Chevrolet Silverado: An American Revolution

The Silverado nameplate is Chevrolet’s best selling full-size pick-up truck series. Manufactured by General Motors, the Silverado has both medium-duty and heavy-duty variants, and shares the same platform as its GMC counterpart. Its roots can be traced back to the 1960s when General Motors released the C/K pick-up trucks for Chevrolet and GMC. “C” trucks were the two-wheel drive variant, while the “K” indicated four-wheel drive. In the 70s, the “Silverado” name appeared on the high end trims of the Suburban, Tahoe, and the third generation C/K pick-up trucks. Fast forward 30 years later to 1999 when General Motors changed the model name from C/K to Silverado for the Chevrolet and Sierra for the GMC. The differences between the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado boil down to interior trim selections and body design. Both have relatively been the same mechanically since the 1960s.

The Silverado series is Chevrolet’s best selling full-size pickup truck.

The New Classic (1999-2007)

The first generation of the Chevrolet Silverado was released to the public in 1998 as the ‘99 model. Development of the truck started in 1993 which was finalized for production in June 1995. This was 36 months ahead of its June 1998 start of production. The “1500” name was designated to light-duty Silverados. You can choose from three cab lengths ranging from 2-door and 4-door options along a choice between three cargo bed lengths. During its introduction, the Silverado 1500 got better gas mileage than the Ford F-150, made more power than the Dodge Ram, and could tow more than both of them. In 1999, MotorTrend named the Chevrolet Silverado as its Truck of the Year.

Sticking to the “Like a Rock” marketing campaign of Chevrolet, the Silverado introduced the hardcore 1500 HD, 2500 HD, and 3500 HD models for its heavy-duty truck lineup. The HD versions of the Silverado became the benchmark of other heavy-duty hauling trucks during its introduction. Engine choices ranged from the 300-horsepower Vortec 6000 V8 gas engine to a larger than life 360-horsepower 6.6-Liter LBZ Duramax V8 diesel engine.

By 2003 the Silverado received a facelift with a new front end and an updated rear. During the life of the first generation Silverado, Chevrolet made a performance tailored SS version in 2003, a Hybrid version in 2004, and a special Intimidator SS in 2006. Before moving onto the second generation, Chevrolet gave the Silverado another facelift in 2006.

The Silverado SS was equipped with a 6.0-Liter Vortec High-Output V8 producing 345-horsepower and 380-lb.ft. of torque. The SS or Super Sport badge is only attached to high performing street vehicles of Chevrolet, and the Silverado is no exception to that.

Hybrid vehicles were all the craze at the start of the 2000s and General Motors responded to the demand by developing a hybrid line of vehicles. The Silverado Hybrid was introduced in 2004, making it the first ever GM hybrid passenger vehicle. Its electric motor is only used for starting the engine, charging the batteries, and powering the accessories. An early start/stop system is used in the Silverado Hybrid. When the pick-up comes to a complete stop, its engine shuts off automatically. It then uses the 42-Volt electric motor to start the pick-up’s engine when it needs to get going again. Oddly enough, the early version of the Silverado Hybrid pick-up trucks were bought back from their owners by the late 2000s. The Silverado Hybrid badge ceased production in 2008 but General Motors offered a Two-Mode Hybrid powertrain the following year.

Dale Earnhardt was one of the most successful American race car drivers. His success in the GM Goodwrench race car was commemorated after his tragic death with the Chevrolet Silverado Intimidator SS. Branded after his nickname “The Intimidator,” this special edition Silverado only came in Onyx Black. Improved handling, bigger anti-roll bars, and locking 3.733  rear differential made this pick-up truck special.


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The Hail Mary pass (2007-2014)

The last quarter of 2006 saw the introduction of the second generation Chevrolet Silverado internally known as the GMT900. Continuing the success of the first generation, the Silverado was named 2007 North American Truck of the Year and MotorTrend Magazine’s Truck of the year.

Behind the awards was a financial struggle for its parent company General Motors Corporation, which needed to rely on the revenue generated by these large trucks. GM focused mainly on the development of the GMT900 in 2005 sidelining other projects. During the same year, gas prices skyrocketed making the corporation’s decision to rely on these trucks questionable. The Silverado initially sold well but the American market eventually developed a liking for fuel-efficient vehicles which affected sales. This gave the GMT900 the moniker the “Hail Mary pass,” which is an American Football term meaning the last ditch effort to win the game.

New for the second generation Silverado was Stability Control as standard, a redesigned frame, stiffer suspension, a new exterior and interior. Aerodynamics were also greatly improved with the raked windshield and smaller panel gaps for improved fuel economy. A new Generation III small block V8 was also introduced which increased power and had an active fuel management system.

Year model 2009 saw an updated Silverado in showrooms with a revised bumper design and a shorter front fascia. A mid-cycle update was implemented in 2010 with all the Silverado variants receiving a redesigned interior door panel and a 6-speed automatic transmission on both regular and extended cabs. A year after, all the bodies of the HD line were updated with a durable steel frame improving stiffness by 92%.


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Third and current Generation Silverado (2014-Present)

A return to developing full-sized trucks by GM saw a new generation of Silverado in 2014. Introduced during the North American International Auto Show, this Chevrolet Silverado came with one V6 engine option and two V8 options. Technology was increased immensely for the current generation with the latest in Chevrolet’s MyLink touch-screen multimedia interface made available for most variants. Provisions for USB, an iPod or iPhone, and Bluetooth streaming were made available to play music through an optional Bose sound system. GM’s well known safety feature, OnStar was made available across the range as well.

This generation saw the emergence of special edition trucks starting with the Rally Edition 1, Rally Edition 2, Midnight Edition, Custom Sport Edition, Custom Sport Plus Edition, Black Out Edition, Texas Edition, High Desert, Custom Sport HD, Realtree, Special Ops, Alaskan (only in HD series), Redline, and the Centennial Edition to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Chevrolet. Since the current generation will still be on showroom floors, nothing is stopping Chevrolet from releasing a “Final edition” to wrap up this pick-up’s life cycle.   

The third generation of Chevrolet Silverado came with one V6 engine option and two V8 options.

Fourth and Future Generation Silverado (2019-Present)

It may be a little confusing, but since it started to be sold to customers in August 2018, the fourth generation 2020 Chevrolet Silverado is still being sold side by side with the third generation. The debut of the fourth generation Silverado happened exactly 100 years since Chevrolet delivered its first trucks to customers. This generation’s Silverado 1500 has a sculpted exterior with grille integrated headlights. Chevrolet offers eight trim levels: WT, Custom, Custom Trail Boss, LT, RST, LT Trail Boss, LTZ, and High Country. The HD series will be new from the ground up for the 2020 year model. Just recently Chevrolet released the 2020 Silverado’s Duramax diesel engine. This will be the first time you will be able to purchase a Silverado 1500 with a diesel engine. It is purposely built for those who need the torque and fuel-economy, but doesn’t want to step up to the HD series of trucks.  

Author: JC Whitney

JC Whitney is the largest and oldest catalog and Internet direct-to-consumer auto parts and accessories retailer in America. Since 1915, JC Whitney has been filling the needs of customers by providing the right part at the best price. You can always shop with confidence at

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