Classic Pickups: 1969 Chevy Longhorn Silver Streak Custom Camper

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By Richard Truesdell

Wikipedia defines a truck camper as “any recreational vehicle or RV that may be carried in the bed of a pickup truck. In North America, this RV type is sometimes known as a slide-in or cab-over.” At one time, especially in the 1960s, truck campers made up a substantial part of the recreational vehicle market, but its popularity waned over time as other RVs emerged, especially van-based Class C RVs. But the truck camper’s versatility remains unmatched as the camper can be easily dismounted and you’re left with all the versatility of a conventional pickup truck.

Let’s look at one example this combo: a pristine 1968 Silver Streak truck camper mounted in the bed of an original, 37,000-mile 1969 Chevrolet Longhorn Custom Camper.

The Silver Streak Trailer Co. was founded in 1949 by Frank Pollito and Kenneth Neptune, two former McDonnell Douglas employees who applied their knowledge of aerospace construction techniques to the art of building state-of-the-art travel trailers. Silver Streak’s trailers were compared favorably to the better-known Airstreams.

Rolf Zushlag, a key employee of Silver Streak, purchased the company from Pollito and Neptune in the mid-1980s. Ultimately he moved the company from El Monte, Calif., to Chino, east of Los Angeles. Zushlag continued with the production of Silver Streaks until the company shut down in 1997.

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The 1968 Silver Streak shown here is representative of the 600 Silver Streak truck campers built in the late ‘60s by the company best known for its travel trailers. Its companion truck is the pride and joy of Henry Wallace, who has assembled an enviable collection of vintage RVs, pickups, and automobiles as part of his Wallace Collection. Some of his unique vehicles predate World War II and date back to the start of the recreational vehicle era.

The condition of the Silver Streak is exceptional, and included in the sale was all the original paperwork, including the original bill of sale, brochures and manuals. Wallace found the Silver Streak in 2005 when it was put up for sale by a charity that had taken it as a donation.

This Silver Streak is 10.5 feet long and contains an over-cab 54-inch-wide bed, a full kitchen with a stove and refrigerator, and a combination toilet and shower. It is a paragon of space efficiency, and in that regard it has little in common with a modern 40-foot diesel Class-A pusher with four slide-outs. Whereas the Silver Streak is more akin to a studio apartment, a modern RV has more in common with a New York City penthouse.

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Wallace’s Longhorn Custom Camper had just 31,000 miles on the odometer when he bought it. It is equipped with a big-block 396-cubic-inch V-8, power steering and factory air conditioning. In the era in which it was built, Wallace's Longhorn Custom Camper was a fully equipped pickup truck.

Looking at page 8 of the 1969 full-line Chevy truck brochure, we see that Chevrolet's marketers — like their counterparts at Ford, Dodge, Kaiser Jeep and International — were clearly addressing the emerging RV market. In the case of Chevrolet, the brochure proclaimed, “Factory installed equipment to make Chevy pickups and chassis-cab units more suitable for camper service is another way that Chevrolet brings greater efficiency to the American motoring public. The availability of such items as heavy-duty springs, high-capacity tires and front stabilizers make it possible to move your camper with greater driving ease and keeps repairs to a minimum.” The brochure continues, stressing truck toughness with a smooth ride. In a nod to what was to come, it stressed the availability of “low-silhouette” four-wheel-drive.

The published specifications for Wallace's C20 three-quarter-ton Longhorn state that the gross vehicle weight rating for a cab-over with rear overhang is a respectable 7,500 pounds. The camper can be up to 10.5 feet long, and the camper itself can weigh up to 1,600 pounds. The companion Silver Streak brochure indicates that Wallace's 10.5-foot camper weighs in at 1,990 pounds, meaning that with a combined 3,000 pounds for the camper, passengers and other equipment, Wallace has about 1,000 pounds to designate for himself, his wife and all their gear.

