Ever since the automobile became an integral part of the American landscape, pickup trucks have been one of the bestselling vehicles. The combination of rugged mechanics, practical features, dependable engines and a “do anything” attitude appealed to millions of customers. Pickups became the favorite tools of workers, farmers and even the military and law enforcement agencies. So, it is safe to say that pickup trucks have made America as we know it today.
Over the years, pickups went from being strictly vehicles for work to upscale and expensive models. They even feature plush interiors, chrome trims and various creature comforts. So trucks have become less of a tool and more of a lifestyle vehicle. Somewhere along the line, engineers figured out that trucks are the best base for powerful engines because of their sturdy chassis and heavy-duty axles.
Technically if trucks can handle the heavy work, they can handle the hard accelerations. And this is how the muscle truck class started. They presented the first performance trucks in the â60s. Over the years there have been several true muscle cars in the truck class, some even foreign manufacturers produced. So keep reading this ultimate muscle truck list to learn much more.
Back in the late â60s, western-themed TV shows were a big deal in America so Dodge figured out a way how to use that popularity in its favor. In that period, Dodge had a D Series line of pickup trucks. They were sturdy and dependable machines, but not as popular as Ford or Chevrolet trucks. However, Dodge had a faithful customer base that kept the production going.
To warm up the aging D Series line, Dodge presented one of the most legendary special edition pickup trucks they called the Dude. The Dude was a regular D Series truck with a few important features. It had bucket seats, a tachometer, an improved interior and lively colors. But the best thing was the powerful 383 V8 engine that came as standard with over 300 HP and some significant performance.
The feature the Dude the most famous for is the big black “C” stripe on the sides of the truck reminiscent of Dodge muscle cars of the period. The Dude is also interesting for being the first special edition truck popular with the older crowd who watched western shows on TV, as well as the younger crowd who were into muscle cars and performance.
Ford Ranchero GT
Ford conceived the Ranchero in the late ’50s as a reasonable proposition to the car/truck dilemma. And it sold reasonably well and became a practical vehicle for people who wanted the usability and 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 because their main customer wanted basic transportation with reasonable fuel economy.
Although, V8 engines were in the offering, neither were particularly powerful. However, in the late ’60s when the muscle car craze took the American automotive landscape by storm, Ford introduced its most potent muscle car engine. They added the mighty 429 Cobra Jet to their Ranchero line.
If you opted for the GT package in 1970 and paid extra for the 429, you could get one of the fastest trucks on the planet. It came with optional wood grain sides, a hood scoop and suspension upgrades. Even though they rated the Cobra Jet engine at 335 HP, in reality, it delivered over 450 HP. The performance was brutal, so the Ranchero GT was a bit handful to drive.
The typical Ranchero buyers didn’t go for the 429 GT option since it was costlier and demanding to drive. However, the typical muscle car fans looked for the Cobra Jet engine in other body styles. And that is why the Ranchero GT with the 429 engine is a rare, highly desirable machine today. But those perfect examples command high prices.
Chevrolet El Camino SS 454
When Ford introduced the Ranchero in 1957, Chevrolet didn’t have anything similar. But since Chevy and Ford are two of the car industry’s biggest rivals, the Bowtie company introduced the El Camino two years later in 1959. Like the Ranchero, the El Camino was a half car-half truck they built on an Impala chassis. And it shared most of the Impala’s design, interior components, and engines.
Arguably better looking than the Ranchero, the El Camino didn’t have the same market success. So, eventually they downsized it to the mid-size platform. For the end of the â60s and the muscle car madness, the El Camino got the proper firepower and one special trim level, the SS. They introduced the El Camino SS in 1967. It stands for the 396 V8 engine with 325 HP.
That was plenty of power for a mid-size compact truck, so it delivered a serious performance. However, the first rule of the muscle car culture is that bigger is always better. So, for 1970, the El Camino SS got its ultimate version with the brutal 454 V8 engine. The mighty 454 V8 LS6 was a 7.4-liter Chevrolet big block engine with 450 HP official rating. But the engine delivered around 500 HP in real life.
