C10s are some of the most reliable classic pickups out there, and the great news is that there are a lot of them. Because of the relatively low cost as well as the demographics that Chevy chose to market this line to, there were hundreds of thousands of these trucks available. As they age, they do accrue some wear and tear, but if you see a problem that seems outside of your capability, you can safely walk away with the knowledge that there will always be another C10.
As you determine your budget and think about how much time you want to spend working on your truck versus showing your truck, there are a few things to consider. The first being rating the overall condition of a classic truck.
Classic Truck Condition Rating
A classic truck’s overall condition will affect its price more than any other single factor. A condition rating is an assessment of the state that the truck is currently in, not the state it could be in with some work.
The absolute cream of the crop. A top of the line, perfectly restored show truck with no mechanical or aesthetic issues on the inside or the outside.
These trucks look like they’ve never seen the road, and many of them haven’t. You could take this from point of sale straight to a show and have people’s jaws drop.
It’s hard to find any trucks that are in this kind of pristine condition, and when you do the price will reflect the rarity in addition to the quality.
Perfectly Clean C10
These trucks are not perfect, but they come pretty darn close. You’ll have to go over it with a glove to find any problems.
A truck in condition 2 has most likely been driven, but has probably not been driven hard and hasn’t been used to do heavy work. You’d be unable to find a specific problem with it, but it’s obviously not in mint condition.
This truck has some minor cosmetic issues, but they’re tough to find. Though not as expensive as trucks in condition 1, trucks in condition 2 are still on the pricier side.
Nearly Perfect C10
The sweet spot. This is a great average to shoot for if you’re okay doing a little work to get your truck up to snuff, but also want to drive it in the meantime. These trucks can run, but may have a couple of appearance issues or a few mechanical parts operating at a little less than full.
Condition 3 trucks are a little easier to find, and tend to be more affordable as well. You also won’t draw the ire of purists for deciding to paint a condition 3 whatever color you want or hear gasps if you choose to chop up the suspension.
Good Condition C10
These trucks show that they’ve been loved. They have a couple of dings, a couple of rust spots, a torn seat or two, or other signs that they’re not exactly brand new.
Condition 4 trucks are especially great for people who are keen to restore the aesthetic qualities of a truck, like the interior or the paint, but who aren’t looking to do a full engine restoration in their truck’s first year.
Condition 4 C10s are great for people who want a classic truck on a budget and who have the time to restore it, even if they aren’t professional mechanics.
Some Wear and Tear
This is what many will call a project truck. They are trucks that need to be restored in total, whether that involves replacing a couple of panels or doing a full engine rebuild.
Many of these trucks will be labeled as salvage or rebuilt, and they’re relatively inexpensive. If you’re looking for a big project, this is going to be the condition you’re looking at, but keep in mind that they are big projects.
A perfect project truck
What could be worse than a truck that needs to be rebuilt? One that can’t ever really be rebuilt. These are the trucks with severe frame damage, the ones that are just waiting for someone to come and scavenge whatever parts are still good.
If you’re buying a condition 5 truck, then buying a condition 6 truck is a great way to make sure you’ll have easy access to some of the parts that you’ll need. Just make sure they aren’t missing the same panels.
Probably still okay for parts
Though you can duplicate just about any specific feature that you may have wanted from one of the C10’s original trim packages, it’s good to have an idea of what trim package you’d find most ideal simply to narrow down your choices.
Some options are hard to find in good shape used and aren’t necessarily being produced exactly the way they were then. The C10 had some of the most unique vinyl-fabric seat combinations that have ever been seen on a pickup that was designed for hard work, almost as if Chevy was saying that working hard didn’t mean that the C10 couldn’t also have fun.
Don’t ignore the interior
When it comes to bed lengths, you may need to make compromises. The C10 only came with two bed sizes. The short bed was six foot and five inches while the long bed was eight feet even. Though both beds were popular at the time of sale, since then, the short bed option has become the most frequently pursued.
Many want the short bed because of its small size and how easy it makes the conversion to drag truck.
If you find your dream pickup and it happens to have a long bed, you can shorten it. Many C10 owners have accomplished this modification and although it seems harrowing, it’s much easier than other problems to fix.
Finding Classic C10s
The next problem you’ll encounter when you decide to search for a specific classic truck is that looking for one can be a challenge. There’s an element of Murphy’s law here, when you aren’t in the market C10s are abundant and inexpensive, but when you’re ready to buy they’re nowhere to be found.
The first thing to do is to let your friends and family know that you are in the market. Having hundreds of eyes scouring the internet, looking for “For Sale” signs, and otherwise widening your search is one obvious step that you can take to make your hunt a little bit easier.
The next step that a lot of people skip over is talking to your local used car dealership. Though many are nervous about working with a dealer, there are ways to overcome pushy dealership tactics and have a great purchasing experience. The reason you’ll want to contact a dealer is that they tend to have an even greater reach than your network and may be able to trade with another dealer or negotiate a better deal on a trade-in. Most dealers have a system so that you can leave your name and number along with a description of what you’re hunting for and have them give you a ring to go check it out as soon as it hits the lot, giving you the advantage over the people who didn’t drop off their info.
If what you want is very specific, you may need to expand your search even further.
Online, sites like CarGurus and Cars.com let you look at used vehicles from a very wide radius.
