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27 Pickup Truck Special Editions Auto Fans Never Heard About

Vukasin HerbezJuly 28, 2017

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15. Ford Skyranger

Even if you are a pickup truck fan and you know much about this class of vehicles, there’s a chance you have never heard of the Skyranger. We can’t blame you since Ford made less than 20 of those. The idea behind the Skyranger was to use American Sunroof Company as an outside partner to produce a series of convertible pickups. Ford would use the regular Ranger body with an extended cab as a basis.

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ASC did what Ford asked and delivered the first examples, but the Skyranger was just plain odd. It had a 4.0 V6 engine under the hood, interesting graphics on the sides, and spoilers on the back, but the soft top didn’t look right. So, the truck was never a sales success. The similarly constructed and executed Dodge Dakota Sports Convertible was much better looking and popular, even though people also considered it a failure.

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14. Ford Free-Wheelin’ Models

Back in the late ’70s, the automotive world was full of special editions featuring nothing more than crazy graphics, flashy wheels, and cool details. The typical models of the period were Ford’s Free-Wheeling’ editions. Ford made them available on numerous models, such as the Bronco, Econoline vans, Courier compact pickup truck, and F-150. The first thing that set those editions apart was the unique graphics. Each Free-Wheelin’ model had a five-color rainbow stripe suited to the lines of the car. This option was available for four years, from 1977 to 1980. Each year had its own style, so it was different than the previous model.

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Other than that, Ford prepared numerous other styling details as optional extras. Customers could get special wheels, white letter tires, additional lights mounted on the roof, side pipe exhausts, bull bars, and a whole lot more aftermarket details. Since the Free-Wheelin’ package was available on so many models for four model years, no one knows exactly how many Ford made, but it must have been thousands. Today, those vehicles are not particularly expensive or rare, but they are cool to own, especially if you can find one with all the details and paint job intact.

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13. Chevrolet Blazer Chalet

Most special versions of those ’70s trucks were nothing more than stripes and flashy wheels. However, there were still some models that offered genuine uniqueness like the Blazer Chalet. The Blazer Chalet was Chevy’s attempt to turn a two-door compact truck/SUV into a motorhome by adding a cabin in the back. They equipped it with a bed, mini kitchen, and pop-up roof.

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The combination was compact and well designed, so it offered customers a chance to explore the vast space of America along with the interstate highways. Unfortunately, the Blazer Chalet cost more than $12,000 and in 1976/77, you could by a fully equipped Corvette for that kind of cash. This affected sales and production, so no one remembers the Chalet today.

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12. Willys Jeep Pickup Truck

Willys was an economy car manufacturer before World War II. They produced Jeeps for the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1946. When the war ended, Willys found it hard to transfer to passenger car production. They had a surplus of Jeep engines, chassis, and components. So they made the logical decision to produce Jeeps for civilian use, mainly as farm and utility vehicles. Willys thought that ex-military personnel would buy Jeeps as everyday cars after they got to know them on the battlefield. It turned out that Willys was right, and civilian Jeeps did, in fact, have a market in post-war America. But the company wanted to go further, so they introduced a line of pickup trucks using Jeep mechanics, engines, and the design, but with a twist.

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That’s how the Willys Jeep Pickup Truck came to be in 1947. The Willys Jeep pickup truck had four-wheel drive and was much more capable than any regular pickup truck available at the time. Today, four-wheel-drive trucks are nothing special. Most new models come with a 4×4 drivetrain as standard. But back then, it was revolutionary. Although those early Willys Jeep trucks had smaller, 2.3-liter four-cylinder engines only producing 63 HP, they were tough. They came with a lot of pulling power and durability. Willys also produced a couple of variations. Over the years Willys introduced some bigger six-cylinder engines. Sadly, they ceased production of their original model in 1965.

 

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11. Datsun 120/220

You may wonder why a Japanese brand is on an almost purely American list of significant pickups. This is because the Japanese had their share of innovations in truck design and construction. The first Japanese compact truck was the Datsun 120 introduced in 1955. Immediately after the war, Japan needed light delivery vehicles. Most car companies started producing three-wheeled Kei cars and vehicles based on motorcycle technology. Those pickups were small, light, and nimble, but they weren’t real trucks. So, in 1955, Datsun produced the 120, the first real compact truck.

