G_Body_Man Dork
Aug. 17, 2015 11:47 a.m.

A fellow from another forum came to collect my car yesterday. With my project out of the way, an a move to Kelowna coming up, I'm thinking of getting one of these.

An extended cab GMT400! I know they're not the fastest, sturdiest, best looking or most capable truck out there, but for $4000, they're bargains. Are there any GMT400 owners on here? If so, what should I look out for when buying one?

fasted58 UltimaDork
Aug. 17, 2015 12:09 p.m.

Look for excessive frame rust, brake line corrosion and clean all grounds for starters. Well, in the NE anyway.

Appleseed MegaDork
Aug. 17, 2015 12:14 p.m.

Cab corners like to rust out on them, but, hell, they're all close to 20 years old by now. Looks good from the pic.

KyAllroad Dork
Aug. 17, 2015 12:15 p.m.

Pretty much the same as my '99 Suburban. The 4L60e is a known weak spot, don't tow too hard with that and use drive when towing or around town instead of OD. The brake hardlines can pop if corroded. The rear brakes are drums and require special drum brake monitoring (cylinders/adjustors/etc). Use AC Delco plugs/wires/cap as other brands don't seem to play as well with the GM engineering.

Otherwise, it should run forever and be reasonably comfortable doing it.

bravenrace MegaDork
Aug. 17, 2015 12:16 p.m.

They're either rusty or going to be.

Powar UltraDork
Aug. 17, 2015 12:19 p.m.

$4000 would buy a NICE one down here. I have one and love it, but the body/engine are a little different on mine.

A photo posted by Tim (@powar17) on Aug 4, 2015 at 8:15pm PDT

I've had to rebuild the front suspension on mine twice in the past few years, but I attribute that to the weight of the diesel hanging over the front and E36 M3ty aftermarket parts.

pres589 UberDork
Aug. 17, 2015 12:22 p.m.

Cab corners and areas over the rear wheels like to rust. 700R4 not the strongest transmission around. Others noted additional areas to check for rust.

You're moving where again and you want that? What's the attraction and are you at all concerned about gas mileage?

KyAllroad Dork
Aug. 17, 2015 12:34 p.m.
Powar wrote: $4000 would buy a NICE one down here. I have one and love it, but the body/engine are a little different on mine.
A photo posted by Tim (@powar17) on Aug 4, 2015 at 8:15pm PDT
I've had to rebuild the front suspension on mine twice in the past few years, but I attribute that to the weight of the diesel hanging over the front and E36 M3ty aftermarket parts.

His $4,000 is in quasi make believe Canadian dollars. I think the exchange is similar to pesos or drachma but I'm not really sure.

G_Body_Man Dork
Aug. 17, 2015 12:34 p.m.
pres589 wrote: Cab corners and areas over the rear wheels like to rust. 700R4 not the strongest transmission around. Others noted additional areas to check for rust. You're moving where again and you want that? What's the attraction and are you at all concerned about gas mileage?

1: Kelowna.

2: moving all our stuff around, hauling stuff, towing toys, camping in the mountains.

3: not really. You just have to pick your trips.

G_Body_Man Dork
Aug. 17, 2015 12:36 p.m.
KyAllroad wrote:
Powar wrote: $4000 would buy a NICE one down here. I have one and love it, but the body/engine are a little different on mine.
A photo posted by Tim (@powar17) on Aug 4, 2015 at 8:15pm PDT
I've had to rebuild the front suspension on mine twice in the past few years, but I attribute that to the weight of the diesel hanging over the front and E36 M3ty aftermarket parts.

His $4,000 is in quasi make believe Canadian dollars. I think the exchange is similar to pesos or drachma but I'm not really sure.

A lot weaker than the Australian dollar, but not as weak as the Peso.

gearheadmb Reader
Aug. 17, 2015 3:11 p.m.

One of the most reliable vehicles ever created. At $4000 you should be able to get a pretty decent one.

Furious_E Reader
Aug. 17, 2015 3:20 p.m.

My family had a '94 2500 and it was a freaking beast. Regular cab with the 350tbi and 4l80 trans. Ran it hard for about 10 years towing horse trailers, hauling hay bales, and having the crap beaten out of it by two teen drivers. My mom once t-boned a Neon in it, caving the side in like it was a soda can, and the truck drove home with the front bumper knocked in maybe an inch on the driver's side. Never would have noticed the damage if someone didn't point it out.

Just don't drive it into a tree, apparently that's their kryptonite as my sister found out.

xflowgolf Dork
Aug. 17, 2015 3:27 p.m.

it's been said over and over, but it bears repeating. the extended cab corners seem to fall off these things in northern climates. Look for rust, as it's one of the most costly and time intensive things to repair properly.

2wd or 4x4?

Are you looking at that specific one in the picture?

The '94+ models got the newer front fascia with the more bulbous grill.

The '95+ models got a new dashboard which had a more tradition center mounted 1.5 din Radio location (the earlier 4th gens have a goofy cluster side radio), and an updated interior.

Around '96 the engines were upgraded to the "Vortec" engines instead of the old TBI setups, and all used the 4L60E's which do wear out, but anybody/everybody can rebuild them.

2002maniac Dork
Aug. 17, 2015 3:49 p.m.

In 97 and 98 you could get the 3rd door on the extended cabs. Very handy if you have people in the back seat frequently.

I have a last year (99) GMT400 Suburban. It's been as reliable as stone, but it's heavy, slow, and gets poor gas mileage. It's a 2500 with the Vortec 350.

98 was the last year for GMT400 pickups.

