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GMC Astro

(1969-1987)

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GMC H-Series Cabover

 

 

GMC's Astro story originally begins in the early 1950s.  The old semi-cabover A series was replaced by the all-new H model in the middle of 1949.  The H  model was a redesign of the semi-cabover design, with a more rounded look as the GMCs at the time were adopting.  These continued to remain as GMC's main class 8 model, until 1959, when the all-new H model was introduced.  It was a radical departure for GMC-it was completely cab-over engine, and the cab was made of aluminum. Another controversial feature of it was the styling-the highly boxy shape made it commonly referred to as the "Crackerbox" by operators and fans.  However, due to it's awkward shapes, it did not receive good aerodynamic ratings, and cut fuel economy.  GM engineers began working on a new truck that would meet the standards the H series set, yet be more streamlined and beyond.

 

 

Astro 95 Dashboard

  

1969 GMC Astro 95 Cabover

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1969 GMC Astro Cabover

 

The GMC Astro 95 was introduced at the Hollywood Park Truck Show in Ingleside, CA in 1969.  The Astro featured many things that made it popular and innovative at the time.

It's flush glass and smooth exterior surfaces made it able to slip through wind better than other COEs at the time.  

The interior was designed for optimal convenince and comfort, and safety for operators.

The wide panoramic glass provided excellent vision to the front and the sides of the truck.

The Astro was available as a 58 in BBC Day Cab, and a 86 in BBC Sleeper Cab. The sleeper provided ample room and comfort, and air conditioning for it was optional.

The Astro could be ordered with standard Detroit Diesel 6 or 8 cylinder engines, and Cummins power was available.  From what I have seen, I believe that a gas turbine was optional in limited quantities, yet later dropped from the lineup.  This was also used in the prototype Chevy Turbo Titan III.  If anyone knows about these powerplants in trucks or the Turbo Titan III program, please email me.

 

 

 

1978 GMC Astro 95 Special Series

One major selling point of the Astro was it was basically custom built to your needs. You could special order air suspension, Spicer Air Brakes, Dana Transmissions, Rockwell axles, and other powertrain and chassis equipment. To spruce your truck up, you could get special paint, deluxe trim, deluxe interiors, power equipment, chrome items, etc. The possibilities were endless.

The first major update to the Astro was the Special Series trim upgrade.  This included special paint, a larger chromed front grille, chromed accessories, deluxe interior levels fog lights, and uplevel sound and CB systems.  

Also, by the end of the 1970s, Astro's dashboard had been slightly rearranged.  Gauges for the trailer air supply and pressure were relocated to next to the trailer air brake lever itself, as shown.  This meant that there were less gauges on the wraparound part than before, and some were cut as cost-savings.

1984 GMC Astro Cutaway

In the early 80s (80- 82), the type of grille that was featured on the Special Series was adapted to the whole Astro line in order to provide more cooling for bigger engines. The Special series came with a badge in the lower front corners of the doors that said Astro SS (Special Series), instead of just an Astro. Also, the SS had fog lights, and a black "Bandit's Mask" paint job around the windows. 
  (Shown is an 1984 Astro, with an Aero Astro)

1987 GMC Astro 95 with Rudkin-Wiley Airshield

The Astro went along with no real changes until the end of it's life, except for the Aero Astro, made from 1983-4, and made for a few years.1987 was the Astro's last year, and like all the other heavy duty GMCs, the Astro's main upgrade that year was a Rudkin-Wiley Airshield. 

The Astro died honorably with the rest of the GMC heavy duty line in 1987. The reason? Mainly, they were custom built, and that GMC had been experiencing slightly slumping sales during the past 3 years. So, in 1987, GMC sold the heavy duty operation to Volvo, and the Astro was now dead. It was the oldest design GMC had at the time, and still was loved by owners and operators alike. Today, you can still find a fair amount of these honorable trucks on the road today.

For more information on the last new Astro model, go see the Aero Astro

Other Astro Pictures

-If you have any, please send them to me, and they will be posted!

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(c) 2000, Evan McCausland.  NO images may be used without permission except for personal viewing.