Trucks today are a far cry from their bare-bones predecessors. Thirty years ago a truck did one thing, and one thing only—truck things. It hauled, it towed, and it got the job done, but shifting consumer trends saw the truck slowly morph from a tried-and-true workhorse into a luxury vehicle with a bed and comically massive towing capacity. Just look at this MotorWeek review of the 1988 Chevy Cheyenne—this truck doesn’t even come close to the definition of luxury. Instead, it’s all about function over form.
The MotorWeek review is a blast from the past. It showcases how customer tastes have changed, forcing automakers to cram the latest luxury and technologies into today’s pickup trucks. But thirty years ago, the Cheyenne was the cream of the crop. It offered a variety of engines, including a diesel. The review model in the video had a 160-horsepower V6 engine. Chevy also offered the Cheyenne with several different gearboxes—five- or four-speed manuals and three- and four-speed automatics.
Inside, it was all about work. The Cheyenne had a bench seat with forward and aft adjustability. It didn’t even offer reclining seats for increased comfort; however, MototWeek did call it “roomy.” An extended cab version sat six. It also came with “advanced climate controls” and a well-designed AM/FM radio. Engineers hid the upholders in the glove compartment lid, which, today, doesn’t seem practical for our Big Gulps.
New, the Chevy Cheyenne had a starting price of $9,531. That was good money back then. But times have changed. Today’s trucks lack manual gearboxes, and diesel engines are just now coming back into vogue. Truck interiors today have fine-grain wood and soft, supple leather. Digital screens and creature comforts cram dashboards as music blares from premium sound systems. If you showed a true as barebones as the Chevy Cheyenne to pickup truck customers today, they’d recoil in disgust.
It’s crazy how things change over time.