Home Cars Top-Rated Classic American Pickup Trucks

Top-Rated Classic American Pickup Trucks

Vukasin Herbez January 8, 2019

The American car industry evolved the pickup truck concept, developing it far beyond the limits of its class. Soon, the pickup truck became an icon of the American automotive landscape. Pickup trucks have been true workhorses for generations of farmers, handymen, independent business owners, and many other hard-working people. At first, pickup trucks were just tools, but then car manufacturers started developing them into something more. They gave their trucks more luxuries, as well as more powerful engines.

They came with better technology and options. Over time, the pickup truck was not just a necessity for working men. Their popularity exploded, making pickups the top-selling vehicles in America. In fact, they still are. However, most modern truck enthusiasts recognize the most common trucks from Chevrolet, Dodge, and Ford, but there are many more interesting models that built America. So read on to learn more about the top 31 classic forgotten pickup trucks that made America.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

42. Chevrolet C/K Pickup

Back in the day, basic pickup construction was extremely simple. It included a ladder chassis, live axles on both ends, and rear-wheel drive. However, with the introduction of the Willys Jeep Pickup, the truck market got its first four-wheel-drive model. After that, a four-wheel-drive was something all the car manufacturers later accepted. The truck manufacturers of the ’50s only concentrated on trucks that could haul heavy, large items. But in 1960, Chevrolet introduced an all-new model they called the C/K. They produced it in various trim lines. The “C” in “C/K” meant it had rear-wheel drive, and the “K” stood for four-wheel drive.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

These trucks proved to be a sales hit, but they had one interesting aspect first. The 1960 Chevrolet C/K had an independent front suspension, which replaced the old and rugged live front axle. The “C” models with rear-wheel drive got the independent front, but “K” models with 4×4 retained the live axle. Today, all trucks have this type of suspension, but in 1960, Chevrolet was the first. The advantages of this were numerous. First, the truck handled like a passenger car and was much more pleasurable to drive, the steering was easy and precise, and driving a truck on rough terrain was not a punishment but an enjoyable experience.

Photo Credit: 3d Tuning

41. Chevrolet El Camino SS 454

The Chevy El Camino was conceived as a half-car/half-truck vehicle for carrying light loads, and delivery duty for small business owners. ABut, in 1970, Chevrolet introduced the wildest El Camino of all in the form of the El Camino SS 454.

Photo Credit: 3d Tuning

The mighty 454 V8 LS6 was a 7.4-liter Chevrolet big block engine with a 450 hp official rating. The engine delivered around 500 hp in real life. In the El Camino SS, this engine provided significant performance figures which were close to the best regular muscle cars of the day.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

40. Ford Ranchero GT

Ford conceived the Ranchero in the late ’50s as a reasonable proposition to the car vs. 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.

Photo Credit: Classic Cars

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.

Photo Credit: Motor Illustrated

39. Dodge Dakota

There are full-size trucks like the Ford F-150 or Chevrolet Silverado and there are compact size trucks like the Toyota Hilux or Ford Ranger. However, during the late ’80s and ’90s, there was also a mid-size class of trucks led by the Dodge Dakota. As one of the industry’s leaders, Dodge noticed buyers of full-size trucks often didn’t need all that power and space. Also, the buyers of compact size trucks often needed more power and usability. They decided the solution was to build a mid-size truck. It would have smaller dimensions than a full-size Dodge but feature optional all-wheel drive.

Photo Credit: Motor Illustrated

It would also need a decent towing capacity and payload. They planned to price it between their big and small models to appeal to wider audiences. Dodge was right and in 1987, after they presented the Dakota, sales went up significantly. The Dakota was the first mid-size truck on the market. It was affordable and usable and had better fuel economy than bigger models. Although the Dakota wasn’t the only model on the market, it was the most successful. However, Dodge retired it in 2011 with no replacement so far.