A fire-breathing beast, it was one of the best engines of the muscle car era. In the El Camino SS, this engine provided significant performance figures close to regular muscle cars of the day. The biggest problem was the lightweight rear end that caused hard launches off the line accompanied by much wheel spin and smoke. The El Camino SS 454 is a collector models, but finding a true El Camino SS 454 is hard and expensive.
Dodge D Series High Performance Package
Back in the early ’60s, Dodge’s lineup of trucks was behind Ford and Chevrolet. Its competitors had newer models, more options, and wider engine choices. But Dodge introduced an interesting special edition from 1964 to 1966 that took the pickup world by storm. And they called it the High-Performance Package since it featured many go-faster goodies from Mopar.
First, there was the mighty 426 Wedge V8 engine with 375 HP. At the time it was the biggest and the most powerful engine they ever installed in a pickup truck. Second, there were bucket seats in the interior, a 6,000-rpm tachometer, racing stripes and a performance transmission. They even updated the suspension to withstand such big power and torque.
And the finished product looked cool and performed well, but a high price sealed its fate. They only built approximately 50 Dodge D Series High-Performance Package models with 31 known to exist today. So, you can imagine how rare and valuable those vehicles are today and how hard it is to find one.
Dodge Lil’ Express Truck
Dodge was on the forefront of special editions and limited truck models back in the â70s. And the best known and most popular was none other than the Lil’ Express Truck. They built it for just two years in 1978 and 1979 in limited numbers. The secret of the Lil’ Express Truck was in the strict rules of the late â70s 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 that Dodge could install a more powerful engine and have it breathe easier to deliver more punch than previous models or their competitors. And this is how the Lil` Express Truck came to be.
Dodge took the standard D Series short bed truck, added a 360 V8 engine and put big truck-like stacked exhaust pipes behind the doors. They also installed a durable automatic transmission. Then they polished it off with a red color scheme, signature decals and lots of chrome trim. This wild looking special model had 225 HP which was impressive in those days. And thanks to the revised drivetrain, it was the fastest accelerating domestic vehicle in 1978.
Just as a reminder, the Dodge pickup truck was faster than all those Mustangs, Camaros and Corvettes in 1978. The Lil’ Express Truck was back for 1979 and it remained famous. However, the overall production numbers were relatively low at just under 3,000. Today, these cool-looking Dodge trucks are highly desirable and rare, so they command high prices.
Back in the 1980s, GM experimented with turbocharged engines, which was in sync with industry trends at that time. And the most famous of them was the Buick Grand National or Buick GNX. It featured the 3.8-liter turbocharged V6 engine with under five-second 0 to 60 mph times. With that kind of firepower, those black Buicks were terrorizing the drag strips and stop lights.
But by the early 1990s, the Buicks were gone, so the GM engineers were looking for a place to install that turbo hardware. They decided to make a crazy sports truck out of a plebian Chevrolet S10, a compact pickup with diminutive, four-cylinder power. This is how the GMC Syclone was born. GM took an ordinary S10 body shell and installed a 4.3-liter V6 with a turbocharger. It was good for 280 HP and included a special four-speed automatic from a Corvette and performance-based all-wheel drive.
The power figures don’t sound much these days, but the Syclone was able to sprint to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds which made it faster than contemporary Ferraris. The key was the light weight, small dimensions and lots of torque from that turbocharged engine.
Of course, the price was significantly higher than the regular model so they built less than 3,000 of them, mostly in the signature black color. Today, the GMC Syclone is a collector vehicle and a highly sought-after model. And it is still quite fast and can hold its own against much younger and more powerful cars, too.
The Lamborghini LM002 is somewhere between a truck and an off-road SUV since it has four doors, a double cab and a truck bed behind. This crazy creation debuted in the mid-80s as Lamborghini’s attempt to enter the world of luxury SUVs and widen its appeal. The LM002 uses a special chassis and suspension. It also includes Lamborghini’s famous V12 engine, the 5.2-liter unit with 400 HP, which was the same one as in the legendary Countach.
For those buyers who thought that 400 HP was 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, desert-going version of the supercar Lamborghini was well-known for making. Despite the enormous power and tough looks, the LM002 was a failure since it was hard to drive on the road.
Also, it had an enormous thirst for fuel and even had some problems with off-road stability. And it was extremely expensive. Michelin made tires just for this model you still can find today at an astronomical price of $5,000 per tire. So, just having your tires changed on your Lambo LM002, costs $20,000.
