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1978-1990 which truck to look for and avoid??

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by AB Lawn Care, Dec 8, 2000.

  1. AB Lawn Care

    AB Lawn Care Member
    Messages: 93

    I am thinking of getting a plow truck next year.I CAN NOT afford to get a new or even late model.So my question is what full sized trucks should I look for and avoid between the years of 78-90????I will be looking at mainly ford and chevy,but if there are good years of dodge out there I would consider it.What engines/axle set ups should I be looking for???I know alot of you guys/girls have used trucks of these years,so what is your advise????What do you think is the best plow truck from 1990-back??????

    Thanks for all the help!!!!
  2. landscaper3

    landscaper3 Senior Member
    Messages: 309

    I would go with any make that has fuel injection on it. Starts easier better fuel economy. Both Chevy and Ford has these around 87 and up im not sure with Dodge.
  3. cowboy

    cowboy Member
    Messages: 75

    ok, if your max is around 90' then no go on fuel injection, wouldn't trust early fuel injection models, 90' is when they started doing better as far as I know. And as far as starting easier, if the choke setup is like original or restored to original it warms up just as good as fuel injection, like my truck.

    Would do pre 83-84 because they started introducing electronic trannies on Chevy, and this means less time between rebuilds.

    Best bet: 78-82 Chevy K20 (3/4ton) with a 350 V8 (so damn reliable, long lasting, and parts and rebuilds are cheap)
    TH-400 tranny (really strong).

    This will be a perfect rig, oh and make shure that the VIN# starts with a '1', the Chevy rigs made in Canada in this time frame were junk, my friend has one and it is not nearly as reliable as my truck.

    Other than that, can't go wrong with 78-82 Chevy 3/4 ton truck.

    Keep in mind that in 1980 Ford started using IFS for 4wheel drive, Chevy used straight axle up to 88'.

    hope this helps

    PINEISLAND1 PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 664

    I was wondering something too this week-

    Did anyone have a 3/4 ton short box in the years before about '95?
  5. Lazer

    Lazer Senior Member
    Messages: 399

    The finest pure plow trucks ever (IMO) are the 1988 & 1989 Dodge 5.2L 3spd (727) auto, 115" WB.

    If I could buy an unused one, I'd buy it tomorrow.

    2nd best: 81 & 82 GM as mentioned.
  6. cowboy

    cowboy Member
    Messages: 75

    GM must have given employees a raise in early 81 because I have never heard of a person with an 81 Chevy pickup that didn't think it was the best truck on the road.

  7. jason2

    jason2 PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 117


    I have a 3/4 ton shortbox. But it's not factory. I have a '75 Dodge Powerwagon shortbox. Factory 440, NP435 4 speed. Dana 60 rear, 8-lug Dana 44 front, NP203. Thing turns on a dime. Plus can get into some really tight spots with the short wheelbase.

    Somebody mentioned Ford came out with EFI in '87. Actually '86 was the first year for EFI in Ford. In 1987 Ford went to a new body style which lasted through the '91 year.

    I'm very happy with my Dodge, but if I had to pick something else in 78-90 I'd look for another 78-79 Ford.

    I'd look for a 78-79 F350. You get Dana 60's front and back. Your choice of either the bulletproof NP435 or the nearly indestructable C6. Transfer cases choices are the NP205 part time case or the NP203 full time case. The 351M/400 the truck will probably have is easily swapped for a 460. Although the 351M/400 is adequate, underpowered it is.

    Also if you find a 78-79 F250 Supercab, they have dual Dana 60's. The regular cab F250's had a Dana 44 front.

    The F150's of the same years are also great trucks, but for plowing I'd rather have the 1-ton due to the use of coils in front instead of leaves.

