Silverado Generations: Chevy Silverado History

May 19th, 2021 by

Centennial Edition Chevy Silverado

The Chevrolet Silverado pickup has long been a popular choice among truck owners, selling around 12 million vehicles over the years. The Silverado made its debut back in 1975 as the top trim on the Chevrolet C/K line of trucks. These old Chevy Silverados ranked above the Cheyenne, Scottsdale, and Custom Deluxe trims of the C/K lineup.

Today, General Motors manufactures the Silverado under the Chevrolet brand as its line of trucks. The Silverado naturally shares many mechanical commonalities with its GM sibling, the GMC Sierra, yet they remain distinctly different stylistically.

First Generation Chevy Silverado (1998 – 2007)

historical chevy silverado pickup truck

The Silverado didn’t make its debut as a stand-alone model until its release date in late 1998 as a 1999 model year. The old Silverados of 1999 came in 1500 and 2500 series, which we still see today. The first generation Silverado ran until the 2007 model year, with only a slight refresh occurring in 2003, 2004, and another in 2006.

The Chevy Silverado body styles by year changed very little during the first generation. That first year, you could only get a regular cab or the three-door extended cab. Chevy added a driver’s side rear door option in 2000 and a crew cab option in 2004. Chevy reworked the front and rear fascias in 2003.

Chevy also introduced the Silverado SS in 2003, a high-performance truck built with the extended cab and fleetside box. It featured an upgraded powertrain to go with an elevated interior and exterior design. It also came with a performance suspension system and 20-inch wheels. The SS originally came with an all-wheel-drive as the only option until 2005 when Chevy offered a two-wheel-drive platform to improve sales.

In 2006, Chevy introduced the Intimidator SS in homage to the late Dale Earnhardt. The Intimidator SS had signature design cues and badging but was essentially the same mechanically as the SS.

In 2000, Chevy introduced three heavy-duty versions of the Silverado delineated by the 1500HD, 2500HD, and 3500HD nomenclature. These heavy-duty trucks were strengthened versions of the Silverado frame with larger engines and the introduction of the Allison transmission and Duramax Diesel V-8 engine that delivered 300 horsepower and 520 pound-feet torque.

Second Generation Chevy Silverado (2007 – 2014)

2011 Silverado outdoors dark blue 3:4 view

2011 Chevy Silverado

2013 Chevy BiFuel Silverado Side Profile

2013 Chevy Silverado Silverado

The Chevy Silverado model years from 2007 to 2014 marked the second generation of Silverado trucks. Chevy completely redesigned the Silverado’s interior, exterior, frame, and suspension system. The overhaul paid dividends as the Silverado won both the North American Truck of the Year award and Motor Trend magazine’s Truck of the Year in 2007.

Three available cab styles remained from the first generation, with the minor adjustment coming with the extended cab’s rear doors. These rear-facing doors now opened 170 degrees like some of the Silverado’s competitors. The Silverado came in two and four-wheel-drive configurations.

Chevrolet 2011 Silverado interior steering wheel dashboard
Chevrolet 2011 Silverado Interior

Chevy modified the Silverado’s front fascia in 2009, and some models added a six-speed automatic transmission option. A more significant refresh took place in 2010, adding new interior door panels, and the six-speed automatic came standard on the regular cab.

2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD - Front End shown in Sheer Silver Metallic
2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD Front End

Another refresh occurred in 2012 that included an updated grille and front fascia on specific models. Options for a touch-screen radio/navigation system and cooled seats were made available. Aluminum appliques replaced the wood trim inside. The Silverado also received hill start assist and trailer sway control systems to boost its capability.

Heavy-duty Silverado models received an updated, fully-boxed, high-strength steel frame and an improved suspension system. The result now afforded all 4×4 Silverados the capability to add a snowplow.

2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD Crew Cab Big Dooley in construction : bridge setting

2011 Chevrolet Silverado HD Crew Cab

Third Generation Chevy Silverado (2014 – 2019)

The 2014 model year marked the beginning of the third generation of Silverado pickups. Chevy made significant upgrades to the frame using high-strength steel and switched to roll-formed steel for the bed construction to save weight and improve strength. Third generation Chevy Silverado model years run from 2014 to 2019.

2016 Chevy Silverado Truck Bed Mat

2016 Chevy Silverado Truck Bed

Chevy added the High Country trim, officially entering the luxury truck market. The High Country’s premium leather interior complemented the new technology added via the MyLink touch-screen interface, Bluetooth, and iPhone support. Again, the new generation turned heads, earning the North American International Auto Show’s Truck of the Year award in 2014.

2016 Chevrolet Silverado HD High Country interior in Saddle Perforated Leather Appointment

2016 Chevrolet Silverado HD High Country Interior in Saddle Perforated Leather

Chevy enhanced a few design elements in 2015, including newly designed exterior tow mirrors and wheel designs. The Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD added OnStar telematics and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability.

Chevrolet introduced seven special edition Chevy Silverado trucks in 2015 as well,  each offered exclusively designed exteriors and interiors:

  • The Rally Sport 1
  • The Rally Sport 2
  • Midnight Edition
  • Custom Sport Edition
  • Custom Sport Plus Edition
  • Black Out Edition
  • Texas Edition

Chevy did a facelift on the 2016 Silverado that changed the front grille, front fascia, and headlights. Chevy also offered four new exterior paint colors.

2016 Silverado 1500 front grille

2016 Silverado 1500 Front Grille

In 2016 through 2018, Chevy introduced various special edition Silverado pickups, including:

  • Special Ops Edition
  • High Desert Edition
  • Alaskan Edition (available only on the HD lineup)

Fourth Generation Chevy Silverado (2019 – Present)

The fourth-generation starting in 2019 represents the current of all Chevy Silverado generations. Now, 2021 Chevy Silverado trucks come equipped with the most advanced driver-assist and in-vehicle tech to go with the powerful yet efficient engines.

2021 Chevry Silverado 1500 illustration showing safety icons Exterior

2021 Chevy Silverado 1500 Safety Features

The new Silverados feature a more sculpted exterior design highlight the Silverado’s off-road and towing capability. New trims were added, like the RST Off-Road and RST Street, with unique design and capability tailored to the application. The addition of a 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder turbo engine gave the Silverado economy to go with performance. You can choose from seven trim configurations, plus a few special editions on the Silverado.

2021 Silverado 1500 towing a boat

2021 Silverado 1500 Towing

Electric Silverado (2023)

Chevrolet confirms the first-ever electric Silverado full-size truck, with a GM-estimated range of more than 400 miles on a full charge, to be built at Factory ZERO, Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center. Actual range may vary based on several factors, including temperature, terrain, battery age, loading, and how you use and maintain your vehicle.

Chevrolet has announced plans to produce an all-electric pickup under the Silverado name. Chevy hasn’t released trim levels and pricing yet, but the truck will share the Hummer EV’s platform and assembly line, which indicates it could have a similar powertrain. That means the Silverado EV could have one, two, or three electric motors and put out up to 1,000 horsepower.

News that Chevy plans to use the Ultium battery has experts believing that the Silverado EV will get up to a 400-mile range on a single charge.

At Sweeney Chevrolet, we understand what drivers want out of their pickup. That’s why we stock the most expansive inventory of Chevy Silverado trucks. We invite you to browse our inventory online or stop by our dealership for a hands-on experience. One of our friendly, knowledgeable staff will show you the various trims and let you take your favorite for a test drive.

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