If you're a General Motors short Stepside classic truck owner, you may already know the subtle differences between these 1954-1987 Chevy truck beds and GMC truck beds. However, if you're new to ownership of a GM short-bed Stepside, this article serves to detail the differences to help you find the truck bed parts you need. If your classic Chevy truck bed is in rough shape, you can purchase some new reproduction bedside panels from Classic Industries for your pickup. You might also be able to find a used truck bed in a salvage yard that's in better nick than yours, or buy new old stock (NOS) parts through an online auction site. No matter which path you take to restore your truck, knowing how to identify the different era Chevy truck beds is an essential first step.
Chevy Truck Bed Features & Differences
Beginning in 1954, Chevy truck beds began using a horizontal bedside top surface. In previous years the bedside top had an angled surface. The stake pocket shape is also different, in addition to the bedsides being taller than in previous years. There's an embossed rectangular pattern in the front bed panel that almost extends the full width of the bed. The inside width of the bed area is 50" from the previous generation of GM pickups all the way through the 1987 model of GM Stepsides.
If you're interested in learning about more of the key differences between General Motors trucks over the years, check out our previous article:
Now, let's take a closer look at the differences between various generations of Chevy truck bed and GMC truck bed designs.
1954-55 (1st Series) Short Bed Chevy / GMC Trucks
- There's an embossed pattern stamped in the bedside sheet metal that follows the fender's shape where the fender attaches to the bedsides.
- The fenders are round in shape and are the same as those used in the 1947-53 model years.
- The bed has three cross sills that are approximately 2-1/8" tall, which is a bit taller than in previous years. In addition, beginning with the 1954 model, GM eliminated the wooden bed-to-frame bed mounting blocks.
- Dimensions for the rear sill mounting brackets are 4" long x 2-1/8" tall and are mounted 44-1/4" apart.
- There are seven bed strips and eight wood boards. The boards have the same widths as the 1951-53 GM model beds. The bed strip and bed wood length are 77-1/8", which is a tad longer than the previous iteration pickup.
- Both GMC and Chevrolet sported an all-new design tailgate. Similar to the front bed panel, there's an embossed large rectangular pattern with an embossed GMC or Chevrolet within the rectangle's center.
1955 (2nd series)-59 Short Bed Chevy / GMC Trucks
- In terms of the bedside sheet metal, it's the same dimension as the previous generation. However, the embossed pattern now has three ribs that are approximately 1" wide instead of the previous version following the rounded shape of the fenders. The three-ribbed pattern remained unchanged through the 1987 model.
- For the 2nd series and onward, the fender design changed to a more squared off configuration that lasted through the 1966 model year.
- The dimensions of the rear sill mounting brackets changed to approximately 3" in length by 2-1/8" tall. The brackets are 31-3/4" apart.
- Of the three cross sills, the third from the front is unique. Its lower edges are formed upward at the outer ends of the cross sill.
- Yet again, the bed strips and the wood planks number seven and eight, respectively. They have the same dimensions as the 1st series trucks. What's different, and what makes the wood planks non-interchangeable is the fact that the installation holes are in different locations.
- As for the bed and angle strips, they will work, as they have an identical bolt pattern to the 1st series trucks.
- While the Chevrolet tailgate remained unchanged, the GMC tailgate logo has a larger center "M" that extends beneath the "G" and the "C".
1960-62 Short Bed Chevy / GMC Trucks
- Though the bedside sheet metal is the same, the angle strip has a different bolt hole pattern. If the angle strip is changed to the desired year series, the 1955-59 bedsides may be swapped with the 1960-62 series.
- The fender shape/design is the same as the previous era model.
- The rear sill mounting brackets are about 4" in length and 3" tall and are spaced 39-3/4" apart. You'd need to replace the mounting brackets to use the rear sill from another year series of pickups.
- Supporting the bed wood are three cross sills and one reinforcing strip. At each bed-to-frame bolt location there's a welded, 1" tall spacer.
- There are once again seven bed strips and eight wooden planks. The lengths are the same, but the widths are different than in 1955-59 models. Bed strip bolt locations in the rear sill, cross sills, reinforcing strip, and front bed panel are different due to the width difference in the bed wood.
- Both the bed strip and the angle strip bolt locations are different than 1955-59 models, making them not swappable.
- The bed wood, cross sills, and rear sill components are not swappable with any other year GM pickups, because the bed-to-frame bolt locations are unique for the 1960-62 model year pickups.
1963-66 Short Bed Chevy / GMC Trucks
- The fenders are unchanged from the 1955-59 and 1960-62 model.
