Plowing with older trucks.....


Seymour IN
Well guys I have a chance to but a 78 chevy 3/4 ton 4wd at a relitives estate sell. The truck is in very good shape however if I purchase the truck it would be for plowing, any thoughts on using a truck with this much age for plowing????

75 Addict
Are you planning to use this truck as your main plow vehicle or as a backup unit? Either way, here's my opinion: If you're capable of & don't mind doing most of your own mechanical work (including access to a place to work on your truck INSIDE in the winter!), that truck should work well for you - depending on how much money it's going to cost you to buy & equip for plowing in the first place. As far as operating costs go, gas mileage on those older 4x4's was pretty low. The reason I say "do your own mechanical work" is: It's when you have to start paying garage fees for the inevitable repair work that older trucks really cost you $$$. I'm thinking especially of the annoying stuff like problems with lights/gauges/switches etc that can take a long time to track down.

If you're not "into" mechanical work, something that old may not be the best choice - having your truck down costs money both for the repair itself and for the work you can't do when the truck's down.

Personally, I like older trucks. My '75 has served me well for many years, and the truck I drive at work is a '79 Chevy (both duallys) equipped for mobile welding. Yes, I do just about all of my own repair/rebuild work (in the worst-case scenario of a blown engine, for example, I can swap in one of the 2 running engines I have on stands and be back in service) and between a friend and myself there are enough Chevy truck parts around to build a few trucks! (Which we are in the process of doing) As well, during the summer I park the '75 and only use it as a "yard truck" when required. So it isn't running day in/day out. The '79 welding truck recently got a body/paint job & airbrush work, as well as a rebuilt 4-speed trans & clutch. Engine? It was worn when we got the truck 2 years ago (ex tire truck) but it's still going fine. 99% of the time I'm the only one who drives the truck though - some of our guys would likely have that engine blown in under 20 miles!

That's one thing I have noticed about the older units, based on what I've seen at my work: drive that '78 3/4-ton yourself and take good care of it, and it should last you a long time. Let everybody & their cousin drive it (like some of our other welding trucks) and chances are they'll have it destroyed in no time. I call it the "don't give a d*** factor"!

Compared to newer trucks, the older ones aren't as user-friendly (back then a 3/4-ton was a pretty heavy-duty machine) in terms of ride and interior options, but they were a whole lot simpler under the hood!

Well, there's some ideas anyway. Good luck in your search for a truck whether you choose new/old or somewhere in between!

Chuck Smith

2000 Club Member
Eggy, that truck will handle any 8' plow with ease. You say it's in good shape. Then it shouldn't need much to be a good plow truck. The only thing to add right away is an auxilliary trans cooler, and maybe a higher output alternator. Parts are cheap and readily available. The lack of emissions equipment, and on board computer makes it easy to work on. The fact that parts from 73 - 87 interchange, makes upgrading, and finding used parts easier. If it was me, I'd jump on it, but you all know I have a soft spot for these trucks. If you want to learn more about that truck, look around my Chevy Pages.


jason2 Veteran
I run a '75 Dodge shortbox 3/4 ton with a 440 and a 4 speed. The truck started life as a 1/2 ton. But previous owner swapped in 3/4 ton axles and springs(dana 60 rear, 8 lug dana 44 up front). It's a great plow truck. Super short turning radius, plenty of beef, and simple to work on.

I sub for another contractor so a older truck makes sense for me. I personally can't justify shelling out 30+ thousand for a new truck and plow, when I have less than 5 thousand in a truck that is reliable, and does it's job.

I don't use it in the summer, so now I'm doing a budget backyard paint job on it. Picked up a headache rack for five bucks at a yard sale. It's a heavy homeade job. Guy did a nice job on it. I have my backup lights mounted on that. Strobes will be going up there too.

Wheel openings are rusted out, so I'm cutting them out and putting flares on. Cheaper than welding in new metal. Plus I'll be able to stuff a bigger tire in there for playing in the mud on occasion.

If the budget allows it'll be receiving an ARB locker for the rear. Which will allow me to drive with an open differential to plow sites, than lock it up for more traction. Lot's of other upgrades in the works. And it still will be 10's of thousands less than new.

My lawn truck is a 78 F250 Supercab 4x4 and I get comments almost daily on how good it looks. New paint, aluminum wheels, de-chromed, tinted windows, company logo goes a long way. Plus it too is 10's of thousands less than new. It's also reliable with a 460 c-6 Dana 60's front and rear. etc...

Don't get me wrong I do like the new trucks. Personally I like the older iron better.

Alan Addict
I'm running an 88 and a 91 S-10, both shortboxes, and will be adding a 91 Blazer by this winter. We also have a 97 K2500, and a 71 GMC 5500 which ony had a spreader last eyar but will be packing a 10' Western this year. So we've kinda covered the age spread prettygood. For what it's worth, the 97 was the one that laid down when we had our big storm back in March. The old S trucks just carried on, through a 36 hours storm that dumped almost 24" on us. Yes, they are more prone to little bugs, but for the most part they are fairly easy to work on right here and avoid those $50+ per hour shop charges.


