The Carchive: The '82 GMC Rally


Choosing a subject for a Carchive post often happens out of absolute pot luck, they land at my feet, blown by the breeze that permeates as soon as I open the gate. Or sometimes I’ve gone in there in search of something specific and gotten sidetracked: I found my Value Van brochure the other week while searching for a British Seagull outboard motor owners manual. It’s in there, somewhere.

This weekend I found myself enjoying a van. It put me in a van kind of mood, which I’m still in. As such, I hereby announce that it is Official American Van Week here in the Carchive.

Today we kick off with the 1982 GMC Rally.


The Rally was, of course, a VanDura with lots of seats, and the VanDura was a ChevyVan, and that’s it, really. It’s not a complicated proposition to deal with. In the words of GMC:

“For recreational, commercial or community use, GMC Rally’s have been proven to be one of the best ways to move a lot of people or a lot of cargo”

Lets look at the supposition “One of the best ways”. Obviously, the world has its big ships, express trains and aeroplanes, each having variants which are adept at moving folk or freight in varying amounts and over various distances. And they’re all quite good at what they do. Is a GMC Rally better than any of the above? Well, maybe.

More relevant may be the question: “Is the GMC Rally better than a Ford Club Wagon or Dodge Ram Van?”. Well, perhaps. But at least this week we can have a look at the brochures for all three and try to make our own minds up. I can hit you with one fact right out of the trap, this very document tells us that with all rear seats removed the G-3500 model could handle up to 3,825 lbs of cargo.

Unfortunately I have no similar comparative statistics for the Club Wagon or Ram. Sorry.

“These available accessories have been improved for ’82- the electric clock now has a new quartz analog movement, the am/fm/cb radio is now stereo”

Can the GMC Rally have been so overwhelmingly polished that the clock and radio were deemed as being high priority for further development? Was the previous clock really that bad? And could you really have citizens band in stereo?

Of course, GM weren’t just sweating the small stuff; there was a new, more exciting range of colours and interior trim materials including an inviting sounding blue vinyl for seating surfaces, and I’ll bet that blistered many a buttock over the years.

“Top of the line Rally STX is a real “standout”. Special trim includes bright bezels for the rectangular headlamps and special side marker lights….. chrome, brightwork, etc. etc.”

I paraphrased that a bit, but there was a whole load of additional chrome going on with the STX, the GMC and RALLY STX insignias being picked out in bright metal.

It was a good looking vehicle, without a doubt. And that’s despite the fact that the underlying van was as commonplace a sighting across the ’80s US road network as cracked concrete and “No U-Turn” signs. And we must never forget that an ’83 VanDura was the favoured means of transport of one B A Baracus.

From his perspective a GMC Rally is Definitely better than a plane.

“Our top interior includes carpeting for the entire floor, front and rear wheelhousings, spare tire cover, and lower portions of the engine housing cover and trim panels. STX also features our deluxe two-tone instrument panel with simulated woodgrain appliques and bright trim”

STX was all about the look of luxury. The mechanical bits were unchanged; the suspension of your fully carpeted lounge-room on wheels was much the same as that of every other GM Van. It was nice to know that boxes of crap or whatever freight goes into vans on a daily basis get to enjoy the same luxury ride quality as those who cruise in the back of a Rally STX.

“We have added dual tailpipes to the 5.7 litre V8 engine on G-3500 models.”

A 350 V8 automatically sounds like a recipe for fun to these ears; the only European van of the ’70s and ’80s that I can think of right now to ever have received a V8 was the Freight Rover of British Leyland, which of course could have the ex-Buick 215 in lieu of the old B-series engine if you so demanded. Hit me up if you know any more.

And we shouldn’t forget that this was 1982, so power figures might not have always been as generous as could be imagined. In fact outputs were 120hp for the 4.1, 160hp for the 5.0 or 165 if you went for the 5.7. Allowing for the bulkiness of the bodywork, it’s possible that a 350 Rally might actually have not been the quickest thing on the roads. And, as far as I can see, the three-speed manual couldn’t be had with the 350. Not that a three-speed is much cause for celebration, but the automatic can’t have added any more power to proceedings. Actually, forget everything I’ve said. Perhaps in one of these the last thing you want to have to deal with is changing gears. Automatic for the people.

From 1971 all the way through to 1996 the VanDura continued with broadly incremental changes, until either time caught up with it or GM suddenly realised they’d been building essentially the same vehicle for thirty-two years. Was this a story of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, or institutional complacency?

Feel free to educate me on GM Vans in the comments. As you can see I know very little.

(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed on top of an old newspaper (because that’s the sort of thing that van drivers carry around in their cabs) by me. Copyright belongs to GMC, which was always a cool brand name. I used to think that DMC and GMC were related. Daft, eh?)

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