Photo Credit: Hemmings

38. GMC Syclone

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 bodyshell 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.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

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 lightweight, 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.

Photo Credit: Dusty Cars

37. Chevrolet AK Series Truck

Chevy introduced the AK Series truck in 1941. They based the AK Series on Chevrolet’s passenger car platform, but with suspension modifications to improve towing capacity and payload. It was available with two six-cylinder engines, 216 and 228 cid, and with a three-speed manual transmission.

Photo Credit: Fav Cars

Its mechanics were simple but dependable. The AK Series had a few body variations, such as a regular truck and a Suburban van. Another option was the interesting Cab Over design with the passenger cabin spreading over the engine bay. In 1942, they ceased production of civilian models because of WW2. When they resumed in 1945, this generation was rarer than the later models.

Photo Credit: Net Car Show

36. Ford F-150 Lightning

The ’60s were a high watermark for American performance in terms of horsepower and torque ratings. It was also the era for looks, style, and many interesting, fast models. After the early 70’s tightening emission and safety laws, the power went embarrassingly down. It looked like the glory days of octane madness were 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, cool F-150 Lightning. Ford conceived it in the early ’90s 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, more aggressive, and packed more firepower.

Photo Credit: Net Car Show

Ford installed its 5.4-liter V8 with a supercharger that was good for 360 HP at first and 380 HP later. This was more than the previous model and more than any truck on the market at that moment. The performance numbers were sublime. The Lightning could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in five seconds, topping 140 mph. Those figures were more suited to the Porsche 911 than a regular pickup truck that could tow or carry cargo 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.

Photo Credit: Mecum

35. Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible

The Dakota was a compact pickup from Dodge 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 early ’90s, the company conceived a convertible version of this truck. For some reason, Dodge management thought it would be cool to offer a pickup truck with a convertible roof and roll bar. The idea looked good on paper, but customers weren’t impressed and the Sports Convertible wasn’t a big seller in its class.

Photo Credit: Motor Illustrated

Dodge contracted the American Sunroof Company to do the fine job of cutting the roof, replacing it with a convertible top. This outside contract caused the Sports Convertible to be more expensive than the similar Dakota, which didn’t help sales. Since then, several manufacturers tried the same thing, most notably the Chevrolet SSR. However, none had wanted sales results. Today, the Dakota Sports Convertible is considered a collector vehicle and their prices are on the rise. If you looking for one, find a V6 powered model with an all-wheel drive, wild graphics, and nice equipment, because those cars will have the most value.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

34. Jeep Gladiator Honcho

During the ’70s, most truck manufacturers experienced trouble selling their products. The recession and bad fuel economy kept buyers away from those big, thirsty trucks equipped with V8 engines. Even some small compact trucks managed to achieve good sales results due to their affordable prices, smaller engines, and youthful image. In an effort to capture the latter, many U.S. manufacturers introduced some interesting versions with bright colors, cool details, and crazy wheels. But among all those trucks, people thought the Jeep Gladiator Honcho was the coolest.

Photo Credit: Car And Driver

This special model was based on a regular Gladiator truck. However, Jeep added some fun graphics on the side and the “Honcho” name. They also included numerous interior details, special wheels, off-road tires, and a pulling winch. Under the hood, a couple of engines were available, but if the Honcho came with the optional 401 AMC V8. It was a seriously powerful machine for the day. The Jeep started an aggressive advertising campaign. But despite all the efforts, they only made 1,500 Honchos in seven years of production. Since then, the Honcho has become a highly sought-after collector truck and its prices are on the rise. You could find an unrestored one, but since there are so many unique trim pieces and details, restoring one could be a difficult, expensive job.

Photo Credit: Car And Driver

33. Jeep FC

All Jeeps are capable off-road SUV models with a characteristic design and signature appearance. However, in 1956, Jeep introduced a strange model they called the Forward Control or FC. It was a cab-forward, bulldog-style truck with the engine underneath the passengers and all-wheel drive.

