Why This Ex-Forest Service Chevy K1500 May Be The Perfect Pickup

Why This Ex-Forest Service Chevy K1500 May Be The Perfect Pickup

This world would be a better place if there were just a little more honestly in it, which is why I’m such a big fan of Jalopnik reader Mark Tucker’s 1989 Forest Service Chevy K1500 Cheyenne. It is exactly what it looks like: A no-bullshit green, mean (actually, kind), hauling machine. Let’s all pay our respects to this honest pickup.

Portland, Oregon-resident Mark Tucker emailed me some photos of his truck after I wrote about an old Ford F-100 with incredible patina. “Thoughts on patina and old trucks” read the title of his email. I clicked it enthusiastically.

“I drove my old truck to work today for the first time in several weeks. It took a couple of stoplights to get back into the motions of the thing: the wandery steering, the long sloppy gearshift, the specific set of roars and squeaks and rattles that I’ve come to know as ‘normal’ for it,” Tucker began.

The way he described what others would consider mechanical maladies in an almost endearing way told me that this is my kind of guy. Tucker gets it. He understands this unquantifiable thing called “soul.”

Photo: Mark Tucker

“It was like seeing an old friend for the first time in a long time,” he continued. “I gave it a good walk-around when I got home, just looking at it, and ended up taking a few pictures. And I’ve come to a conclusion: you’ve got this patina thing all wrong. And I’m prepared to show my work.”

After preparing my mind for the possibility that I might have actually — for the first time in this life — been wrong, I continued reading.

“My 1989 Chevy K1500 Cheyenne has the perfect level of patina for its age. It has very little rust, being a west coast truck, and it’s been well maintained, being a US Forest Service ranger’s truck for the first 20 years of its life.”

At this point, Tucker had already made his case. It’s a Forest Service truck in Forest Service Green, possibly the greatest colour to ever adorn an automobile. Game, set, match; Tucker had already won. But he continued anyway.

Photo: Mark Tucker

“It runs like a top, and everything works,” he wrote. “But it bears the scars of a life well-used, and I’ve added a few little bumps and bruises of my own, just through normal usage. It looks good from a distance, but when you get up close, you start to see all these wonderful little bits of texture. Not rust, not damage, just wear and tear, aged to perfection.”

Then came the death-blow.

“I’m particularly fond of the very faint outlines of the ‘FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY – US GOVERNMENT’ stickers still visible on the doors, the wear marks on the top edge of the bed from where a toolbox (or maybe a headache rack) was once attached, and the blue-tape label for the transfer case lever that the previous owner stuck on there and I haven’t bothered to replace. The busted mirror is my fault; I was parked on the left side of a one-way street and forgot to fold it in, and a semi truck clipped it. And I’ve found the greatest weapon against GM plastic interior parts: wood screws and big-arse washers.”

Really? Wood screws? A busted mirror? Wear marks from a toolbox? U.S. government sticker outlines? My god, Tucker may as well have shot me in the heart with bullets dipped in concentrated automotive soul — an elusive potion that, according to the ancient car spirits, consists primarily of leaded gasoline, blended bits of vinyl bench covers, and those little handles that you have to spin 90 degrees to open vent windows.

Photo: Mark Tucker

What we’re looking at here is one of the most characterful pickups in existence. It’s got a regular cab, a long bed, a Forest Service green paint-job, four-wheel drive, traces of its U.S. government pedigree, and of course: an interior with a bench seat. In brown. With vinyl floors. And crank windows. Also, there’s a four-speed manual transmission, and of course it’s got a “granny low.”

My god this truck is amazing.

Photo: Mark Tucker

Bolted to that four-speed stick is a 4.3-litre V6. And while, sure, some might prefer a classic 350 cubic-inch V8, the Vortec 90-degree V6 is a torquey, unkillable motor. I dig it.

Photo: Mark Tucker

Tucker says he’s the third owner since Uncle Sam sold the K1500 at an auction roughly eight or nine years ago (per the previous owner). The truck then allegedly saw duty as a pizza delivery vehicle near Spokane, Washington. Then the last owner taught his son to drive stick with it, and commuted between Portland an Pendleton, Oregon, before selling the truck to Tucker for $US1,200 ($1,727). God that’s a great deal for a rust-free truck with this much soul and functional air conditioning.

Oh yeah, it’s got A.C., too. Did I not mention that? The truck becomes more perfect the more I learn about it.

Photo: Mark Tucker

The truck did need tires, shocks, a new seat cover, a throttle position sensor, a main clutch cylinder, and and ignition module, but with those taken care of, the Chevy has been running well.

Oh, and also there was the “shifter incident.” I’ll let Tucker tell you how that ridiculous event went:

I also had to replace a sheared-off roll pin in the shifter; the entire lever came off in my hand on the way home one day, requiring me to drive home entirely in second gear. (That was an interesting commute.) Otherwise it has been very reliable.

God that’s soulful. If you aren’t pulling your shifter out of your transmission, are you even driving something with character?

Photo: Mark Tucker

After commuting to the city for about a year, Tucker got tired of parking the ~200,000 mile beast in tight spots, so he relegated it to chore duty around the yard. “The truck gets regular use for house/yard projects, occasionally hauling materials for work (I work for a sign company),” Tucker wrote me, “and has also been used for manoeuvring around our vintage 1966 Aristocrat trailer in the driveway. That 6.5:1 low gear is awesome for inching a trailer around.”

Photo: Mark Tucker

“These days the truck is used only for truckish things, which means the patina will just get better, ageing like a fine wine…”

All hail this 1989 Chevy K1500 Cheyenne.