As the best-selling Detroit pickups evolved from no-nonsense two-doors with huge beds to luxurious four-door sedans with a small beds as toughness-enhancing styling touches, most pickup drivers lost the ability to haul 4×8 plywood sheets (and other long items) without that stuff sticking out of the bed. GM’s Chevrolet Division solved that problem in clever fashion, by designing a four-door pickup that could seat five adults in Buick-grade comfort and convert to a two-seater with an eight-foot bed. This was the Avalanche, built from the 2002 through 2013 model years. You could make the Avalanche perform better off-road (and, more important, look more outdoorsy) with the Z71 off-road package, but the early Avalanche also had an option package that made it better on-road: the Z66, available for 2002 through 2006 rear-wheel-drive 1500-series Avalanches. Here’s one of those rare Avalanche Z66s, found in a Denver-area yard recently.
The Avalanche didn’t sell as well as The General had hoped, but plenty of owners just loved the “midgate” feature that did what folding back seats did for some sedans in the 1970s. The Z66 package cost $835, same as the Z71 package (that’s about $1,370 in 2022 dollars), and provided a firmer ride plus smooth-on-the-highway all-season tires and a locking differential.
These badges told the world that you paid extra for a truck that handled better on pavement, rode more comfortably, and towed better than the Z71. That seems to make sense, but few Avalanche shoppers felt that way.
This one got hit hard by a junkyard shopper who wanted nearly all body components forward of the windshield, but I think it was in decent cosmetic shape when it arrived here.
The interior was stuffed full of parts discarded from adjacent vehicles, but you can tell that the cab was quite comfortable back in 2003.
The diamond-plate-influenced upholstery inserts look… industrial.
The engine is a 5.3-liter Vortec V8, otherwise known as “the truck LS” by drifter types looking to do a cheap driveway V8 swap into a title-challenged BMW E46. This one was rated at 285 horsepower.
Pickup… and SUV.
The TV commercials for the early Avalanche weren’t just macho. They were celebrations of cruelty directed at less masculine (i.e., non-Avalanche-owning) males.
What are you doing?
When some weenie coastal-elite-liberal type asks the rough-hewn Avalanche owner to break a dollar for parking-meter change in front of the New Sheridan Hotel in Telluride, the protagonist doesn’t clout the (presumably) vegetarian BMW E28 driver with an axe-handle and leave his twitching corpse in the gutter (because it’s a television commercial during prime time). Instead, he converts his Avalanche into a pickup and takes the dollar. These mean-spirited ads may have backfired with the suburban commuter demographic most likely to buy the Avalanche, however, so they ceased not long after the Avalanche’s appearance in showrooms.