5. Ford Ranchero GT
The Ford Ranchero was conceived in the late 50’s as a reasonable solution to the car or truck dilemma. It sold reasonably well and became a practical vehicle for people who wanted usability and the payload of a light truck with the drivability and road manners of a car. Ford sold most of them with baseline equipment and small six-cylinder engines since the majority of the clientele wanted basic transportation and reasonable fuel economy.
Of course, the V8 engines were in the offering, but neither of those units was particularly powerful. However, in the late 60’s, the muscle car craze took the American automotive landscape by storm, so Ford decided to introduce its most potent muscle car engine – the mighty 429 Cobra Jet to the Ranchero line. If you opted for GT package in 1970 and paid extra for a 429, you could get one of the fastest trucks on the planet, along with optional wood grain sides, a hood scoop and suspension upgrades.
The Cobra Jet engine was rated at 335 hp, but in reality, it had over 450 hp. The performance was brutal and Ranchero GT was a handful to drive. The typical Ranchero buyers didn’t opt for the 429 GT option as much since it was costlier and demanding to drive. That is why the Ranchero GT with a 429 engine is rare and a sought-after machine today and perfect models command high prices.
6. Chevrolet El Camino SS 454
When Ford introduced the Ranchero in 1957, Chevrolet didn’t have anything similar. Since Chevy and Ford are two of the car industry’s biggest archrivals, Chevy introduced the El Camino two years later, in 1959. Similar to Ranchero, the El Camino was half car – half truck. The company built it on the Impala chassis, and they shared most of the design, interior components and engines.
Arguably better looking than the Ranchero, the El Camino didn’t have the same market success and eventually was downsized to the mid-size platform. For the end of the 60’s and muscle car madness, El Camino got the proper firepower and one special trim level, called the SS. Chevy introduced the El Camino SS in 1967 and it had a 396 V8 engine with 325 hp. That was plenty of power for a mid-size compact truck and it delivered a serious performance.
However, the first rule of the muscle car culture is that bigger is always better. In 1970, the El Camino SS got its ultimate version with a brutal 454 V8 engine. The mighty 454 V8 LS6 had a 7.4-liter big block engine with 450 hp official rating. The engine delivered around 500 hp in real life. It was a fire-breathing beast and one of the best engines of the muscle car era.
The El Camino SS engine provided significant performance figures, which were close to the best regular muscle cars of the day. The biggest problem was the lightweight rear end, which meant that hard launches off the line were accompanied by much wheel spin and smoke. The El Camino SS 454 was one of the first vehicles people recognized as collector models and they became sought-after and desirable. Today, finding a true El Camino SS 454 is hard and it will cost you a lot of money, too.
7. Ford F-150 Lightning
The 60’s were a high watermark for American performance, not only in terms of horsepower and torque ratings but also in terms of looks, style and statistics on some models. After the early 70’s, there were tight emission and safety laws, so the power went embarrassingly down and it looked like the glory days of octane madness were gone. Fortunately, in the 90’s, American manufacturers started investing in performance and delivering faster and more powerful cars on the market.
One of those pure-performance machines was the cool F-150 Lightning. Conceived in the early 90’s with only 280 hp, the Lightning was a performance truck with great driving dynamics. But, in 1999 with the new and totally redesigned generation of F-150 trucks, came the new Lightning. This time it was meaner looking, aggressive and packed with much more firepower.
Ford installed its 5.4-liter V8 with a supercharger, which was good for 360 hp at first and 380 hp later. This was much more than the previous model and much more than any truck on the market in that moment.
Performance numbers were sublime and the Lightning could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds and top 140 mph. Those figures were more suited to Porsche 911 of the period than to a regular pickup truck which could tow or carry stuff just like other F-150s. The second-generation Lightning proved to be quite popular and stayed in production for five years, up to 2004. During that period, Ford`s SVT department produced over 30,000 Lightning trucks, which are fantastic numbers.
8. Mercedes G-Class G63 AMG 6X6
The Mercedes G-Class is one of the longest-running models in the car world. First emerging in 1979 as a primarily military off-road SUV and truck, it is still on the market today with the same basic design. During the course of almost 40 years, it survived many modifications and redesigns, but never changed its distinctive appearance and basic mechanical layout. Over the years, the G-Class evolved from a pure military truck without any luxury items to an overpriced, premium full-size SUV with a powerful engine, 20-inch chrome wheels and acres of leather in the interior.
