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Hot Rod Trucks: 17 of the Best Muscle Pickups They Ever Made

Vukasin HerbezMarch 8, 2019

  1. Chevrolet 454 SS

The basic idea behind this model was to offer the biggest available engine in the lightest full-size truck. It was basically the muscle car philosophy in a truck form. That is why the Chevrolet engineers took an ordinary 1990 Chevy 1500 pickup truck with the short bed option and added a massive 454 V8 engine. The enormous 7.2-liter V8 was good for 230 to 255 HP, 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. The 454 SS was a durable but thirsty machine. But on the outside, the 454 SS was low key without any wild graphics or color choices.

  1. Dodge Lil Express Truck

The secret of the Lil` Express Truck and its importance lies in the strict rules of the late ’70s that robbed V8 engines of their power and vehicles of their 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 and have it breathe easier to deliver more punch than their previous models or competitors.

And that is how the Lil’ Express Truck came to be. Dodge took a standard D Series short bed truck and added a 360 V8 engine. Next, they added big truck-like stacked exhaust pipes right behind the doors. They also installed a durable automatic transmission with a red color scheme.

Their final touches included some signature decals and details, as well as lots of chrome trim. This wild looking special model delivered 225 HP, which was considered a lot in those days. And thanks to its revised drive train, it was the fastest accelerating domestic vehicle in 1978.

  1. Ford F-150 Lightning

The Ford F-150 Lightning is a legendary truck. It wasn’t the first muscle truck, but it was one of the best and extremely well executed. And all that made the first generation, which Ford sold from 1993 to 1995, a true automotive icon. The basic idea was to make a muscle truck using a regular F-150, similar to the Chevrolet 454 SS.

However, Ford did it with more care and better engineering. Also, they gave the Lightning a lighter and smaller, but equally powerful engine. Under the hood was a 5.8-liter V8 with 240 HP and 340 lb-ft of torque, giving the classic F-150 Lightning respectable performance.

  1. Chevrolet El Camino 454 SS

The Chevrolet El Camino was conceived as a half-car/half-truck vehicle for carrying light loads. It could do delivery duty and was a useful tool for small business owners. In fact, most of them lived their lives exactly like that. But in 1970, Chevrolet introduced the wildest El Camino of all in the form of the El Camino SS 454. The mighty 454 V8 LS6 was a 7.4-liter Chevrolet big block engine with an official rating of 450 HP.

The engine delivered around 500 HP in real life, so it was a fire-breathing beast. And it had one of the best engines of the muscle car era. In the El Camino SS, this engine provided significant performance figures close to the best regular muscle cars of the day.

  1. 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.

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.

  1. Ford F-150 Raptor

If the first Raptor lacked a quick acceleration, the second generation managed to earn the crown back for Ford. It has a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 with 450 HP and 510 lb-ft. Also, it comes with a 10-speed automatic transmission and sub-five-second acceleration times. Again, this is a primarily off-road beast, but it is more than capable of outrunning all the other pickup trucks out there.

  1. Chevrolet Silverado SS

Introduced in 2003, the Silverado SS was basically the spiritual successor to the legendary 454 SS model from the early ‘90s. However, it was somewhat more refined and came with more power and options.

Under the hood was a 6.0-liter V8 that pumped out 365 HP and provided a sub-seven-second 0 to 60 mph time. The Silverado SS was on the market from 2003 to 2005 and came in four colors, which makes them easy to recognize on the street.

  1. Ford F-150 Lightning

In 1999 with the new, totally redesigned generation of F-150 trucks came the new Lightning. This time it was much meaner looking, aggressive and packed 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 as well as much more than any truck on the market at that moment.

Also, the performance numbers were sublime because the Lightning could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds and top 140 mph. Those figures were more suited to a Porsche 911 than to a regular pickup truck that could carry stuff just like other F-150.

  1. GMC Syclone

Back in the 1980s, GM experimented a lot with turbocharged engines, which was in sync with industry trends at the time. So, GM took an ordinary S10 body shell and installed a 4.3-liter V6 with a turbocharger good for 280 HP. Next, they added a special four-speed automatic from a Corvette and performance-based all-wheel drive.

Although the power figures may not sound like much these days, the Syclone was able to sprint to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds. And that made it faster than its contemporary Ferraris.

  1. 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.

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.

  1. 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.

The F-150 Tremor was available as 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.

  1. Shelby Dakota

The Dakota was a compact pickup truck from Dodge they sold between 1987 and 1996. It was dependable, tough looking and came with a wide arrange of engines and trim levels. But Dodge wanted more, so in the late ‘80s, the company decided to build a performance version. They wanted to have the legendary Carroll Shelby create it, who was working with Chrysler Corporation at the moment.

Shelby took a regular production Dakota and installed a 5.2-liter V8 engine with 175 HP. Although the power output was relatively small, the Dakota was light and had lots of torque. And all that meant this compact truck had a convincing performance. Shelby also dressed up the Dakota with a special paint job and trim. Then, they added a roll bar and wheels, which made this little truck stand out on the streets.

  1. Chevrolet SSR

Chevy built the SSR on an SUV platform with a Corvette V8 engine. It had a fold-down hard top and a tight cabin for only two passengers, making the SSR more like a modern hot rod. It looked cool and it had a glorious soundtrack from its small block V8. The engine delivered around 400 HP and they added dual exhaust pipes.

The performance wasn’t overly impressive and a sprint to 60 mph took around six seconds, so it wasn’t slow, either. With the retro design, big wheels and strange silhouette, it was something different on the streets. The SSR was not your typical muscle truck, but it had a V8 and a truck bed, so you could consider it one.

This list included the top hot rod trucks. They are the best muscle pickups they ever made. Did you find your favorite one on this list? They provide the utility of a truck and the performance of a hot rod, which is the best of both worlds. So, if you decide to get one, it’s a win-win.

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