GM’s Camper Special is the square-body you’ve always needed

My morning ritual begins like many of my car-obsessed ilk—with internet auction listings. As I was sipping my coffee last week, I ran across this awesome 1979 GMC K2500 on Bring a Trailer. I could barely contain my excitement, because it is not only an unrestored truck, but it is also a Camper Special. My family has owned a couple of these, one being a two-wheel drive doppelganger of the one up for sale on BaT.

Don’t know what the heck a Camper Special is, or have a vague memory your gym teacher maybe lived in one in the back of the high school parking lot? Not surprising—Camper Specials were not sold in large quantities when new and are very uncommon to see today.

What makes it a Camper Special?

Before the days of mile-long fifth wheel RVs, smaller slide-in pickup campers were all the rage. So much so that GM and Ford both offered special hauling packages throughout the late ‘60s and ‘70s. The idea of the Camper Special started with the 1968 Chevrolet/GMC Longhorn pickups. These were three-quarter-ton and one-ton pickups with a longer 8.5-foot bed aimed at better accommodating slide-in campers.

After a redesign in 1973, the Camper Special became a more specialized package that buyers could order. The package required buyers to first order an 8-foot bed, Fleetside, three-quarter-ton or a one-ton truck. From there, buyers could choose from a standard or Deluxe Camper Special. Standard equipment was of course, the Camper Special nameplate, special wiring harness for a slide in camper, heavy-duty front/rear springs and shocks, and heavy-duty front stabilizer bar.

The Deluxe Camper Special added a rear stabilizer bar (standard on the one-ton dual rear wheel trucks), Elimipitch stabilizer package (includes a set of shock absorbers which tie together the bed and the back of the cab) as well as a set of removable shock absorbers which added removable stabilizers that tie together the camper overhang and front cowl. The package also adds the Camper tie-down which kicks in mounting points in the exterior bed side onto which the slide-in camper tie downs mount. Additionally, one-ton buyers could opt for the “Big Dooley” upgrade on dual rear wheel Camper Specials which increased the gross vehicle weight (GVW) up to 10,000 pounds.

Owning a Camper Special

Camper Special-equipped trucks almost have a cult following of their own. My family has owned a 1979 GMC C3500 with the Big Dooley package, as well as the 1978 Chevrolet C20 Deluxe Camper Special we own now. The Camper Special equipment and 454 power under the hood were the definitive selling points for these purchases. Square-body enthusiasts are quick to pick up on the package and love to comment on the special B-pillar teepee badging. The most frequent comment is how they haven’t seen one for decades.

Whoever won the truck in question at auction, I applaud your fine taste and pray you secure a fuel rewards card. It is a great-looking Camper Special, and while $19,250 is certainly not cheap for an old square-body GMC, the compliments from fellow enthusiasts, I promise, will make it feel like money well spent.

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    Hey I came across your article on the gmc camper special. I have in my position a 1973 GMC camper special. My grandpa bought it new it still has the caveman camper on it. It is hard to believe but it has 29k original miles. All stock nothing has been changed. 454 2 wheel drive turbo 400? Trans. This has been in a barn it’s whole life no rust no dents. Interior is an extremely good shape. It has not moved since 1983 Unfortunately my grandpa passed in December. I’m taking over the farm and need the barn space. Any idea what
    This could be worth? What is the best way of selling it.

    Was a camper special a custom, silverado, scottsdale or standard edition? Trying to make sure I order the right parts to restore it. I’m in possession of a k30 camper edition on a k10 frame and want to atleast do the cab justice

    I have a 1985 Silverado k20 camper special, 4×4, granny gear, very clean. Engine has 54k miles, edlebrock 1406 performer, desmogged, new engine parts, fixed income, want to find someone who will finish what I started. $10k all day long, need to sell by August 2023, bat… new tires.

    I have a 1976 C 20 Cheyenne Csmper Special 454 original 41,792 mi in emacukant condition it’s been on jacks in a barn in Fresno ca, for 30,yrs!

    I’ve got a 1976 c30 Silverado edition and it’s the deluxe camper special single axle 2wd . With the 454 big block 38k miles shown on the dash and 400 turbo trans. Shocks in the bed and camper tie downs on the side of the bed. Front and rear stabilizer bars. Very straight truck I’ve considered doing a restore but just don’t have the time and also considered selling it. If anyone might be interested let me know 417-288-8966

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