- The bedside sheet metal that is utilized is the same as with the previous years of trucks, but the angle strip has a different bolt hole pattern. The correct angle strip would need to be installed to achieve the desired swap-ability.
- For these years, the rear sill mounting brackets are 4" long and 3" tall. They're mounted 31-3/4" apart.
- Three cross sills and one reinforcing strip support the bed wood floor. There's a 1" tall spacer welded beneath each bed-to-frame bolt location. Unfortunately, the cross sills cannot be swapped with any other year's series. Heavy modifications would need to be accomplished to achieve the swap.
- Seven bed strips and eight boards comprise the bed floor. The bed board wood is once again the same length, but the width is different than 1955-59 models. Bed strip bolt locations in the rear sill, reinforcing strip, cross sills, and front bed panel are all affected by the wood plank width difference.
- The bed strip and angle strip bolt locations are the same for 1960-62 but are different than 1955-59. Hence, don't make more work for yourself by trying to use these with the 1955-59.
- Beginning in 1963, the GMC lettering on the tailgate changed to a block style font. The Chevrolet font remains unchanged.
1967-72 Short Bed Chevy / GMC Trucks
- GM made some minor changes to the rear fenders as well as the angle strip bolt pattern during this six-year epoch. There's also a bit of difference with the taillight mounting holes on the rear stake pockets and a slightly larger bedside curl diameter.
- For 1967, the fender bolt pattern changed in the bed sides to accommodate the shape change to the rear fenders. 1968 model and later trucks have side marker lights.
- The rear sill mounting brackets measure approximately 4" in length by 2-1/8" tall. The brackets are 31-3/4" apart.
- Three cross sills and one reinforcing strip support the bed wood. The cross sills have the same hole pattern as the 1963-66 series but don't have the 1" spacer welded on the mounting hole locations. To use the 1967-72 cross sills in a 1963-66 GM truck, you'd need to have the spacers welded in place for the cross sills to fit correctly.
- This era GM pickup also has 7 bed strips and 8 boards. The wood is the same length and width as the 1963-66 series trucks. However, the bed to frame bolt locations is different, and the angle strip bolt pattern is also changed from the 1963-66 series.
- The hole locations are different for the bed strips and angle strips, so you wouldn't want to try and interchange these with the 1963-66 series components.
1973-87 Short Bed Chevy / GMC Trucks
- There's similar bedside sheet metal to the previous GM pickup eras, but the step and fender are altered, as is the angle strip bolt pattern. In the area where the step attaches, the bedside is shaped differently. There is also now wiring loom holes in the bed sides below the wood in the back of the truck. For these reasons bedsides from this era pickups will not work with previous years components.
- Since the fender shape changed for 1973, the bolt hole pattern in the bed sides mirrored the new shape. Due to the placement of the fuel filler door, minor fender design changes occurred from year to year during this series entire span. When you endeavor to swap beds within this year series, please be aware of these differences.
- The rear sill mounting brackets are 3" long by 2-1/8" and are installed 31-1/4" apart.
- A total of three cross sills and two reinforcing strips supports the bed wood. Because the cross sill and reinforcing strip patterns are different from all other year series, these components are not swappable with any other year series GM truck.
- The 6 bed strips and 7 wood boards that comprise the bed are the same length as in previous years. It's difficult to use these items in previous pickup beds, as the widths and mount bolt patterns are different.
- Both the bed strip and angle strip hole locations are unique to this truck, so they aren't interchangeable with the other years. The angle strips have their bolts welded into the angle strips holes, so replacement of the bolts is difficult. If you try to remove the boards from under the angle strip, you may well ruin the boards or totally separate the bedside, front bed panel, and rear sill. Yikes!
Above: 1981 GMC Stepside short bed pickup truck. The bed photo above this one is from this very pickup. All photos are courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Want to Learn More About Truck Bed Wood?
Chevy and GMC trucks were offered with bed wood floors standard until 1972. From 1973-87, Stepside models still came standard with bed wood, but Fleetside long-bed trucks from 1973-80 could be ordered with optional bed wood (RPO E81).
For more information about bed wood, strips, cross sills, and other components, read our article:
Classic Industries Sells GM Truck Parts
Regardless of whether you're renewing a short bed Stepside GMC or Chevrolet pickup, it's a fleetside long bed, or any other sort of configuration, Classic Industries has a great supply of GM pickup components. GM truck owners can shop online for Chevrolet pickups here. Your online shopping for GMC is here.
GM truck owners can supplement the online shopping experience by ordering a free printed Chevrolet/GMC Truck Parts and Accessories Catalog by clicking on the button below.
Much of the reference information for this article was found in a Mar-K article titled, "Bedside Interchangeability - GM Short Stepside Beds". Thank you, Mar-K.