Seymour IN
I am not sure about this, my auto/truck know how is not very good....this will be a primary truck, here we get maybe two pushable snows per season, thats it...maybe 1-4 justifing for a new truck isnt very good....but I thought it could work as a lawn care back up truck also...

75 Addict
If you're not really "into" auto/truck mechanics, I'd suggest having the truck looked over thoroughly by a qualified mechanic before you decide on buying it. Time in the garage tracing down & fixing little "idiot" problems quickly runs into $$$. As well, depending on how rusty things are, even a fairly simple operation like changing a brake line can get complicated in a hurry - fittings are seized up & often bleeder screws are seized & strip/break when trying to loosen 'em.

Providing the truck checks out "OK" on the mechanical inspection, and if you're only getting a couple of plowable events per season in the 1" - 4" range, the truck isn't going to be worked as hard as if you were in a "snowbelt" area. So an older unit in decent shape may work OK for you - and be able to serve as a backup lawn care truck also.

Just keep in mind the question of "Can I get it repaired quickly when I need to plow?" - breakdowns ALWAYS seem to come at inopportune times.

Western Michigan
We run a few trucks in the early to mid 90's range. They are more advanced than the 70's type you are talking, so dealer service is necessary for me if its more than basic stuff. However, they are super reliable, and much less money than late 90's or new trucks.

We found it is a wise place for us to be for now. If I was making money hand over fist, and could justify throwing a few extra dollars a month at new trucks, of course I would love to. But, now that would just be extra money out of my pocket, which could be utilized better elsewhere.


Senior Member
old trucks

I am a fan of old trucks. They are simple to repair, plenty of junkyards full of parts for them, and you don't need $50K of test equipment to find a $4.00 module that dies out.

My first plow truck was a '46 Willys, no heat, one vacuum wiper that quit going up hill, and brakes that I would be better off dragging my heels like Fred Flinstone. But it was low overhead, unstoppable, and made M O N E Y. That is what you want in a truck.

As for your choice, Delco HEI ignition is excellent, there is no better carb ever made than a Rochester 4 barrel, and there is real steel in that truck, not old refrigerators and washing machines made into trucks.

All you need to do is to get yourself a BELT DRIVEN Hydro pump for your plow lift and turn. You can get one from Monarch in Grand Rapids. Talk about old, Monarch is the oldest company in Michigan - They have been around for 146 years. That is what I call reliable.
Eggy, If you don't wind up wanting that truck I'd be interested. I've got either a Meyer or a Western that I could mount right up with no problem and I need another truck or if you need either plow set-up I could help you out.
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We run a 86' Chevy C-20 4x4 pick-up with 7.5' Meyer and a 89' Ford F-600 dump with a 9' Fisher. But like one of the guys above said... when your dealing with older equipment, there tends to be a lot of little things that go wrong... but thats ok as long as you are capable of fixing them.. One of my guys is our "mechanic" and can fix anything (minor or major), so for us its worth it to run a few "older" trucks. ;)


2000 Club Member
I've got a buddy with a repair shop who will only run that vintage Chevy, nothing newer. He feels the drivetrain in those trucks is a lot stouter than anything you can get today. About the only thing that puts those trucks down is terminal cancer (rust), there comes a point where there's no metal to weld to. If the frame is solid and there's not much body rust, go for it. There wasn't a lot of electronics involved in the engine as on today's trucks, they're easy to work on. Take a look at the rear axle with the hub cap off. If the axle sticks out about 4 inches through the wheel, you've got the heavy duty model, it will serve you well.


Stamford, CT
JUST DO IT !!!!!

Im running two 86 GM's ( that is if it ever snows again, only had one event so far this season)

They are great trucks, wish I still had the other two late 70's early 80's that I had to sell (wife made me do it)

she just doesnt understand!!!!:(


Senior Member
the old trucks are great. I like the 67-72 body style the best myself. Good ones are hard to fid though. Just make sure it has a solid frame... a friend of mine bought a 78 and plowed a couple of years with it then spent $1800 rebuilding the engine only to have the truck break in half. he ended up selling the engine for $500 and junking the truck.

75 Addict
Frame breaking in half.....................

.............................will NOT happen to mine! :D One of the things I am doing to my frame (K-35 1-ton) is double-framing it, in the pic you can see the additional layer of 3/16" plate that runs all the way to the front..........

You're right Wolfie, the frame is the foundation and a good one is important. In addition to the obvious - frame rails - check the crossmembers for rust too. One of the donor trucks contributing to my K-35 project was slated for crossmember removal until I checked it closely and found it too rusty to be worth bothering.

k-35 double frame closeup.jpg

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