Photo Credit: Motor Biscuit

Even though the FC was a Jeep, which means it was a capable, tough, and durable machine, the market didn’t respond well. So, in its nine years of production, Jeep made just around 30,000 of them, mostly for the export market. Jeep thought the FC would be a bestseller, but on the domestic market, most buyers preferred models with a more formal look.

Photo Credit: Auto Week

32. Jeep CJ-10

Jeep introduced the CJ-10 model in the early ‘80s. They sold it until 1985, mostly abroad, although they sold a small number in the U.S. This Jeep was a bigger, tougher model than most people expected because they based it on the J300 platform. It had a bigger payload and tow capacity and it was a heavy-duty Jeep truck.

Photo Credit: Auto Week

It got its power from the classic 4.2-liter gasoline engine of a 3.2-liter Nissan diesel engine available on some markets. Domestic models included the military tug version the U.S. Air Force used. However, most of the civilian CJ-10 models ended up in Australia with right-hand drive.

Photo Credit: Ford Trucks

31. Ford Model T Roundabout with Pickup Body

Everybody knows the Model T. It singlehandedly changed the auto industry and introduced new car production methods. Most of all, the Model T establish the Ford Motor Company as the industry leader, and for years to come. With over 15 million Model Ts, it was the record-holder for almost 50 years until the VW Beetle came along. The Model T was an iconic model and it launched the era of motorization. So it’s only natural that the Model T had a big influence on the pickup class. As soon as they introduced it, independent body shops started chopping regular models and turning them into trucks.

Photo Credit: Ford Trucks

But it took Ford several years to understand they should add a pickup version to the lineup. So they eventually introduced the first factory pickup in 1925. Ford called it the Model T Roundabout with Pickup Body, and it was just one of 15 body styles Ford offered for the Model T. However, it was one of the most important ones too. Their sales proved the pickup was in demand. Even though it lacked a large towing capacity or payload, it was a practical and dependable vehicle. Even after they discontinued the Model T in 1927, the pickup version stayed in production for a little longer, influencing many other brands to present similar vehicles. Today, Ford is the biggest pickup manufacturer in the world, and it’s all thanks to this small truck with 20 HP.

Photo Credit: Mecum

30. Mercury M-Series

You probably didn’t know it, but Mercury made trucks from 1946 all the way to 1968. Although they designed and built them primarily for the Canadian market, Mercury sold their M-Series trucks in the northern parts of the U.S., as well. Visually just slightly different from its Ford counterpart, the Mercury M-Series trucks were mechanically identical to Ford pickups.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Even though Mercury was Ford’s upscale brand, the M-Series trucks they sold across the border had fewer options and details. This is because the Canadian market was smaller and wanted basic work trucks, not fancy, two-tone pickups. Production lasted until 1968 and today Mercury trucks are rare and highly desirable collector’s items.

Photo Credit: Bring A Trailer

29. Jeep Willys Pickup

Willys was an economy car manufacturer before the Second World War. They produced Jeeps for the U.S. Army from 1941 to 1946. But when the war ended, Willys found it hard to transfer to passenger car production. They were left with a big amount of Jeep engines, chassis, and components. So the logical decision was to produce Jeeps for civilian use, mostly 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. However, the company wanted to go further, so they introduced a line of pickup trucks with Jeep mechanics, engines, and design but with a twist.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The Willys pickups they introduced in 1947 had four-wheel drive, making them much more capable than any regular pickup truck available at the time. Today, four-wheel-drive trucks are nothing special since most new models come with 4×4 as standard. But back then, the four-wheel-drive was revolutionary. Although those early Willys Jeep truck had small 2.3-liter four-cylinder engines delivering 63 HP, they were tough, capable trucks with great traction, pulling power, and durability. Willys produced a couple of variants including a bare-bones chassis for custom bodywork. Over the years, Willys introduced bigger six-cylinder engines. However, they ceased the production of this original model in 1965 after building more than 200,000.

