“I’ve seen too many cars disappear through family disputes,” Steve said. White-bearded and with a low rasp in his voice, not unlike Clint Eastwood crossed with Santa Claus, he was explaining just why he was so satisfied to be driving me up Pacific Coast Highway, under the California winter sun, in the 1954 Chevy 3100 pickup that once belonged to his father-in-law, Frank. “Sometimes I get behind the wheel and I can just picture cruising up Highway 395, going 50, towing a trailer to the campground like Frank did.”
For now, just riding shotgun up Highway 1 seemed miraculous though, passing Malibu while Steve banged through the gears. The pickup has over 500,000 miles on the odometer; it’s pleasantly pocked by clusters of rust that deliver a rich patina, and after its previous life as a family hauler, it was reincarnated as a trash truck for construction jobs that the two men would work together. Later, Frank gifted the truck to Steve, and from its supposed deathbed, it served one final, honorable duty. “For 15 years, all I could do was go get beer in it,” Steve said.
It is interesting to postulate if the automaker’s trucks of today will have a similar appeal when they turn 60 years old.
Life went on, Frank passed, and by 2016, Steve was struggling to keep the car running at all. At last, he elected to rebuild the engine, tracking down a 235 single-barrel built that was assembled in Van Nuys, just like the rest of the truck. “People were trying to tell me to do V8, automatic transmission, power steering,” he said. “I just wanted to get back to what Frank bought.”
Ironically, trailing behind us was the very truck I would spend my next week driving — a 2018 Chevy Silverado Centennial ($53,275+), complete with a 5.3L V8 of its own (and, yes — automatic transmission and power steering). Sure, it’s not fair to compare the charm of the mid-century Chevy with its sparkling, modern edition — but it is interesting to postulate if the automaker’s trucks of today will have a similar appeal when they turn 60 years old.
There’s an air of timelessness in the Centennial Edition, which delivers throwback badging, featuring the classic bowtie logo and similar script as the original 1918 one-ton truck. The blue is also a one-of-a-kind color that harkens back to Chevy’s early days. The modern truck oozes quality, and in that perfectly truck-y way, where it’s luxury for people who disdain luxury.
It’s not a stretch to think that Silverado might one day go through a similar lifecycle as Frank’s old 3100 — first the campground, then the work site, and at last, the liquor store.
On the road, it’s multi-purpose — smooth, practical, and comfortable for urban-crawling, while also beefy and resilient for off-roading. The cabin is extremely quiet too, and the tech features are all there — lane assist, park assist, collision alert, as well as Apple CarPlay and a wi-fi hotspot. Simply, if the Silverado is a greatest hits record, the Centennial Edition is a bonus track packaged for the re-release. Definitely a rarity, certainly enjoyable, maybe even a collector’s item.
Back in Steve’s truck on PCH, we’re looking for the entrance to his favorite camping spot. He’s reminiscing on hiking trips with his wife, and what it used to look like before greedy developers got their hands on Malibu. After a long day of coastal driving, photos, and meatball sandwiches, he can’t seem to remember the turn, but insists it’ll come to him. “In this truck,” he says, “Things don’t go by as fast.”