The Chevrolet Bruin and GMC Brigadier are heavy-duty (Class 7-8) trucks that were assembled by the GMC Truck and Coach Division of General Motors. The second generation of the H/J-series heavy-duty conventionals, the Bruin/Brigadier were produced from 1978 to 1988. A short-hood conventional similar to the Ford L-Series and Mack Model R, the Bruin/Brigadier was configured as both a straight truck and a semi-tractor. As a Class 7-8 truck, the product line saw use with short-haul, vocational, and severe-service users.
In 1966, General Motors split its heavy-duty trucks further apart from medium-duty models, giving them a distinct chassis and ending the use of the cab from the C/K-series pickup truck. The 1966 H/J-series ( H=single; J=tandem) was designed with a model-specific 93-inch BBC cab and chassis. Alongside GMC V6 and Chevrolet 427 V8 gasoline engines, the H/J trucks were available with Cummins, Detroit Diesel, and Caterpillar diesel engines.
The H/J-Series formed the basis of the C(later N)/M-series trucks; using a longer 114-inch BBC to accommodate larger diesel engines). In 1977, the N/M-series was replaced by the Class 8 Chevrolet Bison/GMC General semitractor. From 1966 to 1970, GMC would use a separate conventional school bus chassis from Chevrolet, basing it on the H6500 instead of the medium-duty Chevrolet C60 (in 1971, GMC would return to a medium-duty chassis).
GMC Brigadier semitractor
In the mid-1970s, General Motors began shifting away from its alphanumeric nomenclature for truck names. While still using the H/J name internally, the redesign brought new names to the vehicles. At Chevrolet, Bruin was in line with several "frontier"-related nameplates (Bison, Bruin, Kodiak, Blazer, Silverado, Scottsdale, Cheyenne). GMC took on its own pattern, adopting military-related nameplates (General, Brigadier, and TopKick; the latter being a slang term).
GMC introduced the Brigadier in a 9500 series, expanding to an 8000 series in 1979. Chevrolet offered the Bruin in a 70, 80, and 90 series. Externally, a Chevrolet Bruin is hard to distinguish from a GMC Brigadier, with the lone exception of the grille on butterfly-hood examples (on those, Bruins have two headlights while Brigadiers have four).
The Chevrolet Bruin/GMC Bruin carried over the H/J 9500 cab introduced in 1966, but with a number of changes. Replacing the removable steel hood is a fully tilting fiberglass hood with a larger rectangular grille; the larger hood features a redesigned radiator, featuring better engine cooling. For durability, the previous-generation center-hinged "butterfly" hood remains available. While produced with an optional cab airfoil, the cab is sold with either a one-piece or a two-piece windshield.
The Chevrolet 427 gasoline V8 would be the standard engine for the Bruin/Brigadier. In 1982, the Brigadier became powered exclusively by diesel engines. Alongside the Detroit Diesel 6V53, 6V71, 6-71, 8V71, and 6V92, the Caterpillar 3208 were used alongside the Cummins NTC diesels. In 1984, the Cummins L10 was introduced as an option.
1980s GMC Brigadier in use as fire engine
Following the launch of the product line, the GMC Brigadier quickly overtook the Chevrolet Bruin in sales and market share. After the 1981 model year, General Motors ended sales of heavy trucks by the Chevrolet Division, leading to the cancellation of the Chevrolet Bruin, Bison, and Titan. A major factor leading to the cancellation was lack of product support by Chevrolet dealers. In contrast to other brands, a key requirement of GMC franchisees of the time was the ability to sell and service the entire GMC product line. In addition to light trucks, this meant a potential GMC franchise needed the ability to support medium-duty trucks, heavy-duty commercial trucks, the GMC motorhome, P-chassis, and school bus chassis. For a typical dealership, this meant dedicating profitable space that would have otherwise gone to selling passenger cars.
In 1986, Volvo AB entered into a joint venture with General Motors in heavy-truck production, with Volvo taking an 85% stake. Having acquired White Motor Company in 1980, the joint venture would do business as Volvo GM Heavy Truck Corporation, selling trucks under the combined WhiteGMC product badge. Under the joint venture, the slow-selling GMC General and Astro were replaced by WhiteGMC products; while the Brigadier would be replaced by the GMC C8500.
In 1990, General Motors redesigned the Chevrolet Kodiak/GMC TopKick. This included the C6500, C7500, and the new Class 8 C8500.
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