Big Block Pickup: 1973 Chevrolet 2500 Camper Special

Todd FitchBy Todd Fitch

Big block pickups usually sell quickly; heightened pulse rate, sweaty palms, and impulse purchases may result from dreaming about engines displacing more than 400 cubic inches. Potential buyers for this rig include people who woke up this morning with no idea that they needed a pickup truck, but can’t resist the thought of twisting the key on that 454 and burning the tires off. This super-clean looking 1973 Chevrolet 2500 Cheyenne Camper Special 454 awaits a new owner in Sacramento, California, with a listing here on eBay.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed driving a very similar truck, a later 454 Trailering Special belonging to the family of my buddy and his sister, my high school girlfriend. During a time when most V8s could barely squeal a tire, you could get the Trailering Special rolling about 15 MPH and then roast the tires, quickly silencing the local parking lot posers. I could write a short-story collection about the 454 Trailering Special, but I digress. This Cheyenne Camper Special model sports additional features including more trim, fancier door panels, dual horns, and a better steering wheel. Chevy installed seat belts for three, and while officially I cannot endorse transporting more passengers than seat belts, I can confirm that this cab will hold at least four close friends comfortably. Once we had four-across and a couple more sitting on the dash. Don’t try that at home, kids.

Interestingly you can view the complete dealer selector sheet at gmheritagecenter.com and geek out on details like gear ratios. This pickup would have come with a 3.73:1 rear axle ratio unless the buyer chose the optional 4.11 or snow-tire incinerating 4.56 gears. If you’re wondering why this truck looks a little more “boss” than the usual ’70s Chevy pickup, it’s the 16 inch wheels with the dog-dish hubcaps. Most ’70s pickups came with 15s. I wouldn’t swap these wheels for anything custom, and certainly not for anything smaller.

One of the best features of a ’73 big block Chevy pickup is the “454” script in the grille. As a youth I always scanned these grilles for the engine badge, usually “350” with the occasional “292” or this truck’s testosterone-boosting “454.” Rated at a smog-era 240 HP, it’s the big-block’s 355 lb-ft of torque that get the job done. The big block’s three-speed automatic will walk up any hill without downshifting – unless you need to bust a move on someone. According to the seller this truck offers little to complain about. Even the A/C is converted to R134a and working fine. Is this honest-looking big block Camper Special calling your name? What do you think of the Buy It Now price of $7900?

Get Daily Email Updates:

Comments

  1. MH

    I had a truck just like this 10 years ago. It was a few years newer and mint condition. Sold it for 2K because I thought I needed a 4×4 instead. But that was before these trucks we sought after. I wish I had I back.

    9+
  2. Martin Sparkes

    Early square bodies are the next big thing. Get them while you can.

    9+
    • Kevin

      Yeah, get em while you can. Get em before they’re all burned up. Those outside of the frame gas tanks started many a fire, and burned up many a person after a side impact. Square and ugly when new.
      Still square and ugly.

      2+
      • Dave Wright

        You have been spending too much time watching NBC…..they had to hire a demolition expert to make the tanks explode in a t bone accident. They wouldn’t do it on there own. They even lost the lawsuit over there fake news reporting.

        26+
      • Steve

        1. “Those outside of the frame gas tanks started many a fire, and burned up many a person after a side impact” Can I see your source for the thousands that perished a fiery death in these trucks?, or is it just here say? While not the best design, these trucks are not the rolling fireball that people like you try to make them out to be. I suppose you jump all over any listing for pintos, crown vics, (am I forgetting any?) with the same comments. I suppose they will burst into flames if you point a magnifying glass at them?

        2.”Square and ugly when new.
        Still square and ugly.” You are in the minority with this opinion.

        25+
  3. geomechs

    This era (’73 – ’79) were some of the best trucks GM ever made. I worked for a GM dealer back in the day and the only things we had trouble with were those that were worn out from general wear and tear. Maintain them and they’ll last virtually forever. I have a ’79 K-1500 that I’ve owned since new and my cost per mile has been next to nothing. It’s getting a full restoration now but that’s after 300+ K miles with a lot of backroads in the process. The models were still good after ’79 but you could see the pressure brought upon the General (and other companies) by the government agencies. Pretty hard to go wrong with one of these…

    10+
    • Dave Wright

      One of my dad’s truck companies ran a lot of these trucks, one ton dullays with small van bodies. They were over the road trucks that seldom got cool, running 700 or 800 miles a day. He would consistently get 300-400,000 miles (sometimes more) on a good 4 bolt main 350. The biggest problem he had was when the pin would fall out of the 4 speed shift lever. He would get a call in the middle of the night from the highway patrol saying one of his trucks was stuck on the side of the road, he would drive many times hours to show usually one of his rookie drivers how to replace the pin so the run could continue.

      7+
      • geomechs

        Hi Dave. Boy, do I remember that pin….