Photo Credit: Mecum

28. Hudson Pickup

In the ‘40s, Hudson was one of the most popular economy car makers in the U.S. Logically, the company wanted to expand. They decided to enter the pickup truck market with a beautiful model based on an Essex chassis with a straight-six engine.

Photo Credit: Mecum

The Hudson pickup was well-received initially. But eventually, the company couldn’t compete with Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet. So, by the late ‘40s, they abandoned the idea of producing light trucks. Most truck fans think that’s too bad since the Hudson had a cool design and a powerful engine under the hood.

Photo Credit: Driving

27. Chevrolet 490 Series Half-Ton Pickup

Chevrolet introduced the 490 Series Half-Ton Pickup based on the new 490 Sedan in 1918. Interestingly, the Half-Ton was the first specially-designed pickup in the world. This means that Chevrolet intended to present this model as a light-duty delivery vehicle rather than just a chopped-off sedan body. The power came from a four-cylinder engine, which was standard in the range. Notably, this first truck came from the factory without a body.

Photo Credit: Freep

That meant the customers were supposed to buy their own cab and truck bed according to their needs. Chevrolet sold a running chassis with the engine, transmission, wheels, hood, and fenders, and then buyers looked for the rest. In those days, many body shops constructed open or closed trucks per the customer’s specifications. Some trucks even had a few bodies they could switch for different applications. The 490 Series truck stayed in production for over 10 years. Chevrolet produced a big number of those, influencing other truck manufacturers to start designing similar models.

Photo Credit: Classic

26. Diamond T Model 201 Pickup

For those who don’t know, Diamond T was a well-known truck manufacturer that specialized in commercial vehicles, large trucks, and fire engines. And as such, the company decided to step down to the light truck market. They introduced two models featuring powerful six-cylinder engines and tough mechanics.

Photo Credit: Wallup

They presented the Model 201 in the late ‘40s with a sturdy chassis and big wheels. And with its powerful engine, it had a better towing capacity than its competitors. But unfortunately, it was significantly more expensive than similar models, so few could afford such a big and powerful truck.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

25. Studebaker L5 Coupe

Just a small percentage of today’s car enthusiasts remember Studebaker since the company was discontinued in 1966. However, Studebaker was active on the pickup market with some of the most beautiful classic trucks the industry ever made.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

Based on their passenger car lineup, the 1938 L5 Coupe was an elegant and quality-built pickup truck, despite its name. It featured lots of cool detail and luxury equipment. Better yet, it came with spare wheels on the fenders. Even though it wasn’t a big sale success, it was influential. It showed that trucks are not just workhorses, but also elegant creations.

Photo Credit: Uncrate

24. Dodge Power Wagon

Dodge has a long history in the pickup field. One of their most famous and influential is the legendary Power Wagon. They introduced this model in the ‘40s, combining rugged truck construction with four-wheel drive.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

The six-cylinder engine in the Power Wagon wasn’t particularly strong. However, the truck was extremely capable and dependable. In fact, most customers who needed a tough workhorse loved it. It remained in production for almost 20 years, selling internationally.

Photo Credit: Mecum

23. Chevrolet Cameo

Before the ‘55 to ‘58 Chevrolet Cameo, pickups had a step side design of the truck bed. This meant that they formed the beds with sculpted rear fenders, oftentimes with wooden sides. It was a production method dating back to the first trucks from the early ‘20s. But as one of the biggest pickup manufacturers in America, Chevrolet presented the Fleetside truck bed on the 1955 model. The Fleetside construction was revolutionary in many ways. First, the truck bed looked more elegant and flush with lthe ines of the cabin as well as the whole design of the truck. Second, the Fleetside allowed the maximum width of the truck bed, making the truck more capable to carry wider loads.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Third, the innovative construction was more durable and stronger than ever before. 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 featuring a V8 engine and updated equipment but at a higher price. Some earlier versions even featured the Fleetside bed consisting of fiberglass instead of steel. Chevrolet discontinued the Cameo as a model in 1958. However, their Fleetside style continues to this day and all truck manufacturers have wholeheartedly accepted it.