Datsun PLG 222, 223, 320 and L20b motors, etc for sale - Datsun Vehicles - Ratsun Forums
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Under the hood was a diminutive 860-cc engine delivering just 25 HP. The payload and towing capacity were not great, but by Japanese standards in the 1950s, the Datsun 120 Pickup did the job. For that reason, it was the first true compact pickup truck. After the 120 series, Datsun continued to produce small trucks. Today the compact truck market is huge, especially in Asia, Africa, and Europe, all thanks to this little pickup.

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10. Chevrolet Cameo

Before the 1955 to ’58 Chevrolet Cameo, pickups had a step-side design in the truck bed. It was a production method that dated to the first trucks from the early 1920s. But as one of the biggest pickup manufacturers in the U.S., Chevrolet introduced the fleetside truck bed for the 1955 model. The truck bed looked more elegant because it was flush with the lines of the cabin and the whole design of the truck.

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Second, the fleetside design allowed for the use of the maximum width of the truck bed, making the truck more capable to carry a wider load. The first model to feature this construction solution was the Chevrolet Cameo, but it wasn’t successful at first. The Cameo was an upscale version of a standard Chevy truck. It featured a V8 engine and updated equipment, and some earlier versions even featured a fiberglass fleetside bed instead of steel. They discontinued the Cameo as a model in 1958, but the fleetside style continues to this day.

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9. Toyota Tacoma X-Runner

Behind this strange name lies quite an interesting vehicle. Not only does it provide more power than a regular truck, but it also has better handling and driving dynamics. The idea behind the Tacoma X-Runner is to make a sports car with a truck bed. And it looks like Toyota succeeded.

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Under the hood is a 4.0-liter V6 with 236 HP, which is not much. But, you could order a supercharger and get 305 HP, which is a significant increase. However, the most interesting features are the lowered suspension, sway bars, bigger brakes, and modified steering. These are the improvements that made the X-Runner drive like a nimble coupe, and not like a truck.

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8. International Harvester Travelette

For those who don’t know, a crew cab configuration means a truck has four doors and a truck bed. It’s a common option today. But back in the day, they only made trucks in a single cab configuration with two doors. Back then, it was unimaginable for a truck to have more than two doors or carry more than two to three people inside. Then, in the early 1960s, International Harvester presented the Travelette version of their C-Series truck. It changed the industry as the first-ever crew cab pickup truck.

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International Harvester is a famous producer of agricultural machinery and big trucks, but during those days it was active in the pickup truck market. Their products were always heavy duty and for professional use. The idea behind the Travelette was simple. Allow a group of up to six workers to travel together with their tools or machines. At the same time, International produced an SUV version called the Travellall with a closed roof. Somebody in the company came to the idea of bolting half of a Travellall SUV to a truck bed and creating a crew cab. As with all successful ideas on the pickup truck market, all major companies soon adopted the idea.

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7. Ford Ranchero GT

Ford conceived the Ranchero in the late ’50s as a reasonable proposition to the car-truck dilemma. It sold reasonably well, becoming a practical vehicle for people who wanted the usability and payload of a light truck with the drivability and road manners of a car. However, in the late ’60s when the muscle car craze took the American automotive landscape by storm, Ford decided to introduce its most potent muscle car engine ever, the mighty 429 Cobra Jet, to the Ranchero line.

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So, if you opted for the GT package in 1970 and paid extra for the 429 motor, you could get one of the fastest trucks on the planet. Best of all, it came with optional wood grain sides, a hood scoop, and suspension upgrades. They rated the Cobra Jet engine at 335 HP, but in reality, it produced over 450 HP. As a result, the performance was brutal, but the Ranchero GT was a bit of a handful to drive.

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6. Toyota Tundra TRD Supercharged

The Tundra TRD Supercharged is the only non-factory model on this list but it belongs here because it is truly a hot road truck. The TRD Supercharger package was available from Toyota dealers for the hefty price tag of over $20,000. For that kind of cash, buyers got numerous upgrades including an Eaton supercharger that upgraded the power to a staggering 504 HP.