        2+
  4. 68 custom

    nice truck. BTW this one is a 3/4 ton version with the hard to find 16.5 inch wheels. slap a set of headers on her with a freshened carb and distributor re-curve and you would have a very hard pulling truck!

    3+
  5. Dave Wright

    These are off course good trucks but were increasingly damaged by federal smog requirements. At first, trucks were pretty much exempt but were encroach on more and more at time went on. We had lots of these trucks and always felt the additional fuel required for the big block was not worth the marginal power advantage to a good small block. A Dodge 360 little red truck was faster than both…..and a Corvette of the day.

    6+
  6. Kevin

    Dave Wright. I suggest you do some research, there was nothing fake about it. The issue even resurfaced in 1997. The government tried to force a recall, but gm weaseled out of it. Instead, they offered owners a “deal” on a trade. I was working at a gm dealer at the time, I do know something about it.

    1+
    • Dave Wright

      NBC lost the defamation lawsuit and was forced to come clean about the report in 1983. There were very high priced lawyers on both sides unlike many lawsuits involving the media that are one sided. I think you need to do your homework.

      13+
      • Kevin

        I’ll admit, the NBC thing was probably a setup, but the problem was for real. You’re the one who needs to do some homework. Google it

        1+
      • geomechs

        We sold lots of those trucks back in the day and there were only two fires that we knew of: One was electrical, caused by a stuck and forgotten cigarette lighter, and the other one was in the shop where one of the techs was performing a compression test with the carburetor removed and the coil not grounded. He held the fuel line shut with his thumb. Yeah, he had the engine bay ablaze but we had it out before it could do any damage. There was a T-bone collision down in Great Falls (or was it Billings?) where there was a fire but it was caused when the car that hit the truck caught fire. It was an EFI and fuel at 60 psi goes all over the place.

        7+
      • Superdessucke

        @Kevin – Can you post some links establishing the fires and hundreds of deaths? Thanks in advance.

        0
    • LAB3

      It never fails to amaze me that when given the facts there are those who would still prefer to hold on to a less believable alternative.

      3+
      • Kevin

        And who might you be referring to?

        0
      • LAB3

        Kevin, a person could argue all night on a subject but a larger question could be asked: What does a person have vested in being right compared to what they could lose by being wrong?

        2+
  7. Dave Wright

    The outside tank thing doesn’t even make sense. Big trucks have used totally exposed outside tanks from the 20’s to this day. My IHC’s moved the fuel tanks from inside the cab….that was customary for many decades….to the inside frame rails, but all there larger than pickup tanks were mounted firmly outside the rails mostly directly under the doors, they were even used as steps to get in the truck. They are built heavier than the plastic GM tanks but there is so much energy in a t bone crash, it wouldn’t have made any difference. The lawyers just found a place to gain a revenue stream from GM’s deep pockets and the news media piled on. But they eventually lost.

    15+
    • Dave Wright

      Any fuel in a vehicle is dangerous, ask the Sherman tank drivers in WW2. They would go up like a match if hit just right. Even the lauded Prius had trouble when they first came out, any time one was involved in a crash, it was handled as a Hazmat indecent (as it should be) until political pressure was brought to bear changing the law.

      10+
      • Kevin

        True, but some were more prone than others. Google this: “70s chevrolet truck gas tank fires” That should settle the argument. Besides ugly, these trucks were rust queens, the hoods folded in half, and the doors sagged. Needless to say, I’m no fan, but the previous body style was a much better truck.

        2+
      • geomechs

        I just googled that gas tank fire page. Nothing really significant except for a YouTube video of a truck or trailer that must have been loaded with acetylene bottles because some were flying through the air like rockets. The only other fires were cars including electric cars. There was the result of a fiery head-on crash between a Chevy pickup and a car but the side didn’t look like it had been touched. Let’s face it, if you don’t like them, fine, just don’t buy one. I like them, so I’ll run them. I don’t plan to have someone T-bone me (I did have a Toyota Tercel try to ‘Rock Hudson’ me which broke a bumper bolt on my truck and totalled the Tercel) but if someone does, I’ll take my chances. I take a risk every day just getting out of bed….

        2+
    • Larry Schultz

      David-Are the big trucks that you refer to diesel trucks? Big difference between ruptured diesel and gasoline being spilled onto an engine that “T-boned” an outside the frame gasoline tank.

      Oct 26, 2014 – The M-4 Sherman was the workhorse medium tank of the U.S. Army … Most tanks at the time ran on diesel, a safer and less flammable fuel than gasoline.

      Kevins facts and the fact that they are backed up by “https://www.autosafety.org/history-gm-side-saddle-gas-tank-defect/” make him the winner of this discussion!

      Lab3- I have nothing ventured in this topic btw!!

