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Trail’s End: August 1990, Road Testing A “Towering Brute” GMC

Posted in Features on March 9, 2017
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Photographers: Peter MacGillivrayJill Bohna

In the Aug. ’90 issue of Four Wheeler, we “road tested” a customized ’90 GMC K1500 pickup that was built by GMC Truck for display at the 1989 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas. Following the show, GMC wanted more exposure on the truck so the company offered to let us drive it for a couple weeks. We took ’em up on it. Why? Well, why not? We wrote in the story that we were often asked, “You must get tired of driving these tall trucks around all the time.” We noted, “Unfortunately, the opportunity to actually pilot one of these things is rare for anyone—even us—despite the fact that we either shoot photos or write about them on a daily basis.”

Those “things” we were referring to were big, lifted, customized 4x4s. We called ’em “custom-built monsters” in the story. Things were different in the four-wheel-drive world in the late ’80s and early ’90s. This was the era of neon shock boots on all four shocks at each wheel, super tall lifts, tires that were far too large for axle capacity, and eye-assaulting paintjobs. All very strange by today’s standards, but at the time it was hot. So hot in fact that truck shows from coast to coast were packed with dolled-up rigs fitting the aforementioned description and no one gave ’em a second thought.

According to the story, most of the mods on the GMC were completed by Four Wheel Parts Wholesalers over the course of two weeks and included a Skyjacker 6-inch lift; 4-inch body lift; 39-inch-tall, 18-inch-wide Mickey Thompson tires; 15x12 Alcoa wheels; Smittybilt double-tube bumpers; triple Mercury Tube rollbar; Explorer auxiliary lighting; Prerun Products tire carrier; and Dupont Hot Pink acrylic paint with “at least a mile of pinstriping” over the factory GMC paint.

So what was it like spending two weeks with the truck we called “high-riding” and “towering brute” in late 1989? We wrote, “It wasn’t long before the truck was drawing crowds in supermarket parking lots, instigating meetings with new neighbors, and generally instilling the feeling of being a big shot.” We summed up our experience with the truck by saying, “Driving the street-legal monster actually turned into much more than an ego boost. As the two-week loan period came to a close, the elephantine suspension and steering characteristics became second nature to us. Braking was another story altogether. No amount of time would get us accustomed to what it takes to slow down this beast. But we can’t say we ever got tired of it.”

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