GMC Safari History and Cylinder Heads

Categories: Cylinder Head Tips

The GMC Safari was first introduced by the company back in 1985 and remained on the market until the end of 2005. During its long history, there were few changes made to the vehicle, which is testament to its reliable design. Today, we’re going to take a trip back in time to learn more about the history of the GMC Safari and some of the common reviews and problems the vehicle had over the years.


History of the GMC Safari

GMC welcomed the Safari to their lineup of vehicles in 1985. It was a truck-based minivan offering rear-drive which was considered to be the twin to the Chevrolet Astro. It was the first vehicle from GM to enter the minivan market and could seat up to eight people, which was an improvement over the seven passengers the majority of vehicles on the market held at the time. It spent thirty years on the market before its retirement, showing just how popular the vehicle remained even with minimal changes to its design and features.

As with many vehicles, the sales for the GMC Safari started to dwindle after some time. In 2005, the company officially announced it would discontinue the minivan instead of investing time and money in another redesign and upgrade. During its life, there were only two generations of the vehicle, which just goes to show how popular the original design was with drivers around the world.


North America Sales History for the GMC Safari

Combined together, the Astro and GMC Safari sold around 3.2 million units from 1985 to 2005. Sales were strong for the vehicle for the first twenty years on the market, with sales in 1995 and 1996 hitting roughly 40,000 units each year. By 2000, the sales dropped to 32,000, and then they continued to decline year after year. 2004 was the final full year the vehicle was on the market, with just 8,000 units sold which led to the vehicle’s discontinuation.


What are the Engine Specs for a GMC Safari?

The GMC Safari offers drivers a 4.3-liter V6 engine. This comes paired with the 4-speed automatic gearbox as standard. The vehicle offers 190 horsepower at 4400 rpm and 250 lb.


Approximately How Many Miles Per Gallon Does a GMC Safari Get?

Expect more recent models of the GMC Safari to get roughly 14 miles per gallon for city driving and up to 18 miles per gallon on highways. This MPG represents a combined average of 16 miles per gallon. These figures are very much in line with other similar minivan options on the market, making it a reliable option for drivers.


Customer Reviews GMC Safari

With thirty years on the market, you’ll find that the GMC Safari is a very reliable vehicle which is generally positively reviewed by drivers. The company made very few changes to the vehicle’s design and features over the years, offering just two generations of the vehicle during its lifespan. The vehicle is praised for its reliability and how powerful it is, which is why it has established a cult following over the years.

One of the best things about the GMC Safari is how much space it offers for drivers and passengers. You’ll find there are eight seats and plenty of space surrounding them. Another great benefit of this vehicle over other similar options on the market is its strong towing ability. This means it’s a very versatile vehicle for personal or business use. It also performs well on a variety of terrains and is praised for its ability to drive well on snow.


Common Problems with the GMC Safari

While the GMC Safari is a very popular vehicle, it does have some complaints about its performance. In 1996, the IIHS vehicle frontal offset test received a poor rating which led to a decrease in the vehicle’s sales. This test result was quite damaging to the vehicle and was one of the many factors that led to a decrease in sales and its eventual discontinuation. Other common issues include failing of the brake system control unit and issues with the power brake units leaking.

While the design is very sturdy in general for this vehicle, there are sometimes reported issues with the doors. The door locks often stop working and the outside door handles might break after years of use. That being said, it is still one of the more reliable models from GMC, which is why the vehicle remained on the market for 30 years without many major issues or complaints.


Replacing Cylinder Heads in a GMC Safari

One common complaint with many vehicles including the GMC Safari is the need to replace the cylinder head. Should you find you are experiencing engine issues with your GMC Safari, this may be one way around the problem. Keep in mind that this job is often best left to a professional mechanic, especially if you aren’t familiar with this part and how to replace it. However, you do have the option to replace the cylinder head yourself. This work can be very costly on older vehicles if you need to purchase a new cylinder head. With the added labor costs, expect this job to set you back a few thousand dollars in most cases. Replacing the cylinder head is a good option to extend the life of your GMC Safari and keep it functioning properly for years to come.

The GMC Safari is one of the company’s most reliable and long-lasting vehicles. It offers drivers the chance to travel with up to eight people, which is very competitive even in the minivan market. With very few complaints and issues over the years, it is no surprise that this vehicle remains on the market for so long. While the company hasn’t spoken about bringing back the vehicle, you can still find used models in good condition on the used car market. The GMC Safari certainly paved the way for future minivans and showed the industry how successful a vehicle launch of this type could be.



If you are the driver or the mechanic of a GMC Safari and need to purchase new or refurbished cylinder heads, then please call us at 800-572-1963. Knowing the casting number on your engine or existing head will help us pinpoint the correct head(s) for your specific vehicle. You can see links to GMC Safari heads below for online purchase.