Photo Credit: Which Car

22. Jeep Gladiator

A direct descendant of the legendary Willys Jeep Pickup, they unveiled the Gladiator in 1963 with fresh new styling and great new features. However, the most important upgrade was the independent front suspension similar to the Chevrolet C/K. Jeep wasn’t the first, but it was the first four-wheel-drive truck with that kind of front suspension. It was not hard to mount a double-wishbone suspension or A-arms with coil springs to the front end of a truck, which Chevy did in 1960. It was hard to do the same with the front axle going through the suspension components and powering the front wheels.

Photo Credit: Truck Trend

As an all-wheel-drive and off-road authority, Jeep was able to make it work. The result was the first truck ever with an independent front suspension and 4×4 drivetrain, which was a huge achievement. The Gladiator immediately became the best off-road truck on the market. Even the U.S. Army used special versions for various duties. With powerful six-cylinder and V8 engines, the Gladiator was one of the best, most versatile trucks of the era.

Photo Credit: Mecum

21. REO Speed Wagon Truck

Although there is a rock band with the same name, they established the REO Company in the early 20th century. It stayed in business until the late ‘50s, producing all kinds of commercial vehicles, mostly trucks. But during the late ‘30s to late ‘40s, the company produced a popular light truck called the Speed Wagon.

Photo Credit: Mecum

It was the main competitor to Chevrolet, Ford, and Dodge. However, the REO Speed Wagon was more attractive than the rest of the trucks in the field. And best of all, it had decent mechanics and was high quality.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

20. Ford Ranchero

By the late ’50s, pickup trucks were an established car class with numerous models from several major manufacturers. Trucks were mechanically similar to each other with straight-six engines and those newly introduced V8s. Also, most had a ladder-type chassis and a live axle in the back. Always at the forefront of the market, Ford realized that there was a niche for smaller, more car-like trucks. They would attract customers who needed a used vehicle, but who didn’t haul heavy loads or need the ruggedness of a regular truck. The solution was simple: turn a full-size passenger car into a small pickup truck by chopping the body and adding a truck bed.

Photo Credit: Zarowny Motors Blog

Ford introduced the Ranchero in 1957. It was an immediate hit featuring Ford passenger car styling and appointments, along with a payload like those full-size F-Series trucks. With the Ranchero, Ford customers could enjoy the drivability of a regular sedan with the usability of a proper pickup. And that was something the market had never seen before. Ford even offered a long list of optional extras. Customers could get a big V8 engine, a two-color exterior, a radio and seatbelts. Ford offered the Ranchero until 1979 in seven generations.

Photo Credit: Mecum

19. Dodge Lil’ Express Truck

The muscle car era affected trucks, as well, resulting in a few special versions. And that included more powerful engines under the pickup hoods. But there was nothing more until 1978 when Dodge introduced the Lil’ Express Truck as the first full-size muscle truck in the world. The secret of the Lil’ Express Truck and its importance lies in the strict rules of the late ‘70s, which robbed those V8 engines of power and vehicles of their performance. But Dodge found an interesting loophole in the regulations that declared pickup trucks didn’t need a catalytic converter. This meant Dodge could install a more powerful engine to have it breathe easier. The result was the ability to deliver more punch than their previous models and competitors.

Photo Credit: Mecum

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. And then they put big truck-like stacked exhaust pipes right behind the doors and added a durable automatic transmission. Best of all, they used a red color scheme with signature decals and details, as well as lots of chrome trim. This wild-looking special model pumped out 225 HP, which was considered a lot in those days. Most notably, 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. But although it remained famous, the overall production numbers were relatively low at just under 3,000.

