A mid-lifecycle cosmetic facelift and mechanical refresh was carried out for the 1981 model year. In response to the recent 1979 energy crisis, the 1981 rework featured several fuel saving techniques to help make the rounded-line C/K-Series pickups more fuel efficient.
Again, engineers turned to wind tunnels to resculpt the front end with new sheet metal, reducing areas which could hinder air flow and cause drag. A sleeker front bow-like look emerged, similar to a ship’s bow with the front end being gently swept back from the center. New dual halogen sealed-beam headlamps became available as an option.
Mechanical updates included more anti-corrosion techniques, reduced weight, and a new 5.0 liter 305 cubic inch V8 with electronic spark control. A new 4-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic 700R4 transmission with overdrive gearing became available in 1981 for the 1982 model year.
The 151 hp 379 cu in (6.2 L) Detroit Diesel V8 was added to replace the LF9 Oldsmobile diesel. Chrome front bumpers were now standard on base models. 1985 saw the new 262 cu in (4.3 L) LB1 introduced to replace both inline-six engines. Hydraulic clutches were introduced. TBI fuel injection was added for 1987.