The long-standing Chevy C/K series evolved over many decades, but the third generation delivered one of the most classic pickup trucks. If you’ve had your C/K since its heyday, we know it’s been with you through everything. And if you’re looking to purchase your first one, you’ll understand why so many enjoy this retro-style truck.
But no matter how long you’ve had your Chevy, it may need a complete restoration instead of a few fine-tuning adjustments. Raybuck Auto Body Parts offers Chevy C/K auto body restoration parts for DIYers and professional restoration shops that have the highest expectations.
History of the 1973-1987 Chevy Pickup Truck
The C/K Chevy truck’s history began in 1973. Production of the truck models lasted 14 years, making it one of the longest-running generations of pickups generated by Chevy. Although they are less rare compared to some other classic automobiles, the accessible and affordable C/K trucks are popular with restoration enthusiasts across the country.
Many changes occurred throughout its history. For example, between 1973 and 1980, several major modifications included moving the windshield wipers behind the hood, developing a vertical side marker and introducing a leveled hood with less rake. The trucks also had different hood styles compared to the later models.
From 1981 to 1987 — the end of the truck’s generation — significant changes involved a flatter grille, horizontal side markers and the windshield wipers moved to the top of the cowl.
What Does the “C” and “K” Mean for Chevy Trucks?
To give you more insight into how the Chevy C/K truck was categorized, the company used a combination of letters and numbers. The “C” stands for two-wheel-drive pickups, while the “K” represents four-wheel-drive trucks. The pickups are also classed by weight known as the C/K10, C/K20 and C/K30 trucks. The C10 represents the half-ton, two-wheel-drive Chevy and the K10 is the half-ton, four-wheel-drive model — and so on.
C/K Chevy: 1973-1974
At the start of production, Chevy decided to take a different approach to the third generation of C/K pickups. The company developed a design in 1973 that didn’t change much for 14 years, making it a timeless automobile.
Most changes occurred in the body. With the truck’s larger and wider frame, it was dubbed the square body Chevy because of its box-like appearance. However, it was also formally named the “Rounded Line” generation because the pickups featured a square wheel well with rounded corners. Chevy decided to dismiss the circular design.
To contrast the more squared features of the wheel wells, Chevy forged rounded door frames and windshields to create a balanced look. The curved side glass created additional visibility for drivers and reduced blind spots.
Other changes made to the C/Ks were front stabilizers and increased wheelbases. The short wheelbase increased to 117.5 inches, and the long wheelbase advanced to 131.5 inches. Chevy also reduced the front spring rates and staggered the rear shock absorbers to avoid wheel hop. Flow-through ventilation was also added, along with larger seats that made for a more comfortable ride. Chevrolet engineers came up with several trim levels in 1973, including the Custom, Custom Deluxe, Cheyenne and Cheyenne Super.
The auto company also offered the C30 — one-ton dually with a Crew Cab. It was considered one of the first heavy-duty pickups in modern times. As the first truck in the industry with dual rear wheels and a Crew Cab, it could hold up to six people. It was revolutionary. They also dropped the 402 V8 engine and replaced it with the 454, which was more powerful. Nicknamed the “Big Dooley,” it could reach up to 155 HP.
By the second year of production in 1974, the recessed egg-crate grille design from 1973 remained. The full-time four-wheel-drive option became accessible on all the C/K V8 models, and Chevy added an aluminum tailgate panel to the tailgate center. They also applied rain gutters above the doors.
The entire first era of the third-generation C/K trucks brought about drastic physical changes that would last through the next several years. With its contrasting round and straight edges, it became a “classic American” style pickup.
C/K Chevy: 1975-1976
In 1975, Chevy began offering the Silverado trim as their luxury option — and a familiar name we know today. The new trim line quickly became the most popular option, taking the place of the top-ranking Cheyenne Super trim. The Cheyenne Super was discontinued soon after. The Custom Deluxe became the base model, and Chevy dropped the Custom trim line as well. As a result, the company started to introduce the Scottsdale edition.