Photo Credit: Bring A Trailer

18. International Harvester Travelette

For those who don’t know, a crew cab configuration means that a truck has four doors and a truck bed. Today, the crew cab is a common option, so most new models, full size or compact have it as standard. But, back in the day, trucks only came in a single cab configuration with two doors. Back then, no one could imagine a truck with more than two doors that could carry more than two or three people inside.

Photo Credit: Bring A Trailer

But, in the early ’60s, International Harvester presented the Travelette version of their C-Series truck, which changed the industry with the first crew cab. Today, International Harvester is the 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 for professional users. They came with tough mechanics, big engines, and durable components. The idea behind the Travelette was simple. Allow a group of six workers to travel together with their tools and equipment in the back of the truck.

Photo Credit: Mecum

17. Chevrolet Half-Ton

In 1938, Chevrolet introduced another revolutionary model they called the Half-Ton. Under the hood was a potent six-cylinder engine with a chassis and suspension they designed to withstand tough everyday use. In those days, Chevrolet was famous for their quality and dependability with a 20-year old reputation for making the best work vehicles in America.

Photo Credit: Mecum

The 1938 Chevy truck was also important since it was one of the first trucks to feature its own design. Chevrolet recognized the truck segment as one of the most important ones in the car market. Because of that, they did their best to present a fresh and recognizable look for their products. Chevy gave their new Half-Ton an upgraded interior providing more comfort. Also, customers could choose a car radio, which was a big deal in the late ‘30s, making it the symbol of ultimate luxury.

Photo Credit: Curbside Classic

16. Dodge Dude

Back in the late ‘60s, western-themed TV shows were a big deal in America. Sp Dodge figured out how to use that popularity in their 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 products. However, Dodge did have a faithful customer base, which kept production going. Trying to warm up their 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, but with a few important features. It had bucket seats, a tachometer and an improved interior.

Photo Credit: Curbside Classic

But what customers loved was the choice of lively colors. And the best feature of all was the powerful 383 V8 engine. It came as standard with over 300 HP, providing a significant performance. One feature that most car fans remember the Dude for is the big black “C” stripe on the sides. That was reminiscent of the Dodge muscle cars of the period. The Dude is also interesting for being the first special edition truck for the older crowd who watched western shows on TV. Yet it was popular with the younger people who were into muscle cars and performance, too.

Photo Credit: Mecum

15. Kaiser Jeep M715

This interesting vehicle is primarily a military truck. But they sold a few of them to civilian customers. They based the M715 on the Jeep Gladiator pickup, introducing it in the late ‘60s for the U.S. Army. The engine was a dependable, strong six-cylinder with just 130 HP.

Photo Credit: Mecum

However, it had a lot of torque, which was necessary to move this three-ton truck. They built the M715 to be easy to service and extremely durable, which it proved in the Vietnam War as well as several other conflicts. Kaiser Jeep produced over 30,000 M715s until 1969.

Photo Credit: Mecum

14. Chevrolet El Camino

In 1957, Ford introduced the Ranchero. It was a half car-half truck they built on their passenger car design and chassis. It was an interesting alternative to a regular truck since it offered a decent payload. Yet it offered the drivability and size of a standard car. The Ranchero caught Chevrolet by surprise, so they didn’t have an answer for this model. The Ranchero became relatively popular, so Chevy needed something to fight Ford. Their answer came in 1959 in the form of the El Camino.

Photo Credit: Mecum

They built this beautiful truck on an Impala frame featuring the same looks, engine, and cabin. Most customers immediately embraced it since the El Camino offered all the goodies of the Chevrolet main passenger lineup with a half-ton capacity. In fact, they made the El Camino more upscale than the Ranchero. It featured a better option list as well as more powerful engines. The straight-six was standard, but many customers optioned for the V8.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

13. Plymouth PT 125

In the Chrysler Corporation, Dodge was the truck division responsible for almost all memorable Mopar trucks. However, during a few short years, Plymouth offered a pickup truck they based on the Dodge architecture they named the PT 125. They presented the PT Series truck in 1937, and it was almost identical to the Dodge offerings of the same period.