So, what do you do when you can’t modify the model anymore and make it more exclusive? Just attach a pickup truck bed and install one more axle and make it the fastest, most expensive and rarest 6X6 in the world. Mercedes did exactly that by creating one monster of a truck. It was a monster by power and torque ratings, and a monster by sticker price, too. Under the hood is the 5.5-liter twin-turbo engine with 540 hp, which delivers power to all six wheels through a specially built automatic transmission unit.
Inside the truck, it is all about luxury with the finest materials and creature comforts. This 6X6 may not be so capable in the wild since it is a big, heavy truck, but it looks like it can tackle the sand dunes well. And, of course, there is the matter of price. When it was new, this G63 had a sticker price of $450,000, but if you find one today, expect to pay close to one million dollars for it.
9. Dodge Ram SRT 10
Dodge produced this pickup truck from 2004 to 2006, and the Ram SRT-10 is one of the craziest, most powerful and fastest pickups in history. That itself is a hard thing to say, since Dodge has always built wild special versions of their trucks. Look at the specs: an 8.2-liter V10 engine with over 500 hp, 0 to 60 times of fewer than five seconds and a fuel economy in single digits.
Top it all off with a bright red or yellow paint job, two white racing stripes and big, shiny chrome wheels, and you’ll get the idea of what the SRT-10 is all about. It was something you couldn’t miss if you saw it on the street. With a price tag of over $45,000, the SRT-10 wasn’t exactly a sales hit. Even so, Dodge produced a decent number of them in their three-year production run.
In 2005, Dodge introduced the Quad Cab option. This gave the SRT-10 another pair of doors and more practicality if you could call this truck practical. The four-speed automatic was standard. However, you could also get a six-speed manual straight from the Viper to go with the engine.
Interestingly, the SRT-10 sent all of its power to the rear wheels. Due to the size of the engine, Dodge couldn’t install an all-wheel-drive system. Just imagine how quick the SRT-10 could have been if it had AWD.
10. Chevrolet SSR
In the early 2000s, retro design was the king. Introducing new cars with classic shapes seemed to be the ticket for success. Chevrolet thought that it would be a great idea to present a retro-styled truck, but with a sporty feel and retractable hardtop. It seemed like a crazy idea, but They thought it would work as a lifestyle vehicle for people who wanted a sports car with retro charm and more space for all their needs.
No one is exactly sure who was in charge of the Chevrolet product development department at the time. But whoever it was had a wild imagination. So, Chevrolet introduced a vehicle in 2003 and called it the Super Sports Roadster (SSR). They built it on the SUV platform with a Corvette V8 engine. It came with a fold-down hardtop and tight cabin for only two passengers.
The SSR was like a modern hot rod. It looked cool with a glorious soundtrack from its small block V8. It delivered approximately 400 HP and had dual exhaust pipes. The performance wasn’t as impressive. A sprint to 60 mph took around six seconds, but it wasn’t slow, either.
With the retro design, big wheels and strange silhouette, it was something different on the street. However, the market response was mild. The price was north of $45,000, which meant it wasn’t affordable.
Soon, older people started buying SSRs as midlife crisis cars. That killed the model since it wasn’t cool anymore in eyes of the younger crowd. The end came in 2006 after Chevy built approximately 24,000 SSRs.
11. Jeep Honcho
During the 70’s, most truck manufacturers experienced trouble selling their products. The recession and bad fuel economy repelled most buyers from big trucks with thirsty V8 engines. However, many small compact trucks managed to achieve hefty sales results. This was thanks to their affordable prices, smaller engines and youthful images. Soon, U.S. manufacturers introduced their own interesting versions of compact pickups with bright colors, cool details and crazy wheels.
But, among all those trucks, the Jeep Gladiator Honcho was the coolest. They based this special model on a regular Gladiator truck. However, Jeep added some modern graphics on the side and the “Honcho” name to it. They also added numerous interior details, special wheels, off-road tires and a winch.
