Pros: Dependable, easy to maintain, inexpensive
Cons: Dated interior, starters and alternators
I have a cheesy reason for buying my truck. I locked my keys in my Dodge Daytona and had to borrow my friends truck to retrieve my spare set. That 18-mile round trip convinced me I needed one of these! I went shopping the next day! I found a 1989 C1500 Sport side, Dark Blue and Gold. I fell in love with the truck, but the first thing I asked the dealer was "What engine is in it?" I would have left it on the lot if it hadn't had the 350 (5.7).
That dark blue paint is what caught my eye! Chevy still uses it, it is a deep blue that looks almost black in low light. After almost 12 years of the southern sun, the paint still looks great on this truck. No flaking or oxidation anywhere! There are some chips on the hood from stray rocks and scratches here and there, but the factory paint is still holding up!
The Sport side (step side) only has a 4 X 6ft bed. My small Honda Recon 4 wheeler fills it up pretty well. I can carry 4 X 8ft plywood sheets nicely with the tailgate down. The narrow bed holds MUCH less than a standard bed though so if hauling is your primary purpose, the Sport side may not be for you. The exterior humps for the rear wheels look pretty cool from the side, but from the back... lets face it; Sport sides look stupid (especially with campers!).
The first noticeable difference between the 㥡 and the 㥢 models are the headlights. In 1989, Chevrolet opted for the four small square lights. Each is a completely separate bulb. In 1990 they changed to the more modern single housing design that holds two bulbs. It changes the appearance of the truck only slightly, and the light output is the same.
I bought the Silverado package, the top of the line model of the C1500 in 1989. It has power windows, locks, and steering. The truck came with cruise control, tilt steering, air conditioning (the second MUST have), AM/FM cassette, and bucket seats with a center console. All wrapped up in a nice dark blue that matches the outside of the truck beautifully.
Stereo: The factory stereo was . JUNK! The design is terrible! The controls for the radio and volume are mounted high on the dash, close to the steering wheel. The tape deck and equalizer controls are mounted in the center of the dash where normal stereos are mounted. The system is overly complicated, comprised of and amp, the control unit, and the tape deck. It nearly takes an engineer to figure out how to remove it. I replaced it promptly with a new Alpine CD player. The factory speakers are also anemic, and since the factory speaker locations only allow 4 X 6 replacements, your options are very limited. I chose some nice Polk Audio 4X6 speakers that dropped right in and sound wonderful (see my very first epinion!). The stereo MUST be replaced if you are into music at all!
Seats: The seats are pretty comfortable, mine are not high back buckets, they only go up to the back window. They are good for about 4 hours or so, the posture is very good, but they lack any sort of support options. The are adjusted independently by slide levers that are kind of hard to find. It is best to adjust the seats while stopped like the manual says.
Instrumentation: The second most noticeable change from 㥡 to 90! Chevy went through a phase in 88 and 89. They experimented with these reverse gauges that are behind the gauge face. They are very hard to describe, but picture the needle being behind the numbers with a little window for you to view it in. Thank God they changed back to normal gauges in 1990! They still tell you everything you need to know, but there is something about not being able to see the gas gauge when my fuel is low that just scares me, when the needle starts to disappear, I am stopping!
Climate Control: All the controls are electronic. They are mounted near the steering wheel on the right side, right below the original radio controls. Everything is button operated; there is a small graphic with a picture of a guy in the seat that shows the direction of airflow. Other than being a little slow to change air direction, the system works beautifully. It takes a little practice to learn how to make the air flow go where you want it (you have to know what buttons to push and when), but it is a very nice reliable system.
Engine: Like I said earlier, I would not have even given this truck a second glance if it had not had the 350 cubic inch engine! The 1989 305c.i.d engine was WAY too weak for a vehicle this size, actually for any vehicle ever! I wish Chevy had never made a 305 I digress! By 350 standards, the model that I have is weak. It only produces 210 hp and I dont know the exact torque numbers. Torque is adequate, the truck pulls nicely. The throttle body fuel injection system it a glorified carburetor, it IS computer controlled and does offer advantages, but it still has nothing on a multi port system. Cold weather starts are a breeze, the truck idles nicely and I get around 20 miles per gallon on the highway.
I bought the truck with 72K miles on it. The odometer reads just over 155K now, and in the 6 years I have owned it I have replaced the water pump (ALL Chevy small blocks need one at about 100k), the starter and the alternator. The alternator design is JUNK; I have to replace it every 2 years or so good thing I got the lifetime warranty from Autozone. I paid for it once and have put 4 on it since I have owned the truck. I found out from a Chevy parts man that it is the design of the alternator. GM does not use that design anymore good thing!
Transmission: My truck came with the 4 speed (3 + overdrive) automatic TH-700 transmission. It shifted nicely, always positive and I never had any slipping. Unfortunately, the previous owner of the truck had installed a transmission fluid cooler and did not secure the fluid lines. Long story short the fluid leaked out one cold night and the truck started to feel funny. By the time I felt anything, 3rd gear was gone. The transmission is going to cost you around $1000 for repair! A new one is about $2500! I never had any other problems, but be aware that it is a MAJOR expense if something is wrong with it.
I know this one got long so I will keep the summary short if I can. I love this truck! It has only stranded me once (the transmission) and that was human error. It has always been reliable, it rides nicely (not like the newer ones though) and it has plenty of creature comforts. I wish it was an extended cab and that the gauges were normal. It could also use a more powerful engine, but that is the beauty of the 350, plenty of after market stuff to give it some pep. This is a solid vehicle that you can depend on for many years. Did I mention that it has only depreciated about $3000 in 6 years? It was 6 when I got it!
If you need a truck that you can count on and at a good price, look into a used Chevy. They are solid, and easy to maintain. They dont have the power or the ride of the newer ones, but they cost 1/3 as much (both price and insurance) and they can get the job done!
I sold this truck to my brother, it now has 187,000 miles on it. It does not use a drop of oil between changes, the paint still looks great. It's a great vehicle
In case anyone still happens across this, I bought the truck back from my brother in 2005. It now has 200700 miles on it and still runs great. He had to replace the fuel pump and a/c compressor at 190k but otherwise it was trouble free for him too. He didn't have a garage so the paint is starting to show it's age, it's beginning to flake off now on the hood like so many GM vehicles of this era. I still love this truck, so much so that I'm going to spend more than it's worth to have it repainted.