On paper, muscle cars and pickup trucks have little in common. The former are machines meant for hefty drive and horsepower with plenty of torque. The latter is for hauling plenty of items and are more about strength than speed.
However, the “muscle truck” phenomenon does go back a long way and many companies tried their hand at producing sturdy pickups that can tear up the drag strip. A lot of great modern trucks utilize this power, but it’s better to look back at the old-styled muscle trucks pulling it off, especially when some of these trucks are faster than the sports cars of their era.
But despite having supercar-beating performance straight from the factory, several of these muscle trucks never really sold well. Others were hits that paved the way for the great muscle trucks of today. However, they all succeed in packing in a lot of power on the road while still fulfilling a pickup’s needs. Here are ten fantastic muscle trucks many would love to drive to prove a pickup can tear up the road as well as a regular car.
10 Chevy Big 10
A surprisingly forgotten entry in Chevy’s lineup, the Big 10 was offered from 1976-79. A base version wasn’t too bad, with a 110 hp straight-six. But better were the options of either 165hp 350-cu.in. V-8 with a four-speed or a 245hp 454-cu.in. V-8 with the Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 automatic transmission.
For 1976, a pickup going from zero to 60 in under nine seconds was terrific, and the Big 10 also had sufficient hauling power. It’s great for collectors to modify to nearly 400 hp as the Big 10 remains a top number.
9 2004–13 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner
A Toyota listed among muscle trucks? Believe it. Somehow, the Toyota Tacoma X-Runner slips through the cracks when the best muscle trucks are mentioned. It may look small, but under the hood is a 4.0l V6 with 245 hp and 282 lb-ft of torque, mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
Plus, an optional charge can push it to 300 hp. It goes zero to 60 in seven seconds and, better yet, because it’s a Toyota, its reliability is much better than other trucks. It’s no “sport” truck but also a muscle machine that deserves attention.
8 2004–06 Dodge Ram SRT-10
The Ram has seen a lot of generations, good and bad. Yet somehow, the 2004-06 SRT-10 stands out. Everything about it was oversized from the 22-inch wheels to the front end. And the engine? An 8.3-liter V-10 that made 500 hp and 525 lb-ft of torque with a top speed of about 153 mph.
It was the fastest production truck ever created in its time, able to hit 60 in 5.2 seconds yet carry a 7000-pound payload. If you can put up with the crummy mileage, this is a truck meant to command the road.
7 1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota
A regular Dodge Dakota was already a good pickup truck. When you put a name as important as Carroll Shelby to it, it has to be good. Shelby took on the challenge of making a truck into a muscle machine with a 5.2 L V8 that produced 175 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque.
That may sound low, but it was married to a fantastic suspension that could make zero to 60 in eight seconds. Add to that a stunning interior and its low production numbers, and this truck should be remembered for kicking off a new era for muscle trucks.
6 1970 Chevy El Camino SS 454
Many “car/truck hybrids” were flawed as it’s hard to make two vehicle types work together. But the 1970 El Camino SS 454 bucked the trend. It looks for all the world like a muscle car with a flatbed instead of a trunk so some may sniff at it as a “pure” pickup.
But it’s also an El Camino, meaning which means it’s got a 360hp 454-cu.in. V-8 with 500 lb-ft of torque. Anything in that flatbed had to be tied down to keep from flying out when this monster tore up the road with style.
5 1970 Ford Ranchero GT
The “muscle car/truck hybrid” trend could be annoying in many ways. But now and then, it produced beauty. The 1970 Ford Ranchero GT looked like a truck and station wagon’s mishmash, but under the hood was nothing but muscle power.
A standard version had a 220-bhp 302 V-8 for some excellent performance. But there was also the option of the legendary 429 Cobra Jet V8 for 370 hp and superb handling. This didn’t last long but should be remembered as one “truck car” that could outpace anything on the road.
4 1990 Chevrolet 454 SS
There was, in fact, another amazing speedy muscle truck in 1990. The Chevrolet 454 SS has an obvious name but still a fantastic performance. It utilized an old-school 7.4-liter big-block V8 that could produce 230 hp.
That’s low today but outstanding for 1990 along with the 385 lb-ft of torque. It also had a useful payload, much better than the Syclone or other trucks. The high price led to its swift demise, but it should be better remembered for its extraordinary power on the road.
3 1978 Dodge Lil Red Express
The name may sound like a kid’s toy, but the 1978 Dodge Lil Red Express was a purely adult machine. It was one of the last of its kind, a classic hot rod design married to a pickup, and the developers used a few loopholes to make it work.
Those 2.5-inch thick exhaust pipes made it stand out and aided the 360-cubic-inch V-8 to produce 225 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. It’s a rare case of smog control not hurting a truck, so this “Lil” ride made a big impact.
2 Ford SVT Lightning
Mention “muscle trucks,” and the Ford SVT Lightning is what comes to mind. What’s impressive is that there are multiple fine generations of this baby to pick. The 1993 version featured a 351 CID Windsor V-8 rated 240 horsepower.
The 1999 model upped the ante with a supercharged 5.4 V8 and larger intakes. At 380 hp, it was the highest-powered American car for its time, capable of achieving a whopping 147 mph. When it came to fantastic muscle cars, the Lightning truly struck twice.
1 GMC Syclone
For a truck that didn’t last long, the GMC Syclone has become an icon. This was a truck that, in 1991, managed to beat a Ferrari in a head-to-head race. The 3.8l V6 may seem low, but it worked 280 hp with 350 lb-ft of torque with a zero-to-60 time of 4.3 seconds.
There were top-of-the-line muscle cars of the time that couldn’t come close to that. It’s one of the best cases in the auto history of a vehicle that bizarrely flopped, but its recent revival proves why drivers can’t get enough of it.
Sources: Motorbiscuit.com, hemmings.com, autowise.com, caranddriver.com
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