Photo Credit: Dodge Forum/Silodrome

The production numbers were solid, so buyers seemed to like the new Plymouth truck. However, Plymouth ceased production in late 1941 when WWII halted passenger car manufacturing in the U.S. But it is unclear why the Plymouth didn’t restart this truck line after the war. Sadly, most people have forgotten the PT 125 truck today.

Photo Credit: Mecum

12. Willys Pickup

Although most people associate the Willy name with Jeep and all-wheel drive trucks from the ‘40s onwards, the company produced several pickups before it. And they based one of the most popular designs they introduced in the late ‘30s on their economy car chassis.

Photo Credit: Mecum

The main feature was the front-end styling, which was controversial by the standards of the day, but it made the Willys Pickup recognizable. Unfortunately, the other features were ordinary and the drive train was the same as on standard passenger cars.

Photo Credit: Daily Turismo

11. Chevrolet C/K Pickup

Back in the day, basic pickup construction was extremely simple. It included a ladder chassis, live axles on both ends, and rear-wheel drive. However, with the introduction of the Willys Jeep Pickup, the truck market got its first four-wheel-drive model. After that, a four-wheel-drive was something all the car manufacturers later accepted. The truck manufacturers of the ’50s only concentrated on trucks that could haul heavy, large items. But in 1960, Chevrolet introduced an all-new model they called the C/K.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

They produced it in various trim lines. The “C” in “C/K” meant it had rear-wheel drive, and the “K” stood for four-wheel drive. These trucks proved to be a sales hit, but they had one interesting aspect first. The 1960 Chevrolet C/K had an independent front suspension, which replaced the old and rugged live front axle. The “C” models with rear-wheel drive got the independent front, but “K” models with 4×4 retained the live axle. Today, all trucks have this type of suspension, but in 1960, Chevrolet was the first. The advantages of this were numerous. First, the truck handled like a passenger car and was much more pleasurable to drive, the steering was easy and precise, and driving a truck on rough terrain was not a punishment but an enjoyable experience.

Photo Credit: Car and Driver

10. 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 the best. Ford made the first generation they sold from 1990 to 1995 a true automotive icon. The basic idea was to make a muscle truck using a regular F-150. Ford put a lot of effort into designing and producing the first generation F-150 Lightning.

Photo Credit: Mecum

First, there was the engine, a 5.8-liter V8 unit with GT40 heads, and a special camshaft. The power output was 240 HP with 340 lb-ft of torque. But, the Lightning had a revised suspension and transmission that translated to awe-inspiring acceleration times.

Photo Credit: Lafontaine Classic Cars

9. Chevrolet C30 Dually

Chevrolet presented the C30 Dually in 1973 as a part of their major offensive on the global truck market. In fact, the C30 One-Ton Dually was the first crew cab Dually Chevrolet ever offered for sale and the first heavy-duty truck ever.

Photo Credit: Barn Finds

Back then, nobody offered a Dually model with space for six passengers, heavy-duty components, and a long bed. However, in 1973, Chevrolet offered those exact models Also, they offered this truck with Chevrolet’s biggest 454 V8 and a four-speed transmission. The automatic was also available.

Photo Credit: Driving Line

8. Dodge Ram Cummins

There were diesel trucks before the ’80s-’90s Ram Cummins, but they weren’t as good as this one. Under the hood was a venerable 5.9-liter straight-six diesel engine with only 160 HP but a healthy 400 lb-ft of torque. However, for the 1991 model year, Dodge updated the truck, giving it more power and options.