    If I wasn't limited to 78-90, my dream plow rig would be a late 60's Jeep Gladiator M715. They came with Dana 70's front and back. Toss in a 460, C6, NP205, convert to Saginaw power steering, and you would have the ultimate tough truck. Plus you can stuff 40+ inch tires under one without cutting sheetmetal or lifting one.
  8. landscaper3

    landscaper3 Senior Member
    Messages: 309

    WOW we must have got 2 bum 86 Fords 1 F150 300/6 carb all original and a 1986 F250 with a 351 carb they must have mixed and mached them through 86
  9. thelawnguy

    thelawnguy PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,011

    Well if you go with a Chevy/GMC of that vintage the cab will most likely be rotted away, if you go with a Ford the bed will be rotted away, if you go with a Dodge...well they didnt make that many so good luck finding one.

    I think your best bet will be to find a Ford and if you need to spend an extra 800 or so for a take-off bed-check the local bargain newspaper.
  10. plowking35

    plowking35 2000 Club Member
    from SE CT
    Messages: 2,923

    Well if you buy ford, watch for frame rot behund the cab. I bought an 88 this summer and a hole on each frame rail, the size of your fist. Also the 88 and 89 GM trucks were the very prone to probelms, being a new model, but I would assume that 12 yrs later the original owner would have worked that out by now.
    I like the 81-89 style GMs. They coninued that body style on the one ton c&c through 90 I believe. I am picking up an 89 1 ton dually 4x4 with aluminum flat bed dump for 8 k on monday. The 78-87 1/2and 3/4 ton and 1 ton gms were very good trucks. In the 8600 gvw 4x4 you still got the t-400 tranny and a 208 t case up till 87. When you went to the 1 ton you got the t-400 and 205 case. The 1ton has dana 60 front and a monster corporate rear axel. they are bulletproof. Much better than then ford ttb that was out those years. The dodge trucks are hard to come by in one ton 4x4 those years.
    I have a nice 1 ton I am building 86 gm dually 4x4 if anyone is interested. A little winter project.
  11. theSnoMan

    theSnoMan Junior Member
    Messages: 9

    cowboy pretty much hit the nail on the head I just wanted to add that if your looking into the older chevys/GMC's look for one with the New Process 205 or 203 at the least. I would pass on the extremely junk 208 (it's a timebomb). We have used several of the older Chevys/GMC's for years with great luck and in the last few years have converted the remainder of them to TH-400 from 4-speeds just for ease of operation since the few other automatics we've had have held up nicely. It's real hard to go wrong with the older trucks there really built a heck of alot better than the ones of today but require alot of TLC to whip'em back into there once new state.(and you'll have a hell of alot less money in'em then a new one that's for sure)
  12. plowking35

    plowking35 2000 Club Member
    from SE CT
    Messages: 2,923

    I have had several 208 t cases, and they have held up fine. But anyway, if you do buy a gm that needs work, the parts are alot less money than ford or dodge.
  13. Alan

    Alan PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,393

    Was the 208 T-case the shift on the fly one that was used behind those automatic hubs in the early 80s? If so the case seemed ok, just the hubs were crap. Sure made things flex a lot when one of those hubs would unlock and then slam back in under power.
  14. plowking35

    plowking35 2000 Club Member
    from SE CT
    Messages: 2,923

    That was the one, used until 87 when they changed to the newer style trucks.
  15. cowboy

    cowboy Member
    Messages: 75

    If you do get a Chevy, go to LMC Truck, they have every trim piece for interior and exterior, a few engine upgrades, with their catalog you can make your Chevy just like it was new.

    And let me tell you having a perfect early 80's Chevy is just as good as a new truck, believe me I've done tests :)

    anyway good luck

  16. theSnoMan

    theSnoMan Junior Member
    Messages: 9

    Yea the 208 might hold up fine for ya, heck it's probably as good as most built today, but if you want a rock solid combination look for the 205, there's absolutely no doubt it was the best unit in a GM and a 203 definitely finishes second. If you only plow a few places and you won't be working the truck to hard a 208 will probably work. The only thing to be concerned with on a 203/208 is that the chain in it isn't loose(205 was gear drive). The 205 is allot more common pared up with a manual but if you don't mind being a little creative you can adapt the 205 manual to a TH-400 auto for just a few hundred dollars.

    P.S. The 4-speed was allot more durable than the TH-400 but it also makes plowing allot more strenuous and that adds up at the end of a long day or night.