy of mine came over and we rope-towed the truck to my house. Once I got home, I was so frustrated, I didn’t bother to look at it. When my dad came home later, we put a wrench on the crank and found that the motor still spun. Meaning, it wasn’t seized. The level of relief I felt is hard to put into words. Must be the starter, I thought.

After running to 4 different parts stores, trying to remember where I had a lifetime warranty on the damn thing, I installed it only to find no change. Then, it hit me. Battery cables. The steam from the freezeplug had flash-corroded the terminals and killed the connection. Sure enough, a little backwoods trick of soaking the cable-ends in Coke was all it took to get it fired up. Even so, I never really got around to replacing the freezeplug, on account of my studies and other events in my life.

 

culprit

It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I got around to replacing it, fixing the motor mounts and all the other fun stuff that needs to be done after a vintage truck has been sitting idle for years.. My goal now was to get it ready to drive back to Austin on the next weekend. After a few hours messing around with the thing, it came time to fill it with coolant and fire it up.

Almost instantly there was a leak from the back of the block.

No.

Both sides of the block.

No, no.

A quick rev of the throttle to knock the carb off high-idle, and then two more freeze plugs blew. Nope. No more of this day. As the steam billowed from the engine bay I took a long look at the truck. Visions of “For Sale” signs danced around in my mind.

 

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36 Comments on “A Texan’s First Truck...”


  • avatar
    Moparmann

    So….What is the current status?? I must be insane, as I currently DO NOT NEED ANY more vehicles, but the thought of its’ potential availability has me thinking!! A friend of mine had a ’71 that I LUSTED after, and told him that if he EVER wanted to sell it, then I wanted it. Needless to say, it was sold, but not to me, and a few years later i ended up w/ the 83 Silverado that I currently own. :-)

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    So you have to pull the small block.
    That’s like what? Thirty minute job? Well, not counting the cam swap and new headers anyway.

  • avatar

    LSX-FTW, son. No excuses, just make it happen.

    • 0 avatar
      3Deuce27

      It just needs Freeze plugs, Sajeev.

      I’m a big fan of LS engines and we swap one every few weeks, but I see no need for that swap here unless Phillip wants that combo. I’m with Crab Spirits, lift the engine a bit and get her on the road.

      By the way, one of my all time favorite trucks. Sold a 72′ that I still wish I had.

      Working on a 69′ Ford F-100 currently and way more money and work to put together then a Chevy.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I few into college I was working at this hole as a heavy equipment/machine shop/whatever mechanic (or whatever the boss needed me to do).

    The place was selling their old welder truck. A 1971 Chevy C30 stakebed, with fabricated iron sides and iron over the half-rooted wooded platform. I think I paid like $600-$700 for it and drove it home. At the same time, the boss had a friend rebuilding a similar C10 truck in our shop, and he gave me a free radiator support, grill, and hood.

    My truck had new tires on it, although a bit later I had to put in a new wheel cylinder on the back. I used that truck to teach myself body work, using a new, and nice, Lincoln MIG welder my dad had bought me for my birthday. I painted it semi-flat black, kept the old hood mostly faded yellow with a black skull on the hood (until I later replaced it with the new hood) and drove it around here and there. That truck was a tank, and nobody dare go near it on the road. On occasion I’d drive it to classes at my local university, and the kids would scatter from it’s path. A few times we used it for hauling firewood, but mostly it sat.

    It was a hell of a truck, but after I graduated college I moved to a apartment for the first year, money was limited, and my dad was tired of it taking up his entire driveway….. if I had known about a year later I would be making a lot more money, and two years later be living in a rural area with plenty of room (and use) for the truck, well, I would of kept it.

    The C10′s are cool, but there was something about that C30 dually stakebed. You never see them. Maybe I’ll find another one day, lower the back of it some, and put on a 8ft C10 bed with fender flares like a modern day dually. Nah, I’d find another, and keep it the rightful trashed tank my old one was. Once again, NOBODY dared go near that truck on the road, which was awesome when you lived in a crowded city full of idiots.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      The local farmer’s market inexplicably uses a 67-72 GMC 1-ton to plow the dual parking lots, as well as salt them with the salt hopper on the back. It’s an odd choice, but I respect it.

  • avatar

    Listen to Sajeev…you’ll be glad you did. Check out the Chevy Trucks forum linked below, there are plenty of Gen III/Gen IV (LSx)swaps on the site.

    http://67-72chevytrucks.com/

  • avatar
    poltergeist

    I grew up driving my parent’s ’64 Chevy truck. Fleetside/longbed with a 250cu six and 3-on-the-tree. Pretty much the same suspension as the ’67-’72, but IMHO the ’60-’66 has a lot more “style”. I think often about getting another, but as mentioned in the article, too big for my garage.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Yeah, I always liked the 60-66 body more than these, which are kinda the ‘jellybean’ trucks of their era. From my time scouting around in junkyards, the interiors of the 67-72s don’t hold up nearly as well as the older ones (too much plastic and supplier scumming).

      • 0 avatar
        poltergeist

        The ’64 had an all metal interior which, like you said, was bulletproof. It was 25+ years old when my folks had it, and the interior looked brand new! Of course it was an echo chamber inside, but that drowned out the wind noise! And the rubber floor mat came in handy when the plastic tube that ran to the aftermarket mechanical oil pressure gauge split under the dash, spraying the interior with hot engine oil….just a quick wipe up to clean, although the floor was always a bit more slippery after that!!!

        Many fond memories of that ol’ truck.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      I think it was the ’60-’66 models that ended “the divorced hood and fender styling, strong (uni)brow hood line, and lean-forward look of the cab”. Well, the first two anyway. The end of the ’50s wrap-around windshield around ’64 ended that lean forward appearance, but otherwise the ’67-’72 C10s were version 2.0.

