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A Short History of the Chevy Silverado 2007-2013 – “This is Our Country”

24067-Silverado Rear CoverThe original Chevrolet Silverado entered the new millennium ready to take on the world and saw America through the tragedies of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. The second-gen Silverado would weather an economic storm that shook the whole world and would have killed the truck along with General Motors had there not been an intervention at the right time.

Here’s a look back on the second generation of the Chevrolet Silverado and its cousin, the GMC Sierra, covering model years 2007 through 2013, and found in Chilton manual 28626.

General Motor’s Hail Mary Pass

2008 Silverado 28626 CoverIntroduced in August of 2006 at the Texas State Fair, the second-gen Chevy Silverado arrived in 2007 upon the new GMT900 platform, which General Motors bet heavily on to take it through the decade. The new truck had improved aerodynamics via a steeply raked windshield and tighter panel gaps. Truck buyers could choose from two- and four-door cabs and a range of beds to match, but no longer could they row their own gears (except in Mexico), as the new truck featured either a four-speed or six-speed automatic. This new platform also underpinned the Chevy Avalanche, Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Sierra, Yukon and Yukon Denali, and the Cadillac Escalade.

Under the hood, the Gen III small-block V8s were updated to Gen IV, two of which—the 5.3- and 6.0-liter—had cylinder deactivation technology, but still put out 305 hp and 335-338 lb-ft of torque, and 367 hp and 375 lb-ft of torque respectively. The improved gas mileage was desperately needed, as gas prices rose sharply in 2005 and 2008. Depending on the truck, the base engine was either the long running 4.3-liter V6, with 195 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, or a 4.8-liter V8 with 295-302 hp and 305 lb-ft of torque. In 2009 select trucks had the option of a 6.2-liter Vortec V8 with 403 hp and 417 lb-ft of torque, which replaced the 6.0-liter engine option.

There was also a two-mode hybrid Silverado available, which paired the 6.0-liter V8 with two 60-kilowatt motors and a unique four-speed transmission with three planetary gears and four traditional clutches, just like in the GM hybrid SUVs. Also for the frugal was the Chevy Silverado XFE, a parts-bin special designed for fuel economy without the hybrid technology but with the 6.0-liter motor, and only sold for the 2009 model year.

Heavy-duty models no longer had a big block 8.1-liter V8 available, making do with the 6.0-liter gas motor or a 6.6-liter Duramax diesel, both with six-speed automatics but the diesel getting a heavy-duty Allison truck unit to handle the 365-397 hp and 660-765 lb-ft of torque. The Chevy Silverado 2500HD and 3500HD also gained a fully boxed high-strength steel frame in 2011 with forged steel upper and cast-iron lower control arms, and unique torsion bars for each gross weight rating for improved handling.

“This is Our Country”

Several years before the second generation Silverado appeared, Chevrolet had dropped its famed “Like a Rock” campaign for its trucks. The campaign, anchored by Detroit rocker Bob Seger’s song, was designed to show the durability of Chevy’s trucks while tying it all to American values.

After the last strains of Seger’s voice left the advertising world, Chevy promoted all of their vehicles under the “An American Revolution” slogan, which was an update of “The Heartbeat of America” slogan for the new millennium. Yet, Chevrolet wanted something tougher, specifically for their trucks.

Knowing how well Bob Seger worked out, the Campbell-Ewald ad agency found another middle American rocker, John Mellencamp from Indiana. Chevy needed a song to drive home the America’s spirit made metal in the strength of the Silverado, Tahoe, Colorado, and TrailBlazer, and they found it in “Our Country”. Mellencamp, meanwhile, was looking to prevent what happened to Tom Petty’s album, Highway Companion (lack of radio play) from happening to him with his record, Freedom’s Road.

As Mellencamp told The New York Times in 2007, he had misgivings about selling his music for use in ads, but “…I got sold out. Sometime during the ’90s record companies made the decision that us guys who had been around for a long time and had sold millions of records and were household names just weren’t as interesting as girls in stretch dresses.” Mellencamp accepted the offer from Chevrolet to use “Our Country” for the new “Our Country, Our Truck” campaign.

“The bruises and scars that have shaped our nation”

Silverado 4x4 in mudThe TV ads began airing in late September 2006 during NBC’s Sunday Night Football just as the Chevy Silverado appeared in dealerships, featuring Mellencamp’s song as a soundtrack to images of Rosa Parks, M.L.K., the Statue of Liberty, as well as the Vietnam War and Hurricane Katrina. Mellencamp told the New York Times if his song was going to promote a truck, he wanted the ads “to look like a John Mellencamp video… let’s show the flood, let’s show the war, let’s show the whole thing.” Campbell-Ewald’s chief creative officer, Bill Ludwig, added that he hoped the “Our Country, Our Truck” campaign would recall “the bruises and scars that have shaped our nation.”

And how well did this work out? Not as well as the old “Like a Rock” campaign. “Our Country” became overplayed to the point of annoyance especially for sports fans, while Mellencamp reportedly told Newsweek  that “he had no idea [the campaign] would be so intense.” That said, Mellencamp did appreciate the enthusiasm Chevy had compared to the record industry and told Newsweek in 2008 that he had no regrets.

Weathering the Storm

The second-gen Chevrolet Silverado was a truck launched into a storm few foresaw at the 2006 Texas State Fair, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, global financial crisis, and Great Recession. Sales of the new Silverado and related SUVs were flat, despite being significant improvements on the old GMT800 trucks, because gas prices were rising and consumer confidence was falling. And yet, the GMT900 platform and its parent company GM came out of the 2009 bankruptcy beat up but not broken, paying the government back for the bailout that kept them alive just five years later.

People have been saying trucks have gotten more car-like for 50 years now. The GMT900 trucks and SUVs managed to offer interior amenities and ride quality on par with any family car and approaching some premium models. Yet, these trucks also raised the bar when it came to truck attributes like payload and towing. GM sold millions of examples of the Silverado, Sierra, Yukon, Escalade, and their siblings, and most of them are still out there on the road in “Our Country” getting the job done.

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