The Chevrolet K1500 Coolside I was first shown in 1996

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Chevrolet K1500 Coolside I

This pickup should have been the heir apparent to the legacy left by the 454SS but probably due to its late arrival and the impending debut of the 1999 Silverado it never made it into production.

Sitting in the cockpit (what else do you call the cabin of a 536 horsepower regular cab stepside pickup) of the 1996 vintage Chevrolet K1500 Coolside I reminds you just how far GM and other truck manufacturers have progressed in a scant five year period.

Granted, this isn't a truck that has seen 'light-duty' use either during its existence but the rectangular IP and its instruments look heavily dated and worn relative to today's ergonomic interiors. And the doors just don't feel as solid as even the cheapest Silverado's. The center console mounted purple 1993 Camaro floor shifter is definitely a unique custom touch. Guess we're just spoiled.

The exterior has kept up its appearance better than the interior. The five spoke wheels and low profile tires fit the truck just right. Don't know that the disco striping is still in though amongst the sport truck crowd.

But we didn't come here to be dazzled just sitting in the truck or staring at it, we came here to drive it.

The Coolside I's all wheel drive setup doesn't make for smoky burnouts.

We buckled ourselves into the Coolside I and rolled out for a quick 4 mile jaunt on the country roads surrounding Milan.

The 502ci engine roared to life with a quick turn of the key. There was no stiff clutch to depress like on the S-10 ZZ4.3 in this four speed automatic. The purple Camaro shifter sat at a comfortable height relative to the driver and we threw it into drive.

Pulling out onto the streets in the Coolside I revealed an engine eager to please and explore its boundaries but we obeyed the laws of the local constabulary and stuck, for the most part, to the posted surface limits. There was nothing that said we couldn't get to those limits as quick as possible though.

The ride was quite good and better than you might expect but this is definitely not made as a daily driver.

Coming back to Milan after our road loop we headed straight for the drag strip to grab a helmet and time on the track.

There's something funny about watching the Christmas lights countdown to green on a dragstrip when you are sitting in a pickup truck.

With an empty bed, instinctively, all you expect to happen at the green light is maybe a lot of smoke and the truck hopping sideways all over the place. All wheel drive makes for another matter. Instantly the Coolside took off and quickly got to 90+ mph. Handling was dead on center the entire straightaway.

After our surface street ride and 1/4-mile sprint, this is one chariot we wish would have reached production.


Chevrolet Coolside I
Three-passenger, two-door pickup truck
Front-engine, All-Wheel Drive

Engine Type and Size:
- GM SPO 502 cubic inch 8.2-liter high output "Gen V" partial engine assembly

Horsepower (hp):
536 @ 5000 rpm

Torque (ft./ lbs.):
605 @ 3500 rpm

Engine Mods:
- Block honed from 4.47" to 4.5" bore
- 4.5" forged flat top pistons
- Wiseco 1/16" moly top, 1/16" cast 2nd c, 3/16" chrome-faced oil ring set
- Block head surfaces adjusted for .015" deck height
- Speed Pro Roller timing chain/sprocket set
- Balanced and fitted assembly
- Bowtie "W-Port"
- Modified deck face to match GEN V water passages
- Reduced intake port opening to match ASM intake manifold runner
- Bowl-ported intake and exhaust
- Combustion chambers matched to 4.5" bore. Deck surfaced machined to .060"

Four-speed automatic

- Two piece intake manifold assembly
Dual 58mm bore throttle body
- Fabricated dual air cleaner system with two ‘94 Camaro LT1 filter elements

Reduced ride height and shorter shocks to prevent "bottoming out"

Fabricated stainless steel four-into-one tubular headers, 2" x 34" runners into 3" collectors
- Fabricated dual 3" exhaust system complete to rear bumper with 2.5 " balance tube
- BORLA dual XR-1-3" inlet and outlet mufflers

Wheels and Tires:
- 5-spoke polished aluminum wheels
- BF Goodrich ZR Tires

Body / Interior:
- Regular cab
- Stepside box
- Pearlescent White exterior with multicolored stripes and hard tonneau bed cover
- Custom leather bucket seats

0 - 60 mph:

1/4-mile time:

1/4-mile speed:

An admirable predecessor to today's performance trucks
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