As you can imagine, the production of this strange vehicle was not high. So only 301 of them ever left the Lamborghini factory. But this is still a considerable number knowing all the facts.
Ford F-150 Lightning
The Ford F-150 Lightning is a legendary truck. It wasn’t the first of Ford`s limited edition trucks, but it was extremely well executed. This made the first generation from 1990 to 1995 a true automotive icon. The basic idea was to make a muscle truck using a regular F-150, like the Chevrolet 454 SS.
However, Ford did it with more care and better engineering, giving the Lightning a lighter and smaller, yet powerful engine. Ford put a lot of effort into designing and producing the first generation F-150 Lightnings. The engine was a 5.8-liter V8 unit with GT40 heads, a special camshaft, and a lot of unique internals. The power output was 240 HP with 340 lb-ft of torque, which is a little less than the Chevrolet 454 SS.
But the Lightning was much lighter and had a revised suspension and transmission that translated to better acceleration times. Other than that, Ford changed every important bit of the vehicle to present the Lightning as a true performance vehicle. Despite the higher price and the older basic platform in the early ’90s, the F-150 Lightning was relatively popular yet highly influential.
Chevrolet 454 SS
After almost two decades of low compression engines, safety and environmental laws, and the slow performance of the early 1990s, U.S. manufacturers started to produce faster, more powerful models. The wave of this 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 available engine in the lightest full-size truck. It was basically the muscle car philosophy in a truck form. That is why Chevrolet’s engineers took the ordinary 1990 Chevy 1500 pickup truck with the short bed option and added the massive 454 V8 engine.
The enormous 7.2-liter V8 was good enough for 230 to 255 HP. Although this was a diminutive number, it also had 385 lb-ft of torque, which made it fly down the road. They borrowed the big block engine from Chevrolet’s heavy-duty truck lineup. However, it was a durable but also a thirsty machine.
On the outside, the 454 SS was rather low key without any wild graphics or color choices. On the back of the bed, there was the model designation. But the only difference was the blackout front grille. However, despite having big torque numbers, the 454 SS wasn’t fast so it couldn`t beat sports cars like the GMC Syclone. Still, it was one of the fastest trucks around as well as a cool looking vehicle.
Dodge Ram SRT-10
Produced from 2004 to 2006, the Dodge Ram SRT-10 os one of the craziest, most powerful and fastest pickups they ever produced. Although Dodge always had wild special versions of their trucks, look at the specs of this truck. The SRT-10 had an 8.2-liter V10 engine with over 500 HP, and 0 to 60 times of fewer than five seconds. Also, its fuel economy was in the single digits.
Add a crazy bright red or yellow paint job, two white racing stripes and big shiny chrome wheels, and you’ll see what the SRT-10 is all about. It was something you couldn`t miss if you saw it on the street. Of course, with the price tag of over $45,000, the SRT-10 wasn’t exactly a sales hit. But they did produce a decent number of them in its three-year production run.
In 2005, Dodge introduced the Quad Cab option that gave the SRT-10 another pair of doors and more practicality. The four-speed automatic was standard, but you could also get a six-speed manual straight from the Viper with the engine. Interestingly, the SRT-10 sent all its power to the rear wheels since the size of the engine limited installing an all-wheel-drive system. Imagine how quick the SRT-10 could have been if it had AWD.
1999 Ford F-150 Lightning
The â60s were a high watermark for American performance in horsepower and torque ratings as well as style, and interesting, fast models. After the early â70s and tight emissions and safety laws, the power went embarrassingly down. It looked like the glory days of octane madness were forever gone. Fortunately, in the ’90s, American manufacturers started investing in performance and delivering faster, more powerful cars.
One of those pure performance machines was the crazy and cool F-150 Lightning. Ford conceived it in the early ’90s with only 240 HP, but the Lightning was a performance truck with great driving dynamics. However, in 1999 with the new and redesigned generation of F-150 trucks came the new Lightning. This time it was meaner looking and came with much more firepower.
Ford equipped its 5.4-liter V8 with a supercharger 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 at that moment. The performance numbers were sublime since the Lightning could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds and top 140 mph.