The Silverado trim models were hitting peak selling records, making them a popular C/K truck throughout the nation. 1975 was also the year Chevy engineered the C20 model with four doors and no rear seats. Other additions to hit the production line were HEI ignition and a quick-release tailgate that became a prominent selling feature.
Catalytic converters also became standard in all C/K models with a gross weight under 6,001 pounds. Chevy even created a flushed grille with three horizontal bars. The design was a massive change that lasted from 1975 to 1976. The windshield wiper component also had a new position.
In 1976, Chevrolet began adding zinc to their primer to prevent rusting as people drove the vehicles to work and used them in the fields. Rubber impact strips in chrome bumpers were a new feature, too.
C/K Chevy: 1977-1979
Available trim lines for the C/K models in 1977 were Cheyenne, Silverado, Custom Deluxe and Scottsdale. The company worked hard to deliver more hood details and came up with an inside hood release feature.
Another new addition was the integration of low-back bucket seats, which later transformed into high-back seats in future versions. At the time, you could also opt for a rear defroster to enhance visibility during winter.
A new grille design entered the formula in the same year, making it the easiest to decipher between the various models. Chevy made a design that got rid of the one horizontal and four vertical dividers from the 1976 look. They also introduced the 305 V8 engine, and the wheels were now styled with center caps. One of the truck’s most unique features, only found on this model, was a gold stripe located in the center side moldings.
In 1978, the Chevy C10 upgraded to the 5.7L V8 diesel engine. Silverado rated as the top trim with added brushed aluminum to its detailing. The manufacturer also got rid of all the woodgrain features.
By the time 1979 rolled around, power windows were introduced. It was also the year when catalytic converters were integrated into all models with a gross weight of at least 8,500 pounds. Chevy replaced the gas cap with a fuel filler door, included more hood details and started combining the turn signal and headlight features into a single design.
C/K Chevy: 1980
Chevrolet crafted an exclusive egg-crate grille redesign to the 1980 series. The truck manufacturer added more chrome at the bottom of the grille and gave buyers the option to have rectangular headlamps. The C/Ks also received cast-aluminum wheels, and a dual exhaust was available on the 292 six-cylinder engines. Interior features came with cassette and 8-track options. Although the grille experienced a fresh look, no major redesigns of the body occurred.
C/K Chevy: 1981-1982
In 1981, the Chevy C/K pickup truck underwent a complete refresh. Chevrolet engineers came up with a new frontend design with sheet metal, which stayed intact with the rest of the series until 1987. By implementing sheet metal into the design, it reduced the weight of the rig by 300 pounds — a huge feat at the time.
The truck’s vent windows, fenders and hood hinges experienced new blueprints, and a different sloped hood was in the making as well. Other changes in 1981 encompassed four headlights, a new bumper, a renewed tailgate and horizontal side markers, nicknaming it the Silverado front end. Chevy also improved the C/K’s four-wheel-drive features.
New ideas in the industry meant Chevy moved the windshield wipers to the top of the cowl and refreshed the interior components. They came up with a new dash shape, seats, instrument panels and sill plates.
A chrome grille made an appearance in 1982, becoming the standard for the rest of the C/K models. If you had a 4-speed overdrive manual transmission, you could opt for a 6.3L 379 diesel engine. Power steering was standard on all K-series, and the company discontinued the Cheyenne trim.
1982 was also the year they introduced the Chevy S10 — a light-utility pickup in regular cab and 2WD only. The extended-cab and four-wheel drive options were introduced in 1983.
C/K Chevy: 1983-1984
As time went on with the third generation of C/K pickups, Chevrolet continued enhancing the physical appearance of their trucks. For example, in 1983, they developed the two-level grille and positioned the turn signal behind the grille. They also introduced the automatic 700R4 transmission.
In 1984, drivers had the option of four headlights, meaning you could revert to the original two. High beam lights and cruise control moved into the turn signal handle, and Chevy got rid of any hood ornaments on the pickups.
C/K Chevy: 1985-1987
In 1985, Chevy made another grille redesign. However, it would be the last grille change until the end of the C/K production. Manufacturers introduced the Vortec V6 engine that had fuel-injecting technology. It was one of the most powerful base engines for Chevy trucks. They also started to offer two-tone paint options.