  • avatar
    DevilsRotary86

    Only slightly off topic to the article. Is it weird that I have been living in Texas my whole life, driving here for 15, and I still have not owned a pickup truck? I drove one for work once at 18, a Uhaul once for moving, and my uncle once let me park his truck in the driveway, but those experiences are as close as I have ever gotten.

    • 0 avatar
      Firestorm 500

      I learned how to drive on mostly pickups. I live in Arkansas.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Well, no, that’s not unusual at all. It just doesn’t fit the stereotype non-Texans have of Texans living on a ranch or working an oil field. I grew up in New England and learned to drive in a ’63 Rambler, and to drive stick in a ’62 Mercedes 220. I’ve never owned a Saab, Volvo, or Subaru, breaking that stereotype of New Englanders. Now I drive the last of the cushy Buick LeSabres, because I got older and my fanny overruled my gonads. If there’s a stereotype for that, I hit the bulls-eye.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    first drive in ’09 + 4 years heavy driving + 3 years sitting in dads driveway = 2016. Where do they go?

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Love these trucks ! .

    I have a ’69 C/10 short bed step side base model .

    250 C.I.D. I6 . TH350 slush box tranny , PS & PB , nothing more .

    Minor suspension & tire up grades and it handily out runs most other vehicles in the canyons , going down hill at least .

    I love the economical I6 and am building up a big one (292) .

    I too vote for banging in a set of (brass) welch plugs and keep driving and enjoying it .

    Once you stuff in a fire breathing engine , you’ll stop driving and enjoying it daily .

    More’s the pity but that’s the _fact_ Jack .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I certainly enjoyed the 68 Chevy pickup I had. They’d learned how to build decent door hinges and latches by then. My rig was an old Forest Service truck from eastern Oregon, 6, 4-speed, short narrow box. With a locking rear end it would go most places a 4×4 truck would go. It was a bit spartan inside, but certainly worked well for me. I finally sold it after I realized that I’d gone a year and a half and never had a load in it.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I wouldn’t sell it if I were you, that’s one you will regret. It isn’t worth a ton of money, but it doesn’t cost you a ton of money to fix or keep, and it will always be worth having a truck to knock around with. Fix it, hot rod it, restore it, whatever you want, but don’t sell it.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    “I drove it hard for four years, before driving it from Austin to College Station for a weekend of drinking and partying,”

    My cousin went to UNC Chapel Hill…they used to tell the kids at NC State in Raleigh that the difference between culture and agriculture was only 25 miles.

    I would bet that your drive was a similar socio-economic journey, even if the actual mileage was longer.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Learned to drive in my dad’s ’72 C/10 Suburban, the ultimate family truckster….or teenage friend-hauler. It was an icon among my buddies, last month one of them ran across one identical to ours (blue/white top) and posted it on Facebook. That suspension was bulletproof, in 200K miles ours only went through one $5 rubber bumper, still rode and handled fine.

  • avatar
    doug-g

    When these truck were built, the truck market was completely different and this generation of GM trucks began Ford’s march to dominance in truck sales, IMHO.

    As a child, I think nearly every truck in our area was a GM – many of them the old “Advance Design”. Then, Fords started showing up. I “heard” that is was because GM trucks had a “car suspension” and they weren’t as tough as Fords. I think this was about 1966. Then this generation came out and, while they were/are very nice looking, they had less of a “truck” look. So, a car suspension and a pretty-boy look led many more “truck” buyers to Ford. THEN the generation that began in 1973 was introduced and it just widened that “truckness” gap and Ford pretty much took over sales lead. *BUT*, I read back in-the-day that while Ford sold more trucks, GM made more money on trucks. The reason being that GM had the retail, high-option market where Ford sold more fleet strippers. I have no firsthand knowledge so make of it what you will. That bring us to today. More went on, but other than mentioning that Dodge became a factor, I will not talk about anything.

    I think if you were to review my past posts you would find that I lean towards GM on the domestic front, but I would buy a Ford pickup were I in the market. I have a hard time taking Chevy/GMC trucks seriously because they seem to be the ones always dolled up. I see a real white Chevy/GMC work truck and I just snicker and go, “you’re going to do *work* with that thing. (There’s also the cheap friggin electrical systems. Annoying to see nearly new vehicles that generally always have at least one light out or misfunctioning. But, I digress.) RAMs? I really think the Cummins is a good engine, but the truck attracts too many jerks that I would not want to be associated with even if it were strictly because we owned the same brand of pickup. Then there is the drama of the GM/RAM rivalry where the GM usually gets drug around the parking lot by its hair. Fords just still seem to be the real, no drama trucks for people who are comfortable in their own skin and have nothing to prove. That just my take, YMMV.

    • 0 avatar
      its me Dave

      IIRC, the UAW strike at Chevy Truck around the 70MY was a significant factor in the F series taking the sales lead.

      I had a ’70 with a L6/3MT that still ranks as one of my favorite vehicles. Those long rear control arms were no match for snowbelt salt.

  • avatar
    old5.0

    There were still a bunch of these in daily service when I was a kid. I dunno, I always preferred the early (73-74)Rounded Line trucks to these.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Dad bought a 1970 Ford. In retrospect, The GM trucks were clearly superior. Ford had dangerous suspension and brakes. GMs were more well-sorted. I think the GMs look better, although the Fords look darn nice now, too. Its a little unclear whether the author has sold or is about to sell the truck.

    I’d think twice. A good old truck is a handy thing to have for once in a while use. A classic old truck is even better. Zero depreciation expense is helpful.

  • avatar
    Skink

    I would love to get a pickup of this era. Just one thing: in what model year did Chevy introduce the club cab? Same question about Ford?


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