Those figures were more suited to the Porsche 911 of the period than to a regular pickup truck that could tow stuff just like other F-150. The second-generation Lightning proved to be quite popular, so it stayed in production for five years up to 2004. During that period, the Ford SVT department produced over 30,000 Lightning trucks, which are fantastic numbers.
Mercedes G-Class G63 AMG 6×6
The Mercedes G-Class is one of the longest-running models in the car world. They first introduced it in 1979 as a primarily military off-road SUV and truck. However, it is still on the market with the same basic design. Over 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 military truck lacking any luxury items to an overpriced, premium full-size SUV with powerful engines, 20-inch chrome wheels and acres of leather. So, what do you do when you can’t modify the model any further or make it more exclusive? Just attach a pickup truck bed and install one more axle to make it the fastest, most expensive and rarest 6X6 in the world. By doing that, Mercedes created one monster of a truck.
It was a monster by the power and torque ratings and the sticker price, too. Under the hood is the 5.5-liter twin turbo engine with 540 HP that delivers power to all six wheels through a specially-built automatic transmission unit. The inside of the car is all about luxury with the finest materials and creature comforts. But this 6X6 may not be as capable in the wild since it is a big, heavy truck.
But it looks like it can tackle the sand dunes, as well. And, of course, there is the matter of price. When it was new, the G63 had a sticker price of $450,000, but if you find one today, expect to pay close to one million dollars for it. This is an absurd price for an absurd vehicle.
In the early 2000s, the retro design was the king. Introducing new cars with classic shapes was the ticket to success. So, Chevrolet thought it would be a great idea to present a retro-styled truck. But it had to have a sporty feel and retractable hardtop. It worked as a lifestyle vehicle for people who want a sports car with retro charm and more space for all their needs.
However, Chevrolet introduced such a vehicle in 2003 and called it the Super Sports Roadster or SSR. They built it on the SUV platform but with a Corvette V8 engine, fold-down hard top and tight cabin for only two passengers. All in all, the SSR was more like a modern hot rod.
The SSR looked cool and had the glorious soundtrack from a small block V8 with around 400 HP and dual exhaust pipes. The performance wasn’t impressive since the 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`s response was mild. The price was north of $45,000, which meant it was expensive. Soon, older people started buying SSRs as midlife crisis cars. That killed the model since it wasn’t cool in the eyes of the younger crowd. So, the end came in 2006 after they built around 24,000 of them.
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 conceived a performance version with the legendary Carroll Shelby.
Shelby took the 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. This meant this compact truck delivered a convincing performance.
Carroll Shelby also dressed up the Dakota with a special paint, trim, roll bar and wheels. This made this little truck stand out on the streets. However, the price of over $15,000 was too much for most buyers. So by the end, Dodge managed to sell only 1,475 of them.
Ford F-150 Raptor
To explain the current Ford Raptor, you have to look at the numbers. It includes a 3.5-liter turbocharged V6 with 450 HP and 510 lb-ft with a 10-speed automatic transmission and sub-five-seconds acceleration times. The figures suggest this is an exotic supercar, yet it is a full-size pickup truck with room for five people and a regular truck bed.
But this is not your ordinary pickup because the Ford Raptor is the closest thing to a full Baja 1000 racing vehicle you can buy today. Everything started in 2010 when Ford introduced the first-generation SVT Raptor. The truck buying public didn’t expect such a move, but they were fascinated by its looks and performance.
The idea behind the Raptor was to construct the fastest off-road truck money could buy by installing numerous chassis and suspension upgrades, as well as a powerful engine. The best thing about it was Ford built an extreme off-road truck with a warranty, as well. With multiple driving modes, a 10-speed automatic gearbox and adaptive suspension, the Ford Raptor is a truck you can take rock crawling, desert crossing or mud dipping.
Although it’s still an everyday car, Ford did a great job in combining the toughness of an extreme off-road truck with the usability of a regular modern pickup. The second generation of the Ford Raptor is available now. Despite the fact it is expensive, the Raptor is popular due to its performance and uncompromised off-road dominance.
These are the greatest muscle pickup trucks ever made. Did you choose your favorite from this list? If so, don’t waste any time since most are becoming rare, highly desirable classics in the automotive world.