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The Tundra TRD with its newfound power got some quick acceleration times. In fact, may reports state this big truck could see 60 mph in less than five seconds, which is mind-boggling.

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5. Ford F-150 Tremor

This interesting muscle truck is the spiritual successor to the early ‘90s Lightning. But, when the latest Raptor came out, everybody forgot about this model. The F-150 Tremor was a hot rod F-150 with 365 HP from its 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine. It came with suspension tweaks, unique graphics, and visual improvements.

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The F-150 Tremor was available as a two or four-wheel drive version. Although the performance wasn’t that good, the Tremor was fast. In fact, it could accelerate from 0 to 60 in around six seconds.

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4. Chevrolet Greenbrier Rampside

In the late ’50s, Chevrolet presented the Corvair, a revolutionary compact car with a rear-mounted air-cooled flat-six engine. Despite the promising sales and initial reception, in the mid-60’s they discovered the Corvair was unstable. This killed its sales and gave Chevrolet bad press. However, before that happened, Chevrolet introduced the Greenbrier, a van they based on the Corvair. Using the same floorplan, engine, and drivetrain, the Greenbrier was a cool-looking and decent performing compact van.

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The engine was underneath the cabin or truck bed if you chose the pickup version. It could carry up to nine people or half a ton of weight. Since the floor was flat, Chevrolet introduced a practical Rampside version with a side ramp for easier unloading of the cargo. However, they only offered the Greenbrier for four years, from 1961 to 1965. Despite its qualities, the market simply favored more conventional models from Dodge and Ford.

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3. Lamborghini LM002

To be honest, LM002 is somewhere between a truck and an off-road SUV since it has four doors, a double cab, and a truck bed behind it. This crazy creation debuted in the mid-’80s as Lamborghini’s attempt of entering the world of luxury SUVs and widening its appeal. The LM002 uses a special chassis and suspension and Lamborghini`s famous V12 engine. The 5.2-liter engine with 400 hp was the same one as you would find in a legendary Countach. For those buyers who thought that 400 hp is not enough, the factory could supply the LM002 with a 7.3-liter monster V12 engine from a racing boat. Nicknamed “The Rambo Lambo,” this truck was a rugged and desert going version of the supercar Lamborghini is well-known for making.

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Despite the enormous power and tough looks, LM002 was a failure since it was hard to drive on the road. It had an enormous thirst for fuel and problems with off-road stability. It was extremely expensive. Michelin made tires exclusively for this model, which you still can find today at an astronomical price of $5,000 per tire. So, just to have your tires changed on your Lambo LM002, you will need $20,000. As you could imagine, the production of this strange vehicle was not high. Only 301 models left the Lamborghini factory, which is still a considerable number knowing all the facts.

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2. Mazda Rotary Pickup (REPU)

Among all Japanese car companies, Mazda is known for being the most innovative. That is why it kept perfecting and investing in the Wankel engine concept since the late ’60s. The first Wankel-powered model was a little sports car called 1100 Cosmo, but soon Mazda started installing this engine into ordinary models. The advantages of a Wankel engine are considerable. Its small dimensions and weight compared to regular inline units, high revving capacity, and simple construction are some benefits. However, the disadvantages are also significant because Wankel engines have little torque, are not durable and since the construction is so specific, spare parts and components are hard to come by.

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This is why it was strange when Mazda decided to install a small Wankel engine in its B-Series pickup truck in 1973. The B-Series was a common Mazda compact truck they sold globally. The version with the Wankel engine had 110 hp from the diminutive 1.3-liter engine, which was enough since the whole truck was a little over a ton. The interesting thing was that the red line on this little engine was 7,000 rpm, which made driving a B-Series truck much like driving a sports car. Unfortunately, a truck equipped with this kind of engine wasn’t capable of towing or carrying a lot of weight, but it looked cool and sounded awesome.

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1. 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. Mercedes attached a pickup truck bed and install one more axle and made it the fastest, most expensive, and rarest 6X6 in the world, creating one monster of a truck.

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It was a monster by power and torque ratings, and a monster by the 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.

These are the rarest and coolest pickup trucks that most people have never seen or even heard about. If you are lucky enough to find one, be sure to buy it while you have the chance. You will be sure to turn heads every time you drive it.

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