When PickupTrucks.com spoke with Wallace, he related the story of how the Silver Streak was added to his collection. After he found the Silver Streak in San Diego, rather than having it shipped back to Kentucky, he flew in to San Diego, completed the purchase, mounted the camper, and then he and his wife drove the combo east. “The trip east was very interesting,” he says. “Sleeping in the 54-inch cab-over bed is the most comfortable possible. You can look out the top front windows and see all things going by. I grew up camping in a 1968 Open Road that had the same style, cab-over bed, and the Silver Streak brings back great memories.”

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Comments

That was the way to go back then. Cab looks short for the long box. I'm not sure how that cab over bed could be comfortable. Those storage shelves take away bed length and would be better suited attached to the ceiling.

It is still the way to go... I love my truck camper.

Great article, but you missed the unique feature of the Chevy Longhorns: an 8.5' Fleetside box. Looking at the pictures, you can see quite a gap between the back of the cab and the camper. Back in the day, most of the slide-in pickup camper manufacturers made special campers for these extended wheelbase-longer box pickups. Looks like the Silver Streak in the pictures is made for an 8' box. No matter, it's a great combination anyway.

Chevy's last awesome truck! Well, the next model up to 87 was good too but I never quite could get past those awful squared off wheel openings. These round ones just looked so much better! That truck is so clean and sharp looking!! SFA on the 4x4's too! Long live Yesterday's Chevrolet! Modern Chevy's suck though. Ugly looking and cheap as hell in the build quality dept.

This would be so much fun. Don't see em no more around here. That Chevy would get the job done too. The good old days!!

Actually seen that model Chevy Pickup in Australia with that long bed. They had similar Fords as well here.
Slideon or Glideon's, Truck campers (in the US/Canada) were very popular in the late 1960's/1970's in Australia. Now they are a niche product being built on Car/Utes, Asian Pickups, US Pickups Van cutaways and Japanese trucks.

A 2004 Ford Falcon RTV Ute with a Canadian Adventurer 76R TC
http://www.truckcampermagazine.com/images/stories/April_2_2011/expert-rushton.jpg

Locally made Slideon with Asian Pickup
http://www.wombatco.com.au/files/4113/1530
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http://www.escaperv.com.au/Luxury_Tourer_files/AeroProfile_SD_LT_eBrochureV2_Page_01.jpg

http://www.wombatco.com.au/files/4113/1530/5371/P1000604.jpg

I always like the 67-69 Chevy body style and also the 70-72. Great article Mark thanks again.

@Big Bob - thanks for the extra infromation. didn't know they had a 8 1/2 ft box. I wondered why the camper sat that way.
I find that big slide-in campers are popular with boaters. Some of them are monstrously huge with slide-outs.

"Long live Yesterday's Chevrolet! Modern Chevy's suck though. Ugly looking and cheap as hell in the build quality dept."

-I quoted that for truth. I love the fourth picture with the Chevy truck in front of the God Never Fails sign. Too bad God wasn't running Chevrolet for the last 30 years.. Since 1987 (offroad) and 1998 period if we're talking only trucks. The last 14 years of Chevy trucks have been a complete and total failure in quality and design. Nothing even close to the quality and design of this 69. Just an awesome piece of REAL Chevrolet history. I too prefer round wheel wells. Cool article Mark!

Best Chevy truck design ever. I had a 72 that looked just like this. I wish I still had it. Very cool camper as well! Those were the hot set up years ago. Back in the good ol days. :)

Awesome old Chevy there. Probably my favorite bodystyle too. Followed by the GMT-400's. I always agreed with the guys who thought if they could combine the 2, they'd have a winner of a truck once again. I'm not seeing it in the new design unfortunately but we'll see when the wraps are off.

