Turning the Spotlight on Chevrolet’s 1965 C/K Pickup Truck
There may be no vehicle on the road today that better captures the American spirit than the pickup truck. Its history is bound to American history and the shift from an agricultural economy to the industrial age.
When the first pickup trucks started rolling off assembly lines in the middle of the 1920s, they became a necessity for farm families and small businesses. The job they were built to perform -- carrying goods and supplies -- was previously performed by horse and carriage. Now, trips between seller and buyer, customer and supplier, took minutes rather than hours. Soon roads, long and wide, would replace dirt trails, and gas stations and rest areas would appear instead of feed stores and barns. Workers completed tasks faster, helping improve what we would today call work-life balance
The pickup truck’s purpose has not changed much since then. There are still millions of pickups on America’s highways and byways, and a lot of them still operate as work vehicles, hauling tools to new home construction sites or carrying supplies to an animal shelter. Drivers also are keen on recreational pickups, with all the bells and whistles.
Chevrolet Drives Innovation in the 1960s
Part of that transition from strictly work vehicle to everyday transportation began in the 1960s. This is when Chevrolet introduced its C/K series pickup, including the 1965 model. The new models were much different from the bulkier, utilitarian previous generation. The early ‘60s C/K trucks were sleeker and more sculpted, and were packed with power and provided more room in the cab than ever before.
The public responded well to the new design. By 1963, a third of all pickup trucks on the road were Chevys. Though slightly modified over the years, the general design of the C/K series stayed intact well into the late 1990s.
The new models introduced groundbreaking innovation to the public. The first, a drop-center ladder frame, may have been the one design change that help drive home the idea that a pickup truck could be a family vehicle. The innovation allowed the cab to sit lower. Coupled with independent front suspension, drivers may have felt as if they were driving a car more than a pickup truck.
The C/K in the model name became an important tool for pickup truck buyers, as well. With the introduction of this new line, Chevrolet dropped its previous numerical model designation. Chevy packed away its 3100, 3200, and 3600 nicknames for its short half, long half and quarter-ton models, and replaced it with the shorter 10, 20, or 30 scheme.
Chevy also introduced a two-wheel drive pickup, brand new for the line. Previously, the series only came in a four-wheel drive model. Now buyers could choose a conventional C model with two-wheel drive or a K model for the four-wheel drive experience.
As each new year passed, Chevy would introduce new upgrades to its C/K line. In 1963, the truck got a coil-spring front suspension and a new base engine. The next year, Chevy enhanced the line’s aesthetics, with the cab losing its wraparound windshield for something more modern. It also received a new front grill design and touch ups in the interior. Summer days became much more comfortable when Chevy added air conditioning in the 1965 model, along with a powerful new V8 engine.
1965 Chevy Truck C10 Specs
How did the 1965 Chevy C10 compare to other pickups on the road? For one, it carried a 230 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine under the hood, which packed around 165 horsepower. The truck had a three-gear, “three on the tree,” manual transmission. “Three on the tree” because the gear lever sat on the steering column. Drivers could also throw the truck into overdrive, giving the gears an extra boost of power.
The truck featured a coil-springed front suspension system, and rear brakes came standard in this vehicle. Collectors and grease monkeys alike tend to soup up the model with a more powerful engine to generate better performance and mondo acceleration.
The driver and passenger could get comfortable in bucket seats and enjoy tunes from the truck’s standard AM radio while remaining cool in the air-conditioned cab. The driver could adjust the steering column and take advantage of self-cancelling turn signals. A cigarette lighter came standard.
Unique to the model were painted tires that matched the color of the pickup with whitewall trim. Drivers could choose between sky blue, cream, and white. A stainless steel bed rail and windshield trim added to the truck’s personality.