Auction sites like eBay or Bring a Trailer allow you to compete with other enthusiasts, which has pros and cons. On the plus side, there are a bunch more eyes on the vehicle, and what might be a plus for you is a con for them.
On the negative side, some features are just awesome and everyone wants them. When you have a bunch of people who know how awesome the used truck you’re evaluating is it’s likely the price will be driven up.
Sites that don’t specialize in automotive sales but that allow them, like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist, have less competition since most people search locally. But out of all these options, these typically offer you the least protection as a buyer. If anything goes wrong, it’ll be on you to prove they knew about the issue and willfully concealed it.
Regardless of where you find your C10, your next step is going to be heading out to see it to kick some tires.
Checking Out Potentials
The phrase “kicking the tires” comes from a time when tires were softer rubber than they are now, and buyers would literally kick the side to see how thick or thin the sidewalls were. While that particular action isn’t as useful as it once was, you are going to want to wear some clothes you can get dirty in for the next step, which involves checking out every nook and cranny of your prospective C10.
You probably don’t want to wear a suit if you’re shoving your hand into wheel wells to check for rust is all we’re saying.
When you start looking at C10s, you’ll be looking for the standard issues that affect all used vehicles, but you’ll also want to check for some truck-specific and some Chevy-specific issues that can be a little bit sneakier.
The dreaded rust. Like most older trucks, it’s not uncommon for C10s to get a little rust in the rocker and door sills. Tragically, this is a much more serious problem than it might first seem to be. Unless you’re a talented fabricator and welder, fixing rust is like trying to mop up a torrent of water with a roll of paper towels; just when you think you’ve gotten a lot of the water up, you realize it’s still spreading.
Rust is a vicious enemy, and it’s eaten more than its share of classic vehicles.
If the rust is relatively minimal, you might consider buying the vehicle, but understand that the rust is going to have to be your first objective, and you’ll need to fight it like your new truck’s life depends on it (it does).
When checking for rust, make sure you look under any rocker protection or paneling that the seller may have installed. Many people simply install new rocker panels overtop of rusty metal, which only makes the problem worse. Likewise, some dishonest people will cover up the rust.
One specific place you’ll want to check the C10 for rust are two holes at the front of the bed that were designed to act as a drain for any water that got into the bed. Unfortunately, if those two holes were clogged at any point, they are one of the first places to get rust.
The wheel wells are some of the most obvious rust culprits, as well as the rocker panels and door sills. You’ll also want to check anywhere that there’s a corner, from the cab to the floor and the corners of the bed. Tailgate trunions are frequent rust offenders as well.
Don’t just look, you’ll also want to feel. Rusted metal has a distinct texture that you’ll be able to feel through a quick coat of cover-up paint.
Check inside as well as outside
The very first C10s had steel bushings in the front suspension rather than the rubber bushings that came later. You’ll want to check these for wear, and will likely want to replace them.
Likewise, the trailing arms, especially in the earlier models, have a reputation for being trouble. The problem with suspension components is that they’re all supposed to fit together, like a jigsaw. Changing out a single piece at a time can be challenging.
Some C10 enthusiasts have had luck with opting to instead swap out the entire suspension. That way all of the parts are new and still fit together perfectly, plus it allows for upgrades. Most people plan to upgrade their C10’s suspension anyway, and if you aren’t you should at least consider it. The C10 was a great truck, but it by no means was a truck designed to provide a comfortable ride. Upgrading to coilovers or an air ride suspension means not having to check the current suspension as thoroughly and being guaranteed a good ride.
Driveshaft and U-Joints
This is a common issue in a lot of trucks, not just C10s, but it’s still worth taking a look at though it, unfortunately, does mean getting underneath the truck.
If your vehicle is a 4WD or RWD then it has a driveshaft connected by a u-joint to the rear axle. You really need this to be functioning correctly if you would like to drive the truck off of the lot safely. If you hear a clunk when you’re shifting from drive to reverse, it’s most likely a u-joint in need of replacement.
This isn’t an overly expensive procedure, and just about every truck will need it at some point, but it’s a good thing to be aware of before it sneaks up and surprises you.
Plus it’s good to have a few things to look at under the truck. The longer you spend under there the more information the seller will freely give.
Naturally, you’ll want to take a look at the engine to get an idea of how well the C10 has been cared for. Two easy things to take a look at are the air filter and fuel filter. Changing both of these things is a normal part of C10 maintenance that is frequently overlooked.
You’ll also want to take a look at more routine components of engine care, like coolant and engine oil.
A well-cared-for engine
It sounds ridiculous now of course, but once upon a time, you could decide whether or not you wanted to include the option of a seatbelt. Things like turn indicators aren’t a given, and you’ll need to check for any safety features that you’ll need to have based on how you plan to use your truck.
The good news is that some features, like seatbelts, can be added now to upgrade the overall safety of your truck.
Taking Your Truck Home
Congratulations on your new C10 truck! These classic trucks are fun to work on and customize, whether you’re more interested in going with a hot rod style or if you want to carefully restore it to its glory days.
Once you’ve purchased your truck, don’t forget all of the things you need to do after buying a used car. Additionally, don’t forget to give it a good interior detailing, follow through on some likely needed C10 maintenance, and enjoy your new ride.