The 1986 C/K models were named the official trucks of the Indy 500, and by 1987, the models gained new names. The 10, 20 and 30 models changed to 1500, 2500 and 3500. The “C” series changed to “R” while the “K” series turned to “V.”
The Chevy C/K generation came to an end as the company’s 1500 model increased in popularity. The 1500 later became known as the Silverado and skyrocketed to be one of Chevy’s most popular trucks.
How to Restore Your Chevy Truck 1973-1987
If you love to get your hands dirty, DIY restorations are easy to achieve when you follow our 1973-1987 Chevy truck restoration guide. Whether you’ve had your pickup since its initial release or recently bought one, we can help guide you through the process:
1. Inspect the Chevy
Learning how to restore a Chevrolet pickup begins with avid research and assessment. Inspecting your vehicle prior to starting a project will help determine the extent of your restorations. Check the truck for rust, damage, missing parts and faulty components. Major areas to observe include the transmission, steering and brake systems.
Depending on the year of your C/K model, the pickup may have power or manual steering. C/K models gained power steering in 1982, so most models before that will have manual. Knowing the ins and outs of your Chevy will give you an idea of what to expect during the restoration process and how much it may cost to conduct various replacements.
2. Disassemble the Truck
Start by disassembling the interior portion of the vehicle. Look for damaged or worn parts that require complete replacement. Make sure you keep things organized by laying the parts out from front to back, or whatever makes the most sense. Label larger pieces and keep the small nuts, bolts and other hardware in containers.
Once you gut the interior, work on the body components, and inspect for rust and damage. If you can salvage some parts, start the process now. If parts of the truck’s body are unusable, start ordering new components such as rocker panels, door panels and fenders.
3. Focus on the Undercarriage, Suspension and Chassis
Begin taking the body pieces off the frame. Separating the body from the frame will help you see the underside of the truck. If you need to replace large structural sections, you will want to do so right away before removing the body from the chassis — otherwise, the body may twist and move during the removal, resulting in tricky reassembly.
Next, cut out any rusted, corroded or damaged areas if you can’t salvage them. Install new body panels and parts as needed. Make sure to perform any welding or fabrication jobs before undergoing the undercarriage prep. Clean the chassis and complete suspension work.
After you complete phase three, the C/K’s frame should be clean. Choose the appropriate suspension setup and axle, and make any drivetrain alterations. You may need to rebuild or reinstall the existing components based on their condition.
If you’re adding a new drivetrain and suspension parts, the body panels may demand modification for proper clearance. Also, leave enough room for the exhaust when completing new suspension and drivetrain installations. When everything is in place, paint the chassis and move to step four.
4. Lay Out the Wiring
Phase four of your 1973-1987 Chevy truck restoration project comprises the more meticulous work. Now that the body is back on the chassis, lay out the fuel and brake lines, along with the wiring, hoses and exhaust. Take your time in labeling and routing each electrical wire — if problems arise down the road, this will make it easier to fix. Make sure to insert a rubber grommet when you run a hose, wire or line through a metal hole.
5. Put Time Into the Body and Painting
Depending on the condition of your Chevy, you may need to strip down the truck before painting. Align the door gaps and hinges and adjust panels for proper fitment. Block sand and prime the C/K before painting.
First, paint the jambs and put a basecoat on the body of the truck, trying to avoid over-spraying. When the first coat dries, wet sand the body and add several layers of clear coat for some shine. Again, wait for it to dry and wet sand it to remove any blemishes. Buff and polish your Chevy for a fresh paint job.
6. Prep the Interior and Complete Final Body Assembly
Designing the interior of your truck is just as exciting as restoring the outside panels. You can install sound deadener material to reduce road noise and eliminate the tin sound that many old vehicles make. Apply the wiring, assemble the interior, upholster the seats and lay the carpeting. As you add each component to your pickup, you can choose to keep the retro look of the Chevy or opt for more modern modifications.
You can also install insulation, weather stripping and rustproofing agents. Apply exterior trim, molding and badges. Complete any electrical work by assembling hoses, cables and ground straps. Invest in a new bumper and add fresh tires and rims to complete the look.
