The Chevrolet Titan and GMC Astro are heavy-duty (Class 8) cabover trucks that were manufactured by the GMC Truck and Coach Division of General Motors. The largest cabover trucks ever produced by GM, the Titan (and more common Astro) were introduced for 1969, replacing the 1960-1968 GMC "Crackerbox" COEs. The Astro and Titan would become the final trucks of the type assembled and marketed by General Motors, following the 1981 exit of Chevrolet from heavy truck sales and the 1986 creation of the Volvo GM joint venture.
In 1959, GMC introduced its Class 8 cabover trucks, replacing the previous "Cannonball" fixed-cab COEs. Distinguished by its boxy appearance, it became nicknamed the "Crackerbox". Available in a 48-inch BBC (bumper to back of cab) length, the truck was produced with an all-aluminum fully tilting cab. Alongside a 702 cubic-inch GMC V12 gasoline engine, the truck was available with Detroit Diesel 6V71 and 8V71 diesels. Along with single or tandem axle configurations, the GMC "Crackerbox" was available with a sleeper cab.
In the late 1960s, as American truck manufacturers introduced updated designs for cabover trucks, design work began on an all-new Class 8 cabover. Expanding the product line to the Chevrolet brand, the replacement for the GMC Crackerbox sought to expand interior space, visibility, and driver ergonomics. For the 1969 model year, the GMC F was replaced by the GMC Astro alongside the Chevrolet Titan.
1985 GMC Astro in Chile, showing the smaller grille of 1969-1979 U.S. models.
The GMC Astro/Chevrolet Titan are Class 8 cabover-engine (COE) trucks, sold in both single and tandem rear axle configurations. In contrast to the Crackerbox, the cab of the Astro was lengthened nearly six inches into a 54-inch BBC length with two sleeper cab configurations available. In what would be a distinguishing feature of the vehicle, the Astro/Titan was produced with a wraparound dashboard; the speedometer and tachometer were placed directly in the line of sight of the driver while most secondary gauges were placed off to the side, based on their level of use.
In stark contrast to the boxy Crackerbox, the exterior of the Astro/Titan featured rounded body corners and wraparound windshield glass. In 1975, GMC introduced a Dragfoilerroof spoiler as an option. In an option that became standard a year later, in 1979, GMC and Chevrolet offered the SS (Special Series) package. Featuring a (much) larger radiator grille, improvements to exterior and interior trim, the SS package was meant to market the Astro/Titan towards owner-operators. In 1983, the Aero Astro option package was released, largely as an effort to improve fuel economy. Along with the Dragfoiler roof spoiler, the option package included body extension panels between the cab and trailer, an air dam below an extended bumper and an optimized radiator grille.
In a major change from precedent, when introduced in 1969, the Astro/Titan were marketed exclusively with diesel engines. The base engine was the Detroit Diesel 6-71N, with the Detroit Diesel 8V71 and Cummins N-Series diesels as options. In 1972, the Detroit Diesel 12V71 became available as an option; though rarely ordered, the V12 engine would remain through 1978. Although Detroit Diesel had developed a gas-turbine version of the GMC Astro in the early 1970s, fuel-economy concerns would keep it out of production. In 1977, the Cummins KT450 and Caterpillar 3406 became options; the larger engines required the addition of a larger radiator. In 1979, the 6-71 was replaced by the 6V92, making all available Detroit Diesel engines V-engines; the 6V71 was discontinued after 1980.
Following the launch of the cabover product line in 1969, the GMC Astro quickly exceeded the Chevrolet Titan in sales and market share. In 1981, 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 support for heavy-duty trucks by Chevrolet dealers. In contrast to other GM 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 already 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, GMC trucks were phased out in favor of White-designed Volvo GM products. The GMC Astro ceased production after the 1987 model year (coincidentally, two years after Chevrolet launched a van with the same name).
Although Volvo GM would continue sales of COE trucks under the White GMC and Western Star brands (the WhiteGMC WH and Western Star Cabover; both versions of the White Road Commander II), the GMC Astro was never directly replaced by Volvo GM, Volvo, or General Motors.
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