It’s hard to imagine in today’s crossover-crazy world, but here in the U.S., car-based pickups were once kind of a thing. Today’s Nice Price or No Dice GMC is just one such car/truck and it’s a diesel to boot. Let’s see if its price can turn back the clock.
Have you ever taken on something that you’ve known was going to be a major pain in the neck, but you did it anyway because the outcome would be extra rewarding? You know, like having kids, or not just imagining turning the hose on those people showing up at your door to talk about their religion but actually doing it?
That’s sort of how I imagine people who buy cars like yesterday’s 2004 VW Passat W8 4Motion must feel at the outset of ownership. I mean, these Volkswagens are majorly complicated and can be taxing to both your mood and your bank account. And that all without the requisite benefit of high residual values.
On the flip side of that, they are wicked cool and also pretty nice to drive. That overarching discrepancy led to yesterday’s W8 being praised for its presentation, while at the same time dunned for its $6,800 asking. In the end, the latter took home a narrow but deflating 53% No Dice loss.
I’m going to say at the outset today that presentation matters. If you want to be taken seriously, take a few steps to make sure you’re at least half-way put together.
I bring this up because the seller of today’s relatively rare but reasonably cool 1983 GMC Caballero does the car no favors with the photography in its Craigslist ad. We only get snippets of the car—a bit of door card here, a fender badge there. It all makes me feel like we’re being forced to look at the car through an empty toilet paper tube.
What we do see makes that all the more the shame since the car appears to be in very nice shape. And honestly, when was the last time you even saw a Caballero on the road?
The Caballero was, for all intents and purposes GMC’s version of the Chevy El Camino, and aside from name and band badging was identical to the Malibu-based Chevy pickup. In this generation, both cars had a cool wrap-around rear window that was reminiscent of that of a Ferrari 308GTB and which helped give the car a light, airy-feeling cabin. The tailgate goes wall to wall on these too, unencumbered by the tail lamps. Those live in the bumper below, a feature shared with the Malibu station wagon.
It’s under the hood where this Caballero really starts to stand out, though. There you’ll find the incredibly rare and long vilified Oldsmobile 5.7-litre diesel V8. While vilified? Well, GM made some cost-cutting decisions on the Olds diesel—most notably the omission of a water separator for the fuel system that severely impacted its reliability. Ill-spec’d head bolts led to even more issues earning the Olds diesel a seat, along with Cadillac’s 8-6-4, in the pantheon of the worst engines of the ‘80s.
This one, however, seems to be in pretty good shape. The ad claims only 25 (!) Caballeros were built with the Olds oil burner, and if that’s to be believed it makes this a fairly unique car. Other attributes of note are the Amarillo trim package, Rallye-style wheels, and a hard tonneau on the bed.
The car is two-tone, light over dark metallic blue, and looks to have all its trim. The nose shot shows a plug sticking out of the grille. That’s for a block heater should you live in a colder clime. The paintwork appears decent, although going back to the shitty picture compositions in the ad, it’s hard to tell if the roof has failing paint or if it’s super shiny and that’s just reflections of the clouds.
Getting a good idea of the interior space is equally maddening as again we only get a few meager snippets of the space. We do get to see that the cabin is color coordinated and cloth upholstered. There are electric door locks but oddly enough, manual windows here. You also get air-conditioning and an AM/FM cassette stereo both with old-school analog dials and levers. The Amarillo trim adds a bead of bright yellow around the dash, but brings little more to the table.
The Olds diesel is backed up by a three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic slushbox, commanded appropriately enough by a column shifter. This being an ‘80s GM jam there are separate keys for door locks and ignition, differentiated by the shape of the head.
There’s a remarkable 150K on the clock here, which is laudable for the Olds, as much as for the car as a whole looking as nice as it does. Finally, the title is clean and the seller says they have “the prominemce to show the info on the car,” although I don’t quite know what that means.
I do know what is meant by the car’s $12,000 asking price, and that is that it’s now time for us to weigh in on this rare GMC’s value. What’s your take on this car/truck and that $12,000 price? Does that make this rare Caballero a friend indeed? Or, is that too much to pay for a car whose rarity is for a very good reason?
H/T to glemon for the hookup!
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