I'm also extremely fond of the 40's and 50's Chevy trucks, especially for hot rodding. Same with the Ford's for the same purposes. The 70's-80's square body Chevy's I loved as well but they looked best in 4x4 trim with beefy tires. It still stands as my favorite offroader truck. I prefer it over the Ford's of the 70's/80's era hands down. Overall though, in both 2wd trim, hot rod trim or 4x4 trim, the 67-72 Chevy's and the 400's stand as the 2 greatest Chevy trucks of all time. Possibly the 2 greatest trucks period of all time aside from the current F-150 and of course the Super Duty. The camper on top of this old 69 is just icing on the classic Chevy cake. Thanks as well for the trip down memory lane Mark! It reminded me of why I was once a Chevy guy. And I suppose it reminds me of why I'm not anymore too. They just don't build them like that now.

Looking at this pickup just brings back the memories when Chevrolet built good quality built pickups just like the ones offered today. And that is why GM trucks have blown away the competition in the HD market. Every magazine I have read including this online magazine has picked the GM HD pickups as the best pickup offered today. Sorry to all you Ford and Dodge boys out there!

@ Greg - please explain why GM won all of those tests but looses in sales?
Blown away only counts in the profit and loss columns of a corporate spreadsheet.
The only thing GMC has bown away is 100 billion pre-bailout and is shaping up to blow away another 60 billion in tax money.

I thought Ford and Dodge was selling more H.D. Trucks then
G.M. SORRY G.M. GUYS!!!!!!!!!!!

@FordTrucks1, I completely agree with your assessment. These trucks and those 88-98 trucks were some of the best Chevrolet ever made all around. People, myself included still swear by both. Our lots still fill up with many 400's every morning. As mentioned, a nod to the 73-87's is in good order as well. The trucks of 40's,50's,60's are very popular hot rodding trucks from Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge alike. I think those trucks fit well with the hot rod look and culture the most and that's why so many are used in that manner. Car shows are loaded with them. These 67-72's make their way in as well but mostly in short box form that I've seen. We have an annual 4th Street car cruise every year and those pick ups from all the Big 3 are very popular. Almost as much as the cars.

@Lou, I agree with yours as well. This company has really tested my limits of loyalty for quite some time now. Chevrolet has lost much to Ford here in Deere Country in truck and car sales and brand loyalty. I have to just check out of the car-truck industry online news sometimes because I get so frustrated by it.

One things for sure, old Chevy's sure were awesome. Even the Ford guys can't deny it. I've rarely read an online post from a Ford guy knocking an old Chevrolet product. I've rarely met a Ford guy in real life who doesn't respect old Chevrolet either. New Chevy's though, eh...Not so much. Mediocre is about the right word. They've lost their way concerning trucks since the turn of the century and gone completely downhill in looks and quality. They sure did dominate the 20th century though. This yellow truck is a testament to that. An American Icon to me.

@HemiV8, I don't know exact sales figures but you rarely see a Chevy HD in these parts. Most farmers for the 30+ years I've been in this industry used to use Chevy trucks. I bet they went from 90% market share here still in the early 90's to maybe 10% market share now and that's being very generous. Ford picked up most of that market share in the late 90's with the Super Duty. The 2500 Chevy's frame was/is too low to the dirt. They get stuck up in field ruts, especially when it's been raining. The 400's were such a workhorse that they stuck with them but when something better came along (Super Duty) at about the same time the 1999 Chevy car/truck (800's) came out, it was pretty much a lost battle. You could run larger tires, no worries about the frame getting stuck in the fields and the Ford's had such stout build quality while Chevy's became really really cheap. I can about pinpoint the turn in the tide from Chevy to Ford to that 99/2000 timeframe. That's the 2500's but it also encompassed the 1500's as well. A few years with the 800's and even the Chevy diehards who just ran the standard 1500 trucks were ready to jump ship. When Ford's new 1500 came out in 2004, it was over.

