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Caballero

GMC Caballero Diablo

The GMC Sprint was renamed Caballero for the 1978 model year and was produced through 1987. The rear-wheel-drive car based pickups were sold by GMC Truck dealers mainly in the United States and Canada. The Sprint/Caballero is GMC's version of the Chevrolet El Camino. Trim designations, emblems, and wheel trim differentiate the GMC from the Chevrolet. The GM A platform was downsized for 1978, but the Caballero used the Chevrolet Malibu station wagon's longer-wheelbase chassis. In 1982, the vehicle became the G platform as the A platform switched to front-wheel drive.

Nameplate

The word "Caballero" is from the Spanish language. Its most common definition today in the Americas is "gentleman", though its technical definition is "horseman" (caballo meaning horse) or "knight". These are in turn related to the English "cowboy" (though the more appropriate term for cowboy would be vaquero, based on "vaca" for "cow") or the French "cavalier". The latter is notable in that Chevrolet later offered a compact car by that name.

GMC's use of a Spanish-derived name was perhaps a response to the 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 also offered the Ford Ranchero, also with a Spanish name ("Rancher"). GMC also offered special trim packages for the Caballero under other Spanish names: Diablo, Laredo, Amarillo.

Overview

The Caballero and the fifth generation El Camino shared their mechanical parts with the Chevrolet Malibu series, but rode on a 9-inch longer wheelbase. The Malibu, at first the top trim level in the Chevelle line, replaced the Chevelle name entirely after 1977. Other than different nameplates and minor trim variations, it is difficult to distinguish a Caballero from an El Camino at more than 10 paces distance. It was largely for this reason that the Caballero did not sell in the higher volumes that the El Camino did over the years (many never even knew a GMC version existed), 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 "eggcrate" style (1978), horizontal bars (1979 and 1981) or vertical bars (1980). Then for 1982, the front end was changed to a full-width grille design housing four headlights and a four-row crosshatch pattern; this persisted through the truck's demise in 1987.

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 of 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, with some further minor tweaks for 1986. 1987 was the end of the line for GM's North American Coupe Utilities, with the exception of 425 unsold 1987 El Caminos that were sold as 1988 models.

Laredo and Amarillo

Offered for 1978 and 1979 only, the Laredo was a Caballero equivalent to the El Camino's Conquista package. Equipment included two-tone paint in various color combinations and a "Laredo" decal on the tailgate.

For 1980 and onward through the end in 1987, the Laredo became known as the Amarillo. 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 for a variety of special models in their own line.

Diablo

The sporty Diablo package began in 1978 as an equivalent to the El Camino's Royal Knight package (which was, in turn, an upgrade from the long-running Super Sport package). Both the Royal Knight and the Diablo carried a hood graphic not unlike that featured on the Pontiac Trans Am; the Diablo's was in a symmetrical flame pattern that resembled a demon. Besides the hood accents, Diablo also came with lower-body accent paint, body-color mirrors, black-trimmed window frames, a front air dam, color-matched "Rally" steel wheels with trim rings, and a large "Diablo" decal on the tailgate.

When Chevrolet dropped the Royal Knight option from the El Camino option list for 1982, GMC's Diablo remained but was now analogous to the "normal" Super Sport model. This meant that the flame decal was gone, but little else changed. However, when the El Camino Super Sport gained a new aerodynamic front end for 1985, the Diablo stuck with the same square front end it had carried since 1978. Diablo was offered through the end of the Caballero line in 1987.

Despite its sporting intentions, Diablo never carried a V8 engine as standard equipment—the V6 engine (in various sizes over the years) remained standard throughout the run.

Modern revival

Holden, GM's Australian division, has offered coupe-pickup models similar to the Caballero for years under the Ute name. Like the Caballero and El Camino, Holden's Ute is based on a car platform - in this case the long-running Commodore series. Rebadged Holden Commodore utes were offered in South Africa as Chevrolet El Camino, and later the Lumina Ute.

For the 2008 model year, GM introduced an American version of the Commodore sedan called the Pontiac G8. Sometime after the announcement of the G8, GM announced that they would also be shipping over a revised version of the Ute. Since Pontiac shares most of its dealerships with GMC franchises, there was wide speculation that the Ute would be rebadged as a GMC (though not necessarily a Caballero or Sprint). However, GM later announced that the new pickup would also be Pontiac-branded, as the G8 ST. In January 2009, GM announced to dealers the G8 ST was cancelled due to budget cuts and restructuring.

And still, there is a chance that a coupe–pickup (or rather, a "sedan–pickup") could return to GMC. General Motors executive Robert Lutz announced in January 2008 that the division will display a GMC-badged version of the Holden Crewman, a four-door version of the standard Holden Ute pickup, at the New York Auto Show in March. Importation or production of any GMC Ute model has not yet been confirmed.

Pontiac concept

In 1974, GMC's sister division, Pontiac, reportedly took an El Camino body, grafted the urethane-nose front end from its Grand Am series, added the Grand Am's instrument panel, Strato bucket seats with recliners and adjustable lumbar support, along with Pontiac's Rally II wheels as a styling exercise for a possible Pontiac version of the El Camino/Sprint. The concept however never reached production. Another show car version was also created in the late 1970s but never left the concept stage.