7. Test Drive Your Chevy C/K
As soon as your Chevy passes inspection, it’s time to hit the toad for a test drive.
The entire restoration process can take several months or even a few years when considering the extent of the renovations and how you want the truck to look. It requires an exceptional amount of time, skill and patience to reap the exact results you want — but it’s always worth it.
1973-1987 Chevy Truck Restoration Tips
Whether you require 1973, 1980 or 1987 Chevy truck parts, you’ll want to have a plan. Having an idea of the type of restorations your truck needs and what type of project you want to conduct can make for a smoother progression. Before starting the restoration process, consider these pro tips:
1. Determine Your Objectives
Your first objective is to determine what you want to get out of the restoration project. How do you use the truck? Do you take your Chevy for an occasional joyride, rely on it for daily travel or take it to car shows?
Conduct research on the availability of parts and body panels to help formulate a plan. Making a schedule can aid you in achieving a plan that matches your timeline. You should also think about whether you want to replicate the C/K’s original features or go for more modern additions.
2. Choose the Type of Restoration
You can choose between a full, partial or restomod restoration plan. A full restoration is where you restore the entire Chevy. A partial project is where you renovate only vital areas. If you go the restomod route, it’s a mixture of restoration and modifications. You blend the old with the new to construct a distinctive pickup. It’s an ideal solution if you want to keep the original style of your C/K, but with the addition of modern technology.
3. Figure Out an Appropriate Budget
Producing a timeline can help with sticking to a budget. How much are you willing and capable of spending on new parts and paint? While almost every restoration project goes over budget, you can still work within reason. It’s often helpful to restore one component at a time, starting with the most important.
4. Decide on the Right Work Area
Finding the ideal workspace can mean the difference between an organized area and a cluttered space. Choose a workshop, garage, barn or even your driveway to start your project. Make sure it’s clean and systematized. You will also want to invest in the correct equipment, tools and supplies.
5. Search for the Right Chevy
If you already have a Chevy C/K, you’re off to a solid start. However, if you’re buying, it can be a challenge to find one in excellent condition. You will want to find a truck with the least amount of corrosion, damage and rust if your goal is to salvage as many original parts as possible.
When you find a potential pickup, complete a thorough inspection to help you conclude the costs of renovations. Learn about the Chevy — everything from its VINs, storage history and how often it’s been driven.
It all comes down to your expertise and what you’re comfortable restoring. You can decide what damage is fixable and what trucks may not be worth the time.
6. Understand Your Different Trim and Cab Options
The Chevy C/K third-generation series has prominent trims and cabs specific to the era that many other years don’t have. For example, the Custom, Custom Deluxe, Cheyenne, Cheyenne Super, Silverado and Scottsdale trims were all available at some point, but only a few made it through years of modifications. The trucks also had Regular, Super and Crew Cab designs.
Knowing which trim and cab combination you have can help you focus on the truck’s unique details. It’s an easy way to set yourself apart and indulge in incredible restorations that enhance your C/K’s features.
Once you have an idea of your project type, budget, workspace and other factors, you’re ready to begin the restoration process. If you get stuck, Raybuck’s team is here for additional support.
Restore Your 1973-1987 Chevy Truck With Raybuck Auto Body Parts
Raybuck Auto Body Parts has a vast inventory of 1973-1987 Chevy truck parts. Our pickup restoration parts and replacement panels come from a curated catalog of high-quality solutions. We carry both interior and exterior trims to help you complete any C/K restoration project.
Our experts partner with trusted brands to ensure you receive top-tier standards. We provide body panels made of heavy gauge stamped steel that meet or exceed the thickness of your original parts. Raybuck’s solutions are available at competitive prices, helping you refurbish your C/K without investing in pricey OEMs.
Upholding a strong reputation in the industry since 1985, Raybuck has been able to hone our parts and panels to deliver durable and long-term value. We’re truck enthusiasts, just like you. We know you value your Chevy C/K, so we deliver solutions that are more dependable and durable for your ride while also boosting the look of your third-generation C/K model.