Concerning Dodge, they started to make inroads here when the 94 came out. Those who always bought Chevy's but weren't diehard loyalists at the time were really turned on by the SFA and rugged design of the new Dodge Ram. Initially, Dodge got most of the disenfranchized Chevy customers from the Chevy's losing their SFA a few years prior. Then came the Super Duty. From about 2000 on, it's been a battle between the Dodge and Ford in the HD arena. I will say most farmers still run loaded King Ranch Super Duty trucks. I have however seen a fair share of new loaded Dodge HD's. Chevy's aren't even part of the picture.

@BrianHawn - I'd have to agree that most of the trucks from Ford and Chev pre-80's were instant classics. I don't have anything negative to say about any of the Chevies from those era's either.
I feel that for the most part - the 80's and 90's were the lost decades for the automotive industry. Chrysler and Ford have pulled it together but I feel that GM is still lost. I also agree that Chrysler didn't turn around until the 1994 Ram. No one drove Chrysler products where I lived. The dealerships kept going broke. Now I see Ram and Ford do a 40%/40% split of HD's with GM pulling in 20%. It is closer in the 1/2 ton ranks but I do seem to see slightly more Ford and Ram trucks. High end trucks are very common.
Muscle cars are an interesting example of where GM is lost.
Ford came out with the "retro" Mustang and so did Chrysler with the Challenger and Charger. Cool cars. Chevy came out with the Camaro but it is basically a restyled re-badged Holden. They couldn't even do their own muscle car. I like the Camaro but shouldn't it be an American design? Weren't muscle cars born in the USA?

@Lou,
" Chevy came out with the Camaro but it is basically a restyled re-badged Holden. They couldn't even do their own muscle car. I like the Camaro but shouldn't it be an American design? Weren't muscle cars born in the USA?"

Then they migrated here.
http://www.carfani.com/wp-content/pictures/2007-HSV-E-Series-Grange-design.jpg.

http://www.themotorreport.com.au/content/image/4/5/45_fpv_gt_r_spec_front-4b77ad1238901.jpg

http://www.webwombat.com.au/motoring/car-photos/fpv-gt-p-2-big.jpg

http://www.webwombat.com.au/motoring/car-photos/fpv-pursuit-ute-1-big.jpg

How is it these fan boys turn a article about a classic truck/camper in to a knock on GM thing? GM always have and always will make a tough product, I would rather have a flimsier (sp?) dash than a flimsier drivetrain (the other two, Dodges trannys and Fords engines). Besides, dodge had the worst interior cheapness until this last redesign, Ford was plastic crap until its last redesign (look at my buddies 04 FX4, hard dreary grey plastics just like GM but ahead of Dodge). I bet we hear crickets after the new trucks come and there is nothing to knock them about except maybe the worst possible thing in the world, square wheel wells since the interior will be fixed and maybe the sheetmetal thickness but then again Dodge is using Aluminum...

Also Brian Hawn and his in depth analysis of Deere County HD truck sales was great and very well looked in to and followed up (insert sarcasm here).

They certainly don't make them like they used to (any of the big three) because they make them better. About the only thing that was better back then was again sheetmetal thickness, but the panels and everything was more prone to rusting than today. Trucks today are better, and newer vehicles all around will be better than old, its called technology.

Yes, the truck in this article is pretty badass and I love seeing the classics!

I also like some of the late 40s thru mid 50s Dodges and the early 50s thru late 60s IHs. Also the early 50s thru the 1960 Ford F series (especially 55 and 56 but I also like the 57). The old Chevys were great and so were the mid 50s GMCs with lots of chrome.

Tyler, the 04 and up F-150 interior build quality (and design) far surpasses that of anything Chevrolet has put out since 1998. Really, Ford completely turned around their interior and exterior build quality in the 1997 model. The interior plastics are thicker and more durable. The same is true of the steering wheel material. Chevy steering wheels became really cheap, thin and soft. They'll literally start to disintigrate within a few years of use from sweat on your hands. Likewise the leather and cloth on the Chevy interiors has been very poor since the 98 model ended. Ford interiors are very solid and durable. No rattles or creaking plastics on the scale of the GM's. I also rarely hear of any complaints on Ford's drivetrains. I'm well aware of the Navistar diesel debacle. However, most trucks around here are gasoline powered. Guys just don't have issues with Ford powertrains anymore like the old days.

