As we’ve noted here before the GMC division at General Motors hasn’t enjoyed much concept-car glory over the years. Those honors have usually gone to the five traditional passenger car brands: Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Chevrolet. For an interesting exception, see our recent feature on the 1955 GMC L’Universelle here. And now here’s another exception: the 1988 GMC Centaur, the General’s attempt to predict what a pickup truck of the future might look like.
The name Centaur is rather apt, as the vehicle’s profile does sort of resemble the Greek beast of classical mythology that joined the body of a horse with the head and torso of a human. WIth its forward cabin placement, the Centaur’s layout is more like a minivan than a pickup, and in fact the resemblance to the original 1986 Pontiac Transport concept is remarkable. But unlike the minivans of GM’s dustbuster period, the Centaur had its engine, a 3.0-liter inline six, mounted just ahead of the rear axle, coupled to an experimental automatic transmission and all-wheel drive setup.
Introduced at the 1988 Detroit Auto Show, the Centaur employed first-rate packaging and utilization of space, and it’s a worthy example of the Chuck Jordan era at GM design. But as we know now, the minivan and minivan styling soon fell out of favor in the U.S. vehicle market. And meanwhile, pickup buyers continued to embrace the traditional heavy-duty truck look with its classic vertical grille—and the bigger the grille, the better. The Centaur is an interesting exercise, but pickup truck design was headed in another direction entirely.