      0
      • Kevin

        Hundreds of deaths and millions of $ in law suits makes him the winner? ALRIGHTY THEN!!! LOL!!!

        1+
  8. Chebby

    Nice truck. I would have preferred to buy it from the original owners with the camper for $3,500 the way they probably did.

    5+
  9. Gay Car Nut

    Sweet looking truck. I’ve always liked this generation Chevy truck. I’ve always liked Camper Specials. They have their limits as far as how much they can carry and tow, but the more a truck can carry before the chassis breaks, the better. 🙂

    1+
  10. mike D

    I think I have seen this one before , either here, or while browsing on ebay, the wording is what gives it away . a friend at my workplace owned a 73 ( then new) Cheyenne , I believe it had the 350, silver and white.. My dad worked at a utility company in my area and he had a 77 ( which of course was bare bones AT,PS, & PB and that was about it ) fell in love with the both of them

    0
  11. Kevin

    LAB3. I’m not exactly sure what you’re getting at. I don’t really have a lot vested here, and I certainly have nothing to lose. I assume you’re saying I’m the one who was handed the facts, yet is clinging to something less believable. Why don’t you look it up yourself? Just like I suggested to someone else. It’s all there in black and white. You’ll find out I’m right. Very simple.

    1+
  12. Rutledge

    What? No mention of the longer bed on the camper specials?

    0
    • ChevyTruckGuy

      Chevy didn’t continue to offer 1972’s 8-1/2 foot bed option with the new generation 1973 models.

      0
  13. Neal

    Nice rig. I found a collectionof these parked in a big lot while exploring Boulder, Colorado, a few years ago. There were even more that I couldn’t get in the picture with my iPhone lens. Maybe 18 or 23 Chevies and GMC’s from that era. Someone must have been a big fan or run a business with them, or else started collecting lots to use as parts vehicles to keep a fleet going. It was a beautiful find for me, but my friends just didn’t seem to understand! I guess that’s why I like checking things out here on Barn Finds.

    Sorry but I can’t seem to be able to load pictures on this site anymore. Some kind of firewall block message comes to me over the past few tries. Any advice from site admin?
    I’ve had some good pics to share, including my fun paisley sport coat to go along with the listing for a Plymouth Fury with a paisley roof.
    Thanks.

    1+
  14. Chris

    I have a 1972 F250 camper special 390 4speed. Not sure if interest is picking up for heavy duty models but I always preferred them. Plus this truck will haul two yards of material that my newer truck can’t handle.

    2+
  15. Ryan

    Darn good solid trucks. I have my Father’s 77 Cheyenne 454 Camper Special. He bought it new. Yeah there was a recall also a buy back. The little buy back money offered wasn’t even worth the paper it was printed on. And yes you better snatch one up no matter how negative the opinion may be. The Square Body is the new Classic. A Real and Solid Truck. My truck is still original all the way down to the Delco radio and the hubcap. It gets the Thumbs up every time I drive it. I have camped with it and I have put it to work. It has paid for it’s self more times than I can count. If you don’t like them then you just don’t like them. But some of us happen to like them. These new trucks are over sized shopping carts. But they do look good. But are so limited to punishment.

    3+
  16. olddavid

    I grew up driving these in every variation possible. Easy to work on with parts everywhere and reasonably good looking, too. If there were no Fords, they’d sell a couple million a year. Unfortunately, those pesky Ford folks have pickup building down to a science that seemingly allows them to predict what buyers will want in five years. Alchemy?

    1+
  17. BRAKTRCR

    I remember the gas tank issue being for 72 and earlier trucks, because the tank was behind the driver seat. But I could be wrong, often am, and don’t care to argue.
    I did have a 71 C20, it had 16 inch rims. SPLIT RIMS!!! Talk about dangerous. I had several mid 80’s GMC pickups. Wish I had any of them today. They were bullet proof for me, and I had them in rental service. One of the 4X4’s had front differential issues, which is a long but interesting story for another time. Other than that, they were great and made good money for me, and the people using them.
    The subject truck looks like a winner to me. I believe it was 1973, when Hot Rod magazine declared the big block Suburban, the “Quickest quarter mile car” could have been 1974.

    1+
  18. JohnD

    Just a great truck here. I remember seeing something like this (usually the 1/2 ton version) on just about every street corner back in the day. By the way, very well written and entertaining description.

    0
  19. Paul

    These where very dependable trucks I owed a 76. I really liked the body style, although I do like the 67 – 72 body style even better.

    Kevin needs to do some research on the Pinto cover up by Ford or VW cover up if he really wants to bash manufacturers…… because all others pal in comparison.

    1+
    • Kevin W

      I prefer to bash government motors. I’m tired of arguing with you shevy girls.

      0

Leave A Comment

Rules: No profanity, politics, or personal attacks. Click here to list your car for sale.

*

Notify me of new comments via email. Or subscribe without commenting.