As for my analysis, I stand by it 100%. I've lived in Iowa my entire life. 5 generations of farmers and I'm the 3rd to work for Deere and Co. I deal with literally thousands of our customers every year. I do visits to customers every day out in the fields and on worksites. I know what these guys drive now. I know how they feel about trucks and what they think. I know where their brand loyalty for truck and likewise car purchases now lies. If in any way your fanboy comment was directed at me, I suppose I am. I've been a Chevrolet "fanboy" my entire life. Not that of Ford, not that of Dodge. I am a straight shooter though and call it how it is. I hope you're right and we do indeed hear crickets when the new Silverado arrives. Nothing would make this fanboy happier than to see Chevrolet restored to it's former glory.

@BrianHawn I thought thats why everyone likes ford interiors because soft touch materials. Now you people are saying soft touch materials are bad cause its on a GM steering wheel. Get real you people make no damn sense, atleast make up you're minds.

Ram started using aluminum hoods in 09. Ford has used fiber glass panels on hoods and entire beds of trucks. I would rather have metal over fiber glass any day.

BrianHAwn.......What are your experiences with the different truck owners? What are the most common trucks in your neck of the woods? Here in Northern Va...Blue Ridge Mountains...Ford and Dodge HDs and Chevy 1500.....I also see more 70s-94 chevy and dodge, rather than old fords.

@JohnnyDoe, Chevy's steering wheels are notorious for wearing down really fast. Apparently you GM guys don't get what soft touch means. That means pleasant to look at plastics on the dash area, doors, around the guages etc. Instead of a hard, cheap and sterile look, they are attractive, upscale, don't look cheap for a 50k dollar truck and invite you in to stay for awhile. It's very important to those of us who use trucks as our offices. Brian's comments are spot on. We have dozens of Chevy trucks at work and the interiors are crap. The steering wheels DO disintegrate. Oily sweaty hands holding them all day literally rubs them down to mush. Your soft touch bashing has zero,zip, nada to do with a cheap steering wheel that wears out too fast. Steering wheels should be thick, tight and tough. Durable high quality tightly wrapped leather in the only way to go whether it's on a base model or a loaded model. You don't skimp on the wheel. It's what literally connects the driver to the vehicle. "Soft Touch" refers to plastics. Steering wheels are not made of plastic.

LOLOL!! Tyler's just all pissy everyone is talking about Chevy, Ford and Dodge instead of his girly denali GMC's he wants everyone to own. Sorry kid, stick to suburbia.

Cool old Chevy by the way. Much better looking than the frankentruck they make now.

@JamesL Soft touch means touching something soft. I didn't know you touched the dash with you're eye ball. You make no damn sense

(Apparently you GM guys don't get what soft touch means. That means pleasant to look at plastics on the dash area, doors, around the guages etc)

If they meant looks they would say soft looking looks, but not touch. I sure aint got a PHD, but I tell touch sure the hell don't mean looking.

@Moparmadness

Nope, I have no desire to own a Denali, I use my truck and leather would just just fall apart and look like crap. Nice try though, not sure where I mentioned GMC in my post but please point it out if I did...

@Brian my buddies truck (as well as some others that have fords) seem to go against much of what you said, then again different areas and different people own them differently so it could be the area (extreme heat of Texas) or how they use them.

I do agree with your last sentence, which I am sure they will as I have said before it is the circle of truck life.

@Johndoe,

Soft touch has just recently (last couple of model years) been introduced on trucks. It takes a redesign to get that kind of stuff out there. Look at the some of the Fiat products (300, Charger, Grand Cherokee) and GM Lamda products, all needed a redesign to get that "soft touch" that has been the crazy in their cars/trucks. GM will do it with the next redesign as Ford and Dodge did earlier. Not sure when Toyota will join the mix but I am sure at somepoint they will too.

