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History of the 1978-1987 GMC Caballero Pickups
Following in the footsteps of the larger 1972-77 GMC Sprint came the new, down-sized GMC Cabellero. Unlike Chevrolet’s El Camino, on which both were based, GMC Truck Division chose to give their sporty light truck a new moniker when it debuted in the fall of 1977. The trucks utilized Chevy Malibu front sheetmetal, Monte Carlo doors, rear bumper and tailgate from the Malibu station wagon and essentially only the bed, roof and non-windshield glass were exclusive.
What was surprising was that it took until as late as 1972 for GMC to get a car-based pickup at all. After all, the El Camino originally came out in 1959 to take on the Ford Ranchero.
Being based upon the all-new A-body, the 1978 Cabellero had a co-exclusive 117-inch wheelbase shared with the El Camino. The extra length was handily used in the bed region, which was the same length as the prior year. Initially the Cabellero came standard with the Chevrolet Division 200 cid V-6, which was a small-block V-8 engineered with two fewer cylinders. Optional was the Buick Division 231 cid V-6 (with automatic transmission only), providing 105 hp versus the standard 95 hp. The Chevrolet small-block V-8 of 305 cubic inches was also optional, producing 145 hp. A four-barrel 350 with 165 hp was available for extra cost.
For 1979, a 267 V-8 of 125 hp was added, and for 1980 the 200 cid V-6 was upsized to 229 cid 115 hp, with the Buick V-6 relegated to California-only duty. A Diablo sports version with hood graphics and extra trim was available right from the beginning. By 1985, El Camino and thus Cabellero production had been moved to GM’s plant facilities in Mexico, so the name was now even more fitting.
The 1979 trucks were virtually unchanged from the 1978’s, and for 1980 a hood ornament and grille change were the only noteworthy changes. For 1981, the grille went back to resembling the 1979, and for 1982 a new front-end was adopted, which persisted to the end.
There are no break-outs of 1978 GMC sales, but for 1979, the Cabellero sold 6,412 copies; for 1980, 4463; for 1981, 3994; for 1982, 2573; for 1983, 2160; for 1984, 2702; for 1985, 3057; for 1986, 2795; and the final 1987 year, unknown.
1981 GMC Caballero (Truck) 1/2 Ton Info
6-cyl. 229cid/110hp 2bbl OHV
8-cyl. 267cid/120hp 2bbl OHV
8-cyl. 305cid/135hp 4bbl OHV
6-cyl. 231cid/110hp 2bbl OHV
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