If someone held a torque wrench to your head and demanded that you list the most important features of a used, four-wheel drive, ¾-ton, fullsize pickup truck that would be used for work, what would you say?
We’d say the truck must produce ample power, above average towing and hauling capability, good visibility from the driver-seat, and ruggedness. It would also need to have an inherent ability to traverse off-road terrain, because that’s often where the work is. In addition, it would be mandatory that the truck must have strong support in the aftermarket for things like fifth-wheel and gooseneck hitches, snowplows, bumpers, brushguards, cargo bed storage, headache racks, ladder racks, and even complete utility bodies that can replace the factory cargo bed.
So with these parameters in mind, we submit a few of our favorite used ¾-ton work trucks. And when we refer to used trucks we’re not talking about one-, two-, or even five-year-old trucks. In this story we’re talking about very used, relatively inexpensive (compared to their original sticker price) machines that are 10 to 15 years old. In other words, ’97 through ’02 model year vehicles. You know, the kind you can find all day long on Craigslist or eBay.
Some folks base their truck purchase on past experience. Some folks choose a work truck based solely on their brand loyalty. Others could care less about what badge is on a vehicle and instead judge each truck on its merits. Whatever procedure you follow, one thing all of these trucks have in common is that they excel at many things, with work being job one.
2001-2002 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD
Facts: The regular-duty Silverado 2500 (and its sibling the GMC Sierra 2500) was a good work truck, but the 2500 HD (introduced in 2001) was a completely different animal that offered even more. The 2500 HD had a number of model-specific features including a stronger frame that was the same as the 1-ton dualie frame. The truck had a more rigid body structure that included cross-sills under the cab floor, a double-boxed rocker panel structure, laser-welded door rings, and bake-hardened steel doors. It had a two-inch higher body height than the regular-duty Silverado and it had a different front end appearance including a taller hood, which helped with underhood cooling. The 2500 HD had three engine choices. First was the standard Vortec 6000 6.0L V-8 that made 300 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque. Second was the Vortec 8100 8.1L big-block V-8 that produced 340 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque. And finally, there was the Duramax 6600 (LB7) 6.6L turbodiesel that made 300 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque. The 6.0L engine was mated to either a New Venture Gear five-speed manual transmission or a 4L80-E four-speed automatic. The 6.6L Duramax and 8.1L big-block engines mated to either the Allison 1000 five-speed automatic transmission or ZF S6-650 six-speed manual. The 2500 HD’s front suspension was lighter and stronger with forged lower control arms and stamped-and-welded box-section upper control arms. The rear suspension consisted of two-stage, semi-elliptic, multi-leaf rear springs. The shock absorbers were large diameter and part of the Handling and Trailering package included on all 2500 HDs. Only one suspension option was available and it was the Snowplow Prep package. The rear axle on rigs equipped with the 6.0L engine had a 10½-inch ring gear, while the rear axle found under the Duramax and big-block had an 11½-inch ring gear. The front differential had a 9¼-inch ring gear, but Duramax and big-block-equipped rigs used a stronger “Powerdense” case that had extra ribbing. Other items of note include improved steering; improved braking, thanks in part to 36 percent larger front brake pads and ventilated discs at all corners; higher capacity tires (E-rated standard); larger towhooks; and three outside rearview mirror options.
Pros: Superior to the regular-duty Silverado 2500, beefy IFS, Duramax/Allison combination
If it were us: There were very few changes made from 2001 to 2002, so these two model years are similar. We’d try to find a Duramax-equipped rig because in addition to the power and economy of the diesel we like that it had the beefier front differential case. We’re cool with either the automatic or manual transmission; though with the manual transmission the axleshaft U-joints were 25 percent larger and the truck could be had with a manual-shift New Venture transfer case (automatic-equipped rigs got the electric-shift NV 263 T-case).