On the GM quality Issue, have any of you seen GMT 800 ceter stacks that are 2003-2007? most of the bottom shave worn so you cannot tell what they are. GM used white plastic than painted it black everywhere except where the words or the station preset numbers would go. fingernails and sweat would break them down, and the late GMT 400s and early 800s had noobs fall of the radio. my 800 had the guage cluster break. i had a 5 yr old 800 with less than 100k and I detailed it, but the leather still cracked. Or Family has had two GMT 400s growing up a 95 and a 99, i owned an 05 GMT 800, but after all the problems with it i went to ford and am happy with my 2010 SVT Raptor. GM needs to get their act together 2 yrs ago half are vehicles where GM trucks, now we have one GMT-400 99 suburban left , 4 Fords , a nissan, and a VW.

Nice Truck!

Concerning 'soft touch' plastics, yes, it technically does mean softer to the touch. So Johnny is partially right. Although, the point about the steering wheel is a tad off base there as the term does refer to molded plastics. That said, the others are correct as well. Rarely does anybody actually touch their dashboards. It more for an aesthetically pleasing finish to look at. GM truck and car interiors have been the worst of the worst for a good 30 years in my view. Chrysler was close behind them. Their truck interior quality however took a serious nosedive when the 1999 Silverado came out. It was just a sea of cheap hard brittle plastic and poor fabric. And boy did those things rust out fast. The new bodystyles don't have the rust issues that I've seen and they are slightly better interior wise. They're just really flimsy on the body metal and not really attractive. Compared to this yellow 1969, the new trucks are pretty sad save for modern suspensions and fuel injection.

Again I would like to thank everyone for the comments on my second classic truck feature. I really enjoy doing them and it seems that Mark Williams, with whom I worked with when he was editing another publication, is a fan as well.

The third feature, a classic Dodge, had already been submitted and hopefully he will get it formatted and posted this week. I can honestly say, as a teaser, is is so heavy duty, just about any other pickup pales in comparison.

I am converting to PDF some brochures from sixties-era trucks and will upload them along with some ads that weren't posted here to my FTP site and will let every one know when they are ready to be viewed.

Richard Truesdell

@johnnydose - "Soft touch means touching something soft."
I'm not really sure how to respond to that brilliant statement.
Multiple thoughts come to mind.
Most of them funny and/or profane.
Thanks Johnnie for making my day!

Wow! I image owning one of this. It is indeed really great having one. I love its features too. Great feature.

I have that exact '69 Chevy sitting in my yard right now. My husband bought it with a camper (not a Silver streak) in the mid '80s. We traveled all over the western US until the camper eventually gave out but the pick up is still going strong. Love the long bed. Wish I could find a tail gate for it though, because it came with the camper installed it has never had a tailgate.

This yellow truck featured is the way Chevy used to make them. They don't make it like that anymore! It rather have this '69 than any equivilent condition 1980 or newer in my driveway!

Technology changes human lifestyle and for that these campers are responsible to provide ease to access lifestyle in traveling with family as well as doing business.
http://www.bigtrailerwarehouse.com.au/

Just curious what price the owner would put on it if they were to sell. Wonderful older truck , wife even likes this one.

Yes , I did notice the gap between the cab & camper. Thinking since we travel with 4 dogs , why not put in a sliding rear window , then build a "dog house" in that space. I know a guy in Ne. who could make it look like part of the camper. Keep it simple & really clean looking.

My husband and I bought a 69 Chevy Longhorn truck in 1969 and still own it. We used to have an 11 & 1/2 foot camper on it. We extended the bumper and it worked just fine. Did a lot of camping with it. Later I had an 8 & 1/2 foot camper on it and also pulled a horse trailer with 2 horses in it. No problem going up hills. A 3/4 ton with the 396 engine has plenty of power.



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