There were a couple of engine options available under the hood. But if the Honcho came with the optional 401 AMC V8, it was a seriously powerful machine for the day. Jeep started an aggressive advertising campaign, but despite all their efforts, they only made 1,500 Honchos in seven years of production.
Since then, the Gladiator Honcho has become a highly-prized collector truck, but its prices are on the rise. You could find an unrestored one, but since there are so many unique trim pieces and details, restoring it could be a hard, expensive job.
12. Lincoln Blackwood
You may be surprised to learn that the Lincoln car company made pickup trucks, but for only one year. It was in the form of the Blackwood model. Back in the early 2000’s, Lincoln had the popular, successful Navigator. It was the golden standard of luxury SUVs back then.
Wanting to capitalize on that success, somebody at Lincoln suggested they build a pickup version to expand the range. The idea seemed plausible and soon, they were testing the first prototypes. Lincoln used the Ford F-150 platform with the front end and cabin of the Navigator, but with a custom truck bed. It came with a tailgate that opened like doors and had a power cover. The finished product looked like a Navigator truck, yet it was luxurious.
However, the Blackwood failed as a truck, since the truck bed was small and unusable. But the biggest problem was the price. The brand new 2002 Lincoln Blackwood started at a whopping $52,000. This was an extremely high price for an unusable truck with the Navigator fascia.
As you would expect, the market was not amused and during its 15 months in production, Lincoln only made 3,356 of them. Today, fans consider it a collector’s vehicle, so perfectly preserved Blackwood trucks command high prices.
13. Chevrolet 454 SS
After almost two decades of slow low compression engines and safety and environmental laws, in the early 1990’s, U.S. manufacturers finally started to produce faster, more powerful models. The wave of new-found performance was so overwhelming, every pickup brand had its fast model, special version or limited edition. However, one of the most menacing and powerful was the mighty Chevrolet 454 SS.
The basic idea behind this model was to offer the biggest engine available in the lightest full-size truck. It was basically a muscle car philosophy in truck form. That is why Chevrolet’s engineers took an ordinary 1990 Chevy 1500 pickup truck with a short bed option and added a massive 454 V8 engine. The enormous 7.2-liter V8 was good enough for 230 to 255 horses, which was a diminutive number. But, it also had 385 lb-ft of torque, which made it fly down the road.
Chevy borrowed the big block engine from their heavy-duty truck lineup. Although it was durable, it was also a thirsty machine. On the outside, the 454 SS was low-key without any wild graphics or color choices. On the back of the bed, there was a model designation, but the only difference was a blackout front grille.
However, despite the big torque numbers, the 454 SS wasn’t that fast and couldn’t beat sports cars like the GMC Syclone, for example. Still, it was one of the fastest trucks around and a cool-looking vehicle.
14. Dodge Lil’ Express Truck
As you most likely know, Dodge was at the forefront of many special editions and limited truck models back in the 70’s. However, the best-known, highly sought-after model was none other than the Lil’ Express Truck. Dodge built it for just two years in 1978 and 1979, and in limited numbers. The importance of the Lil’ Express Truck lies in the strict rules of the late 70’s that robbed V8 engines of power and vehicles of performance.
But Dodge found an interesting loophole in the regulations that declared pickup trucks didn’t need catalytic converters. This meant Dodge could install a more powerful engine. So, it could breathe easier, delivering more punch than other truck models. And this is how the Lil’ Express Truck came to be. Dodge took the standard D Series short-bed truck and added a 360 V8 engine. They also put huge truck-like stacked exhaust pipes right behind the doors.
They also installed a durable automatic transmission. Dodge used a red color scheme with signature decals and details, and lots of chrome trim, too. This wild-looking special model produced 225 HP, which was a lot in those days. Thanks to the revised drivetrain, it was the fastest accelerating domestic vehicle in 1978. Just as a reminder, this Dodge pickup truck was faster than all the Mustangs, Camaros, and Corvettes in 1978.
The Lil’ Express Truck was back in 1979 and it remained famous. However, overall production numbers were relatively low, at just under 3,000. Today, car enthusiasts prize these rare, cool-looking Dodge trucks, so they command high prices.
If you can’t decide between a car or a truck, perhaps one of these models can fill the bill. You’ll need to pay a bit more, but if you will drive a fun, fast vehicle people will notice.