Photo Credit: Youtube

As a matter of fact, most diesel truck fans consider this to be the best year in the series. The power and torque figures seem low considering today’s engines, but this is an old truck with old technology. However, old technology doesn’t mean that the ’91 Ram Cummins is not a capable vehicle. With a 4×4 drivetrain, it is an extremely good truck.

Photo Credit: Car Info

7. Chevrolet Task Force

After the successful Advanced Design generation, Chevrolet presented the Task Force in 1955. Afterward, they continued to improve the product with more options and better designs. Capturing the essence of America’s ’50s styling, the Chevy Task Force was better with the introduction of two V8 engines, the 265 and 283 CID. It also offered automatic transmission as an option.

Photo Credit: Hagerty

The venerable 235 CID six-cylinder was standard. Also, buyers could get three truck bed lengths and various trim levels. They included a basic working truck or the luxurious Apache with four headlights, a heavily-chromed grill, and a two-tone exterior. The Task Force generation showed that Chevrolet viewed the truck segment as equal in importance to the passenger car line up. This is because they invested heavily in designs, equipment, engines, and options.

Photo Credit: The Truth About Cars

6. Dodge D-Series High-Performance Package

Back in the early ’60s, the Dodge lineup of trucks was behind Ford and Chevrolet. That was because their competitors offered newer models, more options, and wider engine choices. But Dodge didn’t give up. Instead, they introduced an interesting special edition, available from 1964 to 1966, that took the pickup world by storm.

Photo Credit: Motor Trend

They called it their High-Performance Package and it featured a lot of go-faster goodies from Mopar. First, there was the mighty 426 Wedge V8 engine with 375 HP. At the moment, it was the biggest, most powerful engine they ever installed in a pickup truck. Also, it came with bucket seats in the interior, a 6,000 rpm tachometer, racing stripes, and a high-performance transmission.

Photo Credit: Mecum

5. 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.

Photo Credit: Fast Lane Cars

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.

Photo Credit: Motor Authority

4. 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.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

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.

Photo Credit: Youtube

3. Chevrolet 3100

Despite the fact that all of America’s car industry was involved in the war effort from 1942 to 1945, Chevrolet’s designers planned ahead. So in 1947, Chevy introduced the 3100 series truck. It one of the first truly modern vehicles presented in post-war America. The 3100 was a revolutionary model in many ways.

Photo Credit: Classic Auto Mall

It featured modern styling with integrated fenders and a tilted windshield. It also had a bigger truck bed and wider track for better stability. Besides that, the 3100 offered three engine choices and three payload sizes of the truck. The buyers could choose three engines, again all three six-cylinder units: 216,235 and 261 cid and three payload levels: half-ton, three-quarter-ton, and one-ton. There were short and long-wheelbase versions and a panel van option. All of that gave it the nickname “Advanced Design,” which showed how innovative those trucks were. The Advanced Design Chevy managed to outsell Ford trucks several years in a row, too.

Photo Credit: Silodrome

2. Chevrolet Greenbrier Rampside

In the late 50’s 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.

Photo Credit: Corvair

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.

Photo Credit: Motorious

1. Chevrolet C/K “Square Body”

Chevy introduced the third generation of their popular C/K trucks in 1973. It was one of the biggest, most important trucks in their history. Not only it was advanced and well-engineered, but it also featured many firsts for Chevrolet and for the entire truck segment, as well. Chevy called it the “Square Body” for its boxy design. This third-generation C/K featured a computer-designed body with more space and comfort than ever before.

Photo Credit: Country Road Auto Parts

The truck was bigger and tougher due to the new platform, revised suspension, and tougher axles. Customers had numerous cab configurations, special editions, engine options, and details to choose from, too. This made the third-generation C/K one of the best trucks in the world at the time. Chevy produced the C/K from 1973 to 1991 in the U.S. They also produced this model was in Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and South Korea. During the long production run, Chevrolet introduced a diesel engine as an option. This proved to be a highly popular choice in Europe and South America.

Please wait 5 sec.