WHAT DOES SILVERADO MEAN? AND HOW IT GOT ITS NAME

April 14th, 2020 by

The Chevy Silverado needs little introduction. Alongside the Ford F-range, it’s been one of the best-selling trucks in the U.S. for over 3 decades. That just makes the question surrounding this vehicle’s name all the more enticing—what does Silverado mean?

In this article, we’ll dive into the meaning of the term itself as well as how it became the name of one of Chevrolet’s most iconic vehicles.

Origin of the term “Silverado”

The term “Silverado” itself is a portmanteau of the words “Silver” in English and “El Dorado” in Spanish. Although its exact meaning is up for interpretation, one possible explanation is that it refers to “a place of silver” or just “the silver.”

Silverado in pop culture

If you got a strange sense of deja vu hearing the name “Silverado,” there might be a good reason why.

For one, Silverado was the name of the classic 1985 Western film. The film follows four drifters who become unlikely heroes after arriving in a small frontier town. They come up against, and eventually overcome, a greedy, yet powerful, rancher and his family. The film featured famous actors like Kevin Kline, Jeff Goldblum, Rosanna Arquette, and John Cleese. And it was nominated for two Academy Awards.

It was also the name of a 1981 country/rock hit single by The Marshall Tucker Band.

And it doesn’t stop there. You’ll find that “Silverado” has been used to name almost everything, including a galaxy (Silverado Galaxy NGC 3370), parks, basketball teams (Rio Grande Valley Silverados, later Kentucky Mavericks), schools, towns, and geographical formations across Northern America.

How the Chevy Silverado got its name

It’s not exactly certain how Chevrolet settled on the name “Silverado” for its line of pickup trucks.

If you consider how many car models are out there, manufacturers often have to get creative when naming new models. In many cases, this undoubtedly involves simply picking “out of a hat” a name that seems to capture the aura or essence of the vehicle. Undoubtedly, one reason Chevy chose “Silverado” was the heavy use of silver details on this range of trucks.

Silverado certainly is a word that rolls off the tongue. It also has strong connotations with silver and the “Lost City of Gold”—or El Dorado. This connects the truck with a sense of adventure, excitement, and luxury. All in all, it’s certainly not a bad name for a full-sized, heavy-duty pickup truck.

The term “Silverado” also pops up across American culture. This gives the Chevy Silverado an even closer connection with its roots as a brand from the U.S.

Some argue that Chevy named the Silverado specifically after the Silverado Canyon in California. This would certainly make sense considering the Silverado’s ruggedness, off-road capabilities, and its general air of adventure.

How to distinguish different Silverado models?

In years gone by, Chevy used numerical codes after the vehicle’s name to highlight its maximum payload capacity. For example, Silverado 1500 would mean it has a towing capacity of 1,500 lbs. The same goes for the 2000, 3500, etc.

In later years, these same numbers illustrated how light-duty or heavy-duty the truck was. So the 1500 would be the lightest-duty trim while 3500 would be the heaviest, for example.

Chevy still uses the 1500 monicker for its standard version of the Silverado. This vehicle has numerous trims with three different cab types. In its latest generation, Chevy is using codewords to differentiate different trims, such as RST, WT, LT, LTZ, Custom, and High Country.

Nowadays, Chevrolet also offers the Silverado HD. This heavy-duty version only comes in two trims, the 2500 and the 3500. While it doesn’t correspond directly to any payloads or capacities, it does distinguish the lighter and heavier-duty trims.

Chevy Silverado – A bit of history

Chevy introduced the Silverado (and its counterpart, the GMC Sierra) as the successor of Chevrolet’s legendary C/K line in 1988. Before this, the name “Silverado” referred to a specific trim of the C/K model (from 1975 to 1988).

To date, the Chevrolet Silverado has sold nearly 12 million units in the USA. It’s consistently been one of the top-selling full-size pickup trucks in the US, behind the Ford F-series.

Currently, the Silverado is in its fourth generation, which started in 2019.

Chevy Silverado – The full-sized truck for you?

The Chevy Silverado has been one of the USA’s top-selling, full-size trucks for nearly two decades. And, with good reason.

Not only is it a workhorse, but it features rugged good looks as well as a relatively affordable price. With its newest generations, it also offers many infotainment and driver-assist features.

Great name + great vehicle

So, if you were wondering what does “Silverado” mean, we hope we’ve helped satisfy your curiosity. While it’s what’s under the hood that matters most, having an image-invoking name like this one makes owning a Silverado all the more attractive.

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