AACA Winner: 1981 GMC Caballero Amarillo – SOLD!
May 10, 2021 Update – we confirmed the seller of this rare GMC “Classifind” deleted their listing, so we’re now able to call this one “SOLD!” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call Rudy directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.
Long-time Guys With Rides readers often find us mentioning some of our feature cars being potential Antique Automobile Club of America (“AACA”) Preservation Class Original Features contenders. Vehicles that win this award (a “Junior” at the local level, which then puts you in contention for a “Senior” award at a National event) are unmodified survivor cars. Unlike “Concours” contenders, patina and worn panels are welcomed.
For this Truckin’ Tuesday feature, we actually have an AACA “Junior” winner in this 57K original mile 1981 GMC Caballero Amarillo originally listed in May 2021 on Craigslist in Kempton, Pennsylvania (Allentown) $15,000. Comparing that price against the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms the private seller has their GMC El Camino priced between this guide’s #3 “Good” estimate of $12,400 and its #2 “Excellent” appraisal of $18,100. Interestingly, the Collector Car Market Review Online Tool provides a more conservative assessment as in this case the asking price is about $1,600 dollars higher than this guide’s #1 “Excellent” appraisal of $13,400 after factoring in for A/C and power windows.
GMC’s use of a Spanish-derived name was perhaps a response to El Camino’s own borrowing from Spanish colonial history (via the assumed reference to El Camino Real, the “King’s Road”, lit. “Regal Road”). Until 1979, Ford offered a similar vehicle, the Ford Ranchero, also with a Spanish name (“Rancher”). GMC also offered special trim packages for the Caballero under other Spanish names: Diablo, Laredo, and Amarillo.
The Caballero and the fifth generation El Camino shared their mechanical parts with the Chevrolet Malibu but rode on a nine-inch longer wheelbase. Other than different nameplates and minor trim variations, it is difficult to distinguish a Caballero from an El Camino. It was largely for this reason that the Caballero did not sell in the higher volumes that the El Camino did over the years, though that rarity now counts as a plus to many Caballero fans and collectors. Exterior appearance remained largely the same over the truck’s nine-year lifespan, with the biggest changes through the years coming mostly in the form of grille design. From 1978 through 1981, this consisted of either the “egg-crate” style (1978), horizontal bars (1979 and 1981), or vertical bars (1980).
Caballero interiors featured a bench seat in standard models, though an upgrade to bucket seats with a center console and floor-mounted shifter was available. Most models with automatic transmission carried the shifter on the steering column. Cloth or vinyl upholstery choices were offered in a variety of colors. The instrument panel originally featured a “strip” style speedometer, with the needle making a long sweep across a horizontal line of numbers to indicate speed. This was changed for 1981 to a more conventional round dial format.
Offered from 1978 until 1980 only, the Laredo was a Caballero equivalent to the El Camino’s luxurious Conquista package. Equipment included two-tone paint in various color combinations and a “Laredo” decal on the tailgate.
In 1981, the Laredo became known as the Amarillo, and this name would continue through 1987. Save for the different name decal on the tailgate, the package was substantially the same. GMC changed this package’s name at about the same time as Jeep began using the “Laredo” name (as a trim level with the 1980 CJ-7) for a variety of special models in their own line – later evolving into a trim package with its XJ Cherokee and the midlevel (later base) trim level with the Grand Cherokee.
We love coming across nicely preserved, unmolested pieces of automotive history and this rare GMC is a great find that, unlike a Concours trailer queen, you can enjoy without fear of adding miles as long as you adhere to keeping this car as came when new.
Here’s the seller’s description:
“Stunning Super Rare fully loaded 1981 GMC Cabellero “Amarillo” which was the Top Of The Line Fully Loaded with every option Special Edition. Only two owners it has been awarded the coveted AACA Historical Preservation Award “All factory Original Vehicle”. Only 57k orig miles built in Doraville, Georgia and have the original build sheet included in the sale, special two-tone Blue and White Paint, #’s 305 V-8, Automatic, Factory AC, full power, 60/40 power 6-way seat, F41 suspension, power windows, and door locks, tinted glass, power steering, power disc brakes, the original factory paint is mint, the deluxe interior is untouched superb, everything is factory original on this car, was kept in climate control, have the build sheet, perhaps the finest original example in existence. Price is 15k firm/non-neg 1st to see will buy it.“
Show or go: what would you do with this AACA Junior Winner Caballero? Comment below and let us know!