What Does OBS Truck Mean?

Dustin hawley | Feb 12, 2021

In the late ‘90s and early 2000s, the largest U.S. manufacturers overhauled many of their truck designs, and needless to say, fans of the previous look weren’t pleased. Now over two decades later, classic cars are becoming more popular than ever, and OBS trucks are very much in demand. So what exactly is an “OBS” truck, you ask? Let’s look at what the term means and provide insight into some of the most notable examples.

Chevy OBS truck

OBS Truck Overview

The abbreviation OBS stands for “Old Body Style” in reference to the boxy and rugged look of trucks from the 1990s. Since enthusiasts are responsible for coining the term, the criteria for an OBS truck is rather loose. Some limit it by year of production, while others make a distinction between OBS and OOBS - old, old body style. 

The year 1988 (or the start of the ‘90s) is used to mark the beginning of the OBS truck era. Since OBS trucks transitioned into NBS “New Body Style” trucks around the year 2000, this period can be seen as the threshold of when a truck could be considered an OBS. The only other “requirement” of an OBS truck is that it’s American-made, but even that distinction can be overlooked at times when enthusiasts encounter a desirable import model.

Rise in Popularity

 As the years pass, the boundary for the age of what is considered a “classic” car moves accordingly. The cars of the ’70s have long been desirable, beginning as far back as their inception. But unfortunately, they were followed by the uninspiring boxed designs of the ‘80s, which were panned by critics yet still found niche popularity among low-rider communities.

The late ‘90s and early 2000s saw pickup trucks move in a new direction, shifting focus towards a more cost-saving construction. Like with many car manufacturers, the drive to increase sales had led to the more generic designs and departure from the ‘built to last’ mentality. A severe lack of style and innovation were simultaneously occurring right as the soon-to-be OBS trucks were leaving standard service.

Enthusiasts quickly realized that these pickup trucks could really stand out with just a good paint job and set of rims. Thus, the “Old Body Style” term was coined, and the culture surrounding it came to be. 

Modifications

Modifying vehicles with aftermarket parts is a practice that is deeply embedded in the car culture of America, and old body style trucks are an excellent platform for customization. Most owners choose to keep the original engines, as they’re one of the vehicle’s staples and an ode to good manufacturing. Instead, they opt to focus their modifications on the esthetics. 

Paint

A custom paint job can significantly improve an OBS truck’s appearance, especially in contrast to the over twenty-year-old original paint that likely remains on the vehicle. There are no particular trends, but some common modifications include: 

  • Restoring the paint to a single or two-color stock hue.
  • Applying a pearly or high-gloss finish. 
  • Converting to a matte color, most notably black.

Headlights & Taillights

New headlights and taillights can add a lot of flair to the factory-condition look and can also be upgraded with LED technology for improved visibility. This modification paired with a custom chrome grille can undoubtedly make an OBS truck stand out and catch your eye. 

Window Tint

Tinting the windows is an inexpensive way of enhancing the look by either complementing or contrasting the truck’s color.

Exhaust

Chrome-plated exhaust tips are a necessity (for all but stock builds) to be considered an OBS. It is not uncommon to see the whole exhaust system swapped out on these rides to increase power and sound. 

Tires

Oversized all-terrain tires can be installed on standard-sized wheels to enhance the look of a lifted OBS truck with a raised suspension. 

Custom Seats & Upholstery

Installing custom seat upholstery and a new dashboard and steering wheel are some of the other ways that enthusiasts like to customize their trucks and make them unique. While this is a popular modification, much of the OBS fanbase still prefer original or refurbished condition. 

Most Common OBS Trucks

As mentioned above, most old body style trucks are American-made, with the top models coming from manufacturers like Ford, GMC, and Chevrolet. Let’s highlight some of these models and focus on essential information about each of them. 

Ford F-Series 

The iconic Ford pickup trucks that can be considered old body style are parts of the seventh, eighth, and ninth generation of the F-series. 

Some would argue that the seventh generation is too old for an OBS truck and deem it OOBS (old-old body style), but the look fits the category perfectly. The seventh-generation models were produced during the 1980 to 1986 model years, and the most desirable options are powered by V8 engines, though they were also available with V6 and Inline-6 layouts. 

The best examples of this generation are F-150, F-250, and F-350 regular cab, super cab, and crew cab configurations.

The eighth-generation Ford OBS Trucks were built using the same cab and chassis of its predecessor but with a heavily improved design. Streamlining the truck’s components meant that maintenance was more straightforward and cheaper than with previous generations. Composite headlamps, circular fenders, and a more aerodynamic front end were the most prominent exterior updates, while the interior was completely redesigned. 

Engine options remained largely the same but were updated with an increase in power and fuel economy. F-150, F-250, F250-HD, and F-350 are the most common examples in a 2-door pickup or chassis cab configuration.

The final Ford OBS trucks come from the ninth generation F-series, still based on the same seventh-generation formula. It received a facelift and several minor improvements to the exterior and interior look but maintained that classic OBS appeal. 

The new, slightly rounded design sits on the edge of the OBS category. Still, it deserves a spot on the list, thanks to older design cues and drastic differences in appearance compared to the tenth-generation. Models F-250 and above departed from the F-Series into Ford Super Duty trucks, with the F-150 remaining the only model of this generation.

Chevrolet and GMC C/K

The shared fourth-generation C/K platform, internally known as GMT400, was used as a foundation for some of the most popular OBS trucks today. All of these vehicles share the same design features and the class-defining platform to be considered proper OBS models:

  • Chevrolet C/K
  • GMC Sierra
  • Chevrolet Suburban
  • Chevrolet Blazer
  • Chevrolet Tahoe
  • GMC Suburban
  • GMC Yukon

The C/K nomenclature was used only by Chevrolet, while GMC initially named their full-size pickup trucks Sierra. Originally produced as a full-size pickup truck and chassis cab, the GMT400 platform expanded into full-size SUVs after a few years in production.

Like the Ford F-series’s 10th generation, when the GMT800 platform followed the GMT400 platform, it did not receive a positive reception, instead only reinforcing people’s desire for an old-school look they could only get from OBS models.

Summary

The old body style trucks are becoming highly desirable classics, so if you’re looking into buying one, you should act now before the inventory is gone and prices skyrocket even further. If you’ve found this article interesting and informative, then check out the other topics available on our website!

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