BlueInGreen44 HalfDork
Aug. 17, 2015 4:56 p.m.

The iconic work truck. That's where my knowledge begins and ends but I think they're cool.

Kenny_McCormic UltimaDork
Aug. 17, 2015 5:08 p.m.

The GMT400 was the last proper truck GM built. They don't have that 70s station wagon driving dynamic (soft suspension, overboosted everything) the newer ones do. Watch for rust in the bed cross rails and the frame. Like any old truck, expect to rebuild the front end. Some hate on the TBI 4.3 but I find it adequate, they make a lot of torque (something like full tq at 1800 rpm) so it never really feels strained (no matter the load it will move it), good truck engine, 4.3 also puts less strain on the 4L60E. Try to find one with the W/T work truck package, more durable interior, rather than the typical 90s GM velour crap.

Wally MegaDork
Aug. 17, 2015 5:11 p.m.

I worked on a few as chase trucks in the early 90s. Reliable as gravity. The 454s were a bit disappointing, not much faster than the 350s but thirstier. Rust wasn't a concern but we washed them daily. The bench seat will comfortably hold one fat kid and four college aged girls so the have that going for them.

Bobzilla UltimaDork
Aug. 17, 2015 5:41 p.m.

Owned a few over the years. The GMT800 is worlds better in every respect.

But... if your heart is set on it, the 96-98 vortec intakes suck. They leak. all of them. The spiders fall apart and the poppets like to stick causing hard to find crappy running. The 88-95 TBI's were dead nuts reliable, but at this point they're so old, there's not much reliability left in them.

mazdeuce PowerDork
Aug. 17, 2015 6:50 p.m.

Keep in mind a lot of the "best truck I ever owned!" stories are from people that owned these trucks when they were a lot closer to new. They're old. They're mostly worn out and need love. You can provide that, but head into it with eyes open.

G_Body_Man Dork
Aug. 17, 2015 6:55 p.m.
mazdeuce wrote: Keep in mind a lot of the "best truck I ever owned!" stories are from people that owned these trucks when they were a lot closer to new. They're old. They're mostly worn out and need love. You can provide that, but head into it with eyes open.

That's the idea. The ones we're looking at are around 20 years old, so stuff is bound to break. Fortunately, it all should be easy to fix.

Aug. 17, 2015 7:11 p.m.

I think they're purty. Not as purty as the 73-87 years but purty non the less. I liked driving my 86 much more than driving my 97. I got rid of mine several years ago when the gas prices got real high and I had a longish enough commute to make it painful. I never had any issues once I replaced the hardlines of the rear brakes.

I'm a picture whore so here are a couple shots of my 97.

G_Body_Man Dork
Aug. 17, 2015 7:15 p.m.

In reply to Nick (Not-Stig) Comstock:

She was a beauty!

Aug. 17, 2015 7:44 p.m.

In reply to G_Body_Man:

Thank you!

It was a little crusty when I found it. The paint was pretty dull. I spent a lot of time with a polisher to get it to shine like that. Those are Robby Gordon wheels that I lucked into a hell of a deal on. The CEO of the company I worked for back then sold the set to me, with those nearly new tires on them for $250 for the set. He had them on a Hummer that his kid drove and his kid wanted different wheels. I wish I could remember what size they were, IMO it's about the perfect size and offset for those trucks. I had to do a little lifting and clearancing to get them to fit but I think it was well worth it.

curtis73 PowerDork
Aug. 17, 2015 10:26 p.m.
Bobzilla wrote: Owned a few over the years. The GMT800 is worlds better in every respect. But... if your heart is set on it, the 96-98 vortec intakes suck. They leak. all of them. The spiders fall apart and the poppets like to stick causing hard to find crappy running. The 88-95 TBI's were dead nuts reliable, but at this point they're so old, there's not much reliability left in them.

See, I go the other way. I've had some of each and I detest the TBI. Both spiders on my Vortecs lasted 400+K miles, and getting rid of the Dexcool prevents intake manifold gasket replacement. (the anti-corrosion additives are a plasticizer and harden the rubber in the gaskets).

TBIs have chevy's rock-bottom, worst-flowing heads they ever produced, low compression, inefficient fuel nozzles (not injectors), flat-tappet cam, and for all their wheezy low power they get terrible MPGs. Vortecs have the best-flowing factory SBC head ever, higher compression, efficient chambers, lots more power and more torque, and better MPGs.

But, to each their own. They all have their downsides. GMT800 trucks have some front wheel bearing issues, and they're not cheap to replace. 96-99 Vortec trucks have the intake leak, but otherwise one of Chevy's lowest warranty-repair vehicles they ever produced.

In short, look for the obvious stuff. If you're getting a GMT400, they will all have an SBC or a 4.3V6 which is basically an SBC with two cylinders removed. Proven powerplants with dirt cheap parts. Auto transmissions will be one of two boxes; both of which are derived in part from a TH350 that dates back to 1964. So skip the worrying about intake leaks, or rusty cab corners, or other stuff. If its the one you want, it isn't rusty, and doesn't burn oil, its likely a good candidate. That's an oversimplification, but think of it like buying a vanilla ice cream cone. Is the cone fresh and not broken? Does the ice cream have those little ice crystals on it? No? Buy and enjoy.

ebonyandivory UltraDork
Aug. 18, 2015 5:22 a.m.

I doubt you'll find another semi-modern truck with more used parts availability and/or is cheaper to fix.

Breaking down far from home and knowing every repair shop in that area could well have the parts you need is a nice feeling.

Those qualities are very important to me, I know that.

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