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Summary
  • OBS stands for “Old Body Style,” referring to the rugged and boxy-looking trucks manufactured between 1988 and 1998.
  • Many people are drawn to OBS trucks because of nostalgia, customizability, and durability.
  • Unfortunately, OBS trucks are dated and don’t perform as well as most modern vehicles — at least, not without heavy upgrades and retrofitting.

If you’re big on trucks, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the letters “OBS” before. The term was created by truck enthusiasts who wanted to categorize classic trucks between the ‘80s and the ‘90s, and its use has spread outside of the truck community since.

Now, OBS trucks are back in fashion — but what exactly makes these dated vehicles so attractive anyway?

What Does OBS Stand For?

OBS stands for Old Body Style. It loosely refers to the trucks that rolled out between 1988 and 1998, but trucks from the mid 1960s through the ‘70s (square body trucks) are also extremely popular in some areas. Generally speaking, OBS is a term that’s used exclusively for trucks made by American manufacturers, such as Chevrolet, Dodge, and Ford.

1966 chevy c10 image
A ‘66 Chevy C10, an OBS truck | Image Source: Richard McCuistian
1967 ford f 100 image
Another OBS truck: a ‘67 F-100 | Image Source: Richard McCuistian

Examples of OBS Trucks

Examples of OBS trucks include the 1990 Chevy C/K 1500 Series, the 1994 Ford Explorer, and the 1999 GMC Suburban. These vehicles differ from modern trucks in how they’re bulkier, boxier, and amongst older drivers, nostalgic.

Here’s a closer look at their specs to give you an idea of how they perform.

1990 Chevy C/K 1500 Series

  • Engine Specs: 4.3-liter V6
  • Weight: 5,600 lbs
  • Max Payload Capacity: 1,711 lbs
  • Power: 160hp
  • Torque: 235 lb-ft

1994 Ford Explorer

  • Engine Specs: 4-liter V6
  • Weight: 4,053 lbs
  • Max Towing Capacity: 5,200 lbs
  • Max Payload Capacity: 1,050 lbs
  • Power: 160hp
  • Torque: 220 lb-ft

1999 GMC Suburban

  • Engine Specs: 5.7-liter V8
  • Weight: 4,820 lbs
  • Max Towing Capacity: 6,500 lbs
  • Max Payload Capacity: 1,980 lbs
  • Power: 255hp
  • Torque: 330 lb-ft

OBS Trucks: Why Are They Popular Again?

OBS trucks are making a comeback because of their distinct look, customizability, and dependable performance:

Unique Look

One of the biggest reasons why OBS trucks are gaining popularity in the 21st century is because of their distinct style. Truck designs have evolved over the years, and what was trendy 30 years ago has become a classic look in the modern age.

However, not everyone likes the box-like design of OBS trucks. Enthusiasts love them, and they’re a good fit for people looking for a ride that stands out from modern vehicles. On the other hand, they’re not the best pick for those who want trucks with a more up-to-date look.

While nostalgia plays a massive role in the rise of OBS trucks in the 2020s,  many younger drivers are drawn to the appeal of older trucks.

Easy to Customize

Here’s a pro that some also consider as a con. OBS trucks are old, so if you get one, there’s a good chance you’ll be replacing a lot of the vehicle’s dated parts.

Getting an OBS truck up to par could dent your bank account, but you’re free to mix, match, and customize it to your heart’s content. Plus, old vehicles are usually easier to work on.

A lot of add-ons, decals, and body parts are attached with adhesive or bolts. This makes removing and swapping body parts like mirrors, ornaments, and grilles a cinch. There’s also a whole industry for aftermarket parts, many of which are compatible with OBS trucks.

Rugged and Durable

Last but not least, it’s arguable that the biggest appeal OBS trucks have is that they’re exceptionally sturdy and have a very rugged, outdoorsy look.

These trucks boast good off-road capabilities without sacrificing too much driveability in the city. While they’re not as powerful as modern tricks, they’ve got a lot of power. This means they have high maximum payload and towing capacities despite their age.

OBS Truck Cons: Problems to Expect

One of the biggest, most glaring flaws of OBS trucks is how dated they are. Their age gives way to a lot of complications, from performance that’s not up to par with newer vehicles to weathered interiors and lack the modern safety features.

Relies on Aftermarket Upgrades for Good Performance

Trendy or not, driving and maintaining an OBS truck might be harder than driving a modern vehicle. Remember, there’s a 30-year age gap between OBS Chevy trucks from the 1990s and the more modern Chevy trucks from the 2020s.

It should come as no surprise that more dated trucks won’t be as well-equipped and powerful as the ones from today.

For example, OBS trucks aren’t anywhere near as fuel-efficient, safe to drive, comfortable, or powerful as newer models. After all, the technology used to make them (along with the technology installed in them) is much older.

A 1994 Ford Explorer has a combined MPG of 17, whereas a 2023 Ford Explorer has a combined MPG of 24. Similarly, it costs approximately $186 a month to drive the 2023 model, while it costs around $260 a month to drive the 1994 model.

Lower fuel efficiency can hike up gas costs exponentially, so be wary.

Plastic Interiors Require Replacement

Another flaw that’s common across many OBS trucks is how the interiors of these vehicles tend to look cheap or low-quality.

, What’s an OBS Truck? Plus Examples, Pros, and Cons

Pro Tips are nuggets of information direct from ASE-certified automobile technicians working with CarParts.com, which may include unique, personal insights based on their years of experience working in the automotive industry. These can help you make more informed decisions about your car.

Pro Tip: Older trucks like the ‘66 Chevy and the ‘67 Ford have very few plastic components among the interior parts. Plastic became very prevalent in the interiors of trucks beginning in about 1980.

OBS truck interiors might have been trendy at the time, but technology has come a long way since the ‘90s. Now, more materials are used to create the interiors of vehicles, including nylon, leather, vinyl, and polyester.

This doesn’t even factor in the possibility that the cabin might be weathered and cracked on OBS trucks after the early 1980s, so there are bound to be parts in the vehicle’s interior that have wasted away. These parts will need to be replaced.

Lacks Modern Safety Features

Because OBS trucks are old, most of them don’t have all the modern safety features that keep drivers in the 21st century safe. For example, truck models from the early 1990s might not have airbags because airbags were only mandated in 1998. Even though you can legally drive without them, you’d be putting yourself in an unnecessary amount of danger if your vehicle doesn’t have them.

If your truck lacks other crucial safety measures, you might have to invest in them as well.

About The Authors
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Reviewed By Technical Reviewer at CarParts.com

Richard McCuistian has worked for nearly 50 years in the automotive field as a professional technician, an instructor, and a freelance automotive writer for Motor Age, ACtion magazine, Power Stroke Registry, and others. Richard is ASE certified for more than 30 years in 10 categories, including L1 Advanced Engine Performance and Light Vehicle Diesel.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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