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Category: 4wd

Junkyard Gem: 1985 GMC Suburban K1500

General Motors has been selling Suburbans since 1935, outlasting the DeSoto Suburban, the Nash Ambassador Suburban and the Plymouth Fury Suburban. These days, the US-market GMC-branded twin to the Chevrolet Suburban wears Yukon XL badging, but GMC Suburbans were sold here from 1937 through 1999. Today’s Junkyard Gem is a four-wheel-drive example of the very successful 1973-1991 Suburban generation, found in a car graveyard just outside of Reno, Nevada.

The Service Parts Identification sticker on the glovebox lid tells us that this truck was part of a fleet order with some interesting RPO codes, including one for “Retail Amenity Delete.” Yes, the cigarette lighter was an extra-cost option.

The original engine was a good old carbureted Chevrolet 350-cubic-inch (5.7-liter) small-block V8, and this small-block may even be the one that was installed on the line in Flint, Michigan. The power rating was 165 horsepower and 275 pound-feet, not a lot of power (by our current standards) for a truck that scaled in at nearly two-and-a-half tons, but it was enough for the era.

The transmission is the optional 700R4 four-speed automatic. The seat is a bench, as is proper.

This is a half-ton with four-wheel-drive and the base Sierra trim level. The High Sierra and Sierra Classic packages (corresponding to Chevrolet’s Scottsdale and Silverado names at the time) got you nicer-looking decorations plus some convenience features.

The 1985 GMC and Chevrolet Suburbans had identical price tags, which started at $11,650 for the K1500 with 350 engine (about $24,682 in 2024 dollars).

The eighth-generation Suburban showed up as a 1992 model, and it received the luxurious independent front suspension that had lived beneath C/K-series GM pickups since the 1988 model year.

At some point, the tailgate from a Chevrolet Suburban was installed.

Rust works slowly in Nevada, though we don’t know where this truck resided before it came to the Silver State.

An owner of this truck was a proud member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 12, which covers California and Nevada.

What broke and sent this truck here? We can’t know.

The Suburban doesn’t show up in this commercial for the 1985 GMC trucks, but it’s still worth a view.

Most of the Suburban advertising dollars went to the Chevrolet version.

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Junkyard Gem: 1985 Ford F-150 Explorer XL 4X4

The Ford F-Series was the best selling motor vehicle in the United States for the 1982 model year and has remained in the No. 1 spot ever since. You’d think that Junkyard Gem-worthy examples of that historic F-Series generation would be easy to find in the car graveyards I frequent, given how many were sold, but most of the ones that do show up have been used up beyond easy recognition and then picked clean by junkyard shoppers. That’s not the case with today’s truck spotted in a northeastern Colorado yard: a fairly solid 1985 F-150 with two-tone paint and the Explorer trim package.

The seventh generation of the F-Series was sold in the United States for the 1980 through 1986 model years. For 1980 through 1983, the F-100 cost-cutting half-ton model was still available, after which it was replaced by the F-150 as the only half-ton F-Series. This truck has the mid-grade XL trim level, positioned between the Standard and XLT tiers.

The Explorer package, which included styling upgrades and various popular options at tempting prices, first became available in F-Series trucks for the 1968 model year. There were Explorer Rancheros and Broncos as well for a while. 1985 appears to have been the last model year for the F-Series Explorer package, after which it was replaced by a set of Preferred Equipment Packages. Starting with the 1991 model year, the Explorer name was repurposed as the model designation for a hot-selling SUV based on the Ranger chassis via the Bronco II.

The F-Series hadn’t gone very far along the process of its metamorphosis into the replacement for the American family sedan by the middle 1980s, so the powertrain in this one is extremely truckish. The engine is the base 300-cubic-inch (4.9-liter) pushrod straight-six, rated at 115 horsepower and 223 pound-feet. 302- and 351-cubic-inch (5.0- and 5.8-liter) gasoline V8s were available as options, and buyers of 1985 F-250s and F-350s could opt for a 460-cube (7.5-liter) big-block V8 or a 6.9-liter diesel.

No drive-to-the-office-park automatic here! This truck has the four-on-the-floor manual transmission, which was an upgrade from the base three-on-the-tree column-shift manual but cheaper than the four-speed with overdrive top gear.

Who says you can’t have a floor-shift manual with a bench seat? The middle passenger just had to get used to taking a beating from the shifter.

Ford hadn’t gone to six-digit odometers in these trucks by 1985, so the actual final mileage must remain a mystery.

There’s rust here and there, but it looks good from 100 feet away.

The original buyer of this truck even sprang for the optional AM/FM stereo radio, which was a good idea for the kind of long drives you take in the Mountain Time Zone.

Ford used the chassis of the 1980 F-Series nearly into our current century, finally doing a major redesign for the 1997 model year. The current F-Series is the 14th generation of a truck family dating back to 1948.

Willie Nelson better have been paid well for Ford’s use of this rewrite of his 1980 song!

Climbs a rocky hill while carrying a Chevy truck and towing a Dodge.


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