Brief History of Chevy Trucks
Chevrolet’s first successful consumer focused pickup truck was 1918’s Chevy Model 490. The truck, which retailed for $490, was built to compete with Ford’s Model T. It was the follow-up to a far more expensive model, retailing for nearly $2,500, which failed in the market. Chevrolet’s own Model T made its debut in 1918 as well. The one-ton rated truck sported a 224-cubic inch OHV 4-cylinder engine with 36 horsepower.
What surprises most contemporary pickup truck enthusiasts is that both the 1918 Chevy 490 and Model T One-Ton were sold as chassis-only vehicles. This meant the owner was tasked with installing his own cab and body, though the Model T did feature an express body.
Chevy produced both vehicles through 1922, when it decided to redesign and rename both as its Superior Series. Chevy still sold the trucks as chassis only vehicles. It was not until 1931 that Chevy would debut its first truck that was factory built.
Chevy Trucks in the 193 0s to 1950s
At the end of the 1920s, Chevy introduced the first overhead valve six-cylinder engine in a light delivery pickup truck. They advertised it as the “six for the price of four,” referring to the previous four-cylinder engines in most models. The industry dubbed the engine the Stovebolt six, since its slotted-head fasteners looked like woodstove bolts. The engine was in great part the reason why Chevy could introduce a one-and-a-half ton pickup truck.
In the mid-1930s, Chevrolet introduced a more powerful engine just as the U.S. economy was beginning to mend from Great Depression. Beginning in 1937, Chevys trucks sported a 78-horsepower engine that boasted 170 pounds per foot of torque. More than that, Chevy’s pickups in the late 1930s were the first to get a full makeover, designed for the first time by the automaker’s Art and Color department. Chevy embraced the philosophy of form follows function, and made sure its pickup trucks’ form was as cutting-edge as their performance.
When America entered World War II in 1941, civilian production ceased while the automaker focused on supplying materials for the war effort. It came back full swing in 1946, even introducing a brand new line of redesigned pickups in 1947, known as the Advance Design.
The new look carried over into the 1950s. Most notable was the line’s five-bar horizontal grill, recognizable around the world as a Chevy truck hallmark. The trucks were wider, longer, and provided enough space for a second passenger in the front seat. Chevy gave customers the option of a fresh-air heater and windshield defroster, as well.
The Advance Design line of pickups was retired in 1954. The next year, Chevy introduced the Task-Force generation of Chevy trucks. For the first time ever, the pickup trucks came with a wraparound windshield, hidden running boards, and new headlights. In a rare bit of catch-up, Chevy introduced an overhead valve V8 engine. Ford had debuted its own overhead valve V8 a year earlier.
Chevy Trucks from the 1960s to Present Day
As mentioned above, in the 1960s, Americans started making the shift from using pickups exclusively as a work vehicle to buying them as their everyday vehicles. Following this trend, Chevrolet introduced its C/K series pickup, including the 1965 model. The previous models were bulkier and bit more utilitarian. The new model was sleek, sculpted, and packed with power.
In 1973, Chevy redesigned the popular C/K series, giving the truck body a more rounded look and feel. Many pickup truck enthusiasts call this vehicle the first modern heavy-duty pickup. The truck was the first dual rear-wheel truck to offer an available crew cab, allowing the driver to haul five fellow passengers.
The C/K series technically continued through the 1990s, but a change in naming structure in 1988 would eventually lead to the end of the C/K series era. The series was then dubbed the GMT400 platform, which fans lovingly dubbed the OBS or Old Body Style series. Chevy now called the line the 1500, 2500, and 3500, but it would eventually become better known by the name of its trim models: the Cheyenne, the basic model; the Scottsdale, Chevy’s mid-range truck; and the Silverado, or high-end model. The Silverado was so well received, in 1999, Chevy retired the entire C/K line of trucks and introduced a new series based on the Silverado design.
Today, Chevy’s Silverado line stands as an all-time top-selling pickup truck line. Nevertheless, for some, it will never top the recognizable C/K series, perfectly captured in the 1965 Chevy truck model.