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1988 GMC Centaur

Two decades ago, GMC created a bullet-shaped concept vehicle that blended "sleek passenger-car lines with the rugged utility of a pickup truck," according to its debut press release, published Jan. 5, 1988. After the half-man, half-horse creatures from Greek mythology, it was called the Centaur. The name perfectly captured the fusion of automotive styling and pickup truck utility - like the form and function of the Pontiac G8 ST – even though its cab-forward design looks too soft for a truck.

The Centaur concept radically stretched the boundaries of what a pickup truck could be, far beyond the sports-car-meets-hauler nature of the 2010 G8 ST.

The Centaur's cab-forward, jellybean-style shape prioritized passenger space in a footprint roughly equal to that of a first-generation GMC S-15 or Chevrolet S-10 extended cab pickup. Like the G8 ST, it had only two doors, with bucket seats upfront. But the Centaur also added a full-width seat in the rear that provided room for three more passengers.

The Centaur's radical powertrain used an unconventional rear-engine layout, like a 1960s Chevrolet Corvair pickup. A 3.0-liter, 24-valve horizontal six-cylinder engine was placed under the cargo box, just forward of the rear axle. Shark-like gills on the sides of the bed provided for both cooling and exhaust. A GMC press release at the time said it was paired with an "experimental" five-speed automatic transmission, but photos show a manual shifter and clutch pedal. Power was delivered to the road via all-wheel drive. Its payload was rated at 2,000 pounds, and it could pull up to a 5,000-pound trailer. Other nifty ride and handling features included a self-leveling air suspension and antilock brakes.

Interior styling was a hodgepodge of knobs, dials, and buttons spread across rounded surfaces, like the information console of the starship Enterprise. It looks like GM took every idea it ever had for how drivers could interface with their truck and found a place in the cockpit to try them out.

Like most concepts, many of the ideas floated in the Centaur never made it to production. Still, two key elements did: The 1994 Chevrolet S-10 and GMC S-15 borrowed rear styling elements from the Centaur, implementing its angular rear bumper and taillights on their back ends. We always wondered where the idea for that came from. The Centaur also demonstrated four-wheel electric steering, which would eventually find its way into production in the 2002 GMC Sierra as Quadrasteer.

Source: Mike Levine -

Images: Concept Car Central; GM; JOHN LLOYD Collection

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