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  • Twelve Trucks Every Truck Guy Needs To Own In Their Lifetime

Twelve Trucks Every Truck Guy Needs To Own In Their Lifetime

The Trucker’s Dozen

Truck Trend Editors
Mar 24, 2015
It’s no secret, pickup fans are some of the most loyal and devoted in the entire automotive realm. And it’s for good reason too, since over the last several decades there’s been a lot to be excited about. Car guys certainly don’t get to have all the fun. From muscle-trucks to serious off-roaders, we’ve put together our list of the Top 12 pickups that every true truck enthusiast needs to own at some point in their life. Sure, some are more glamorous than others, a few are luxurious, and even more are bare bones, but each one brings its own merit to the list. So, without further ado, let’s go forth and drive up the resale value of these legendary pickups!
1991 GMC Syclone
The Original Sport Truck
Photo 2/14   |   1991 Gmc Syclone
Everyone should own a GMC Syclone or Typhoon at some point during his or her lifetime. If 280 turbocharged horsepower shoehorned under the hood of an all-wheel-drive first-generation GMC Sonoma (the Chevy S-10’s cousin) sounds like fun, what do you think about 300 hp? That’s what some people estimate these “T-15” sport compact trucks actually made straight from the factory. Unlike what’s currently listed on Wikipedia, the Syclone and Typhoon came with the same 700R4 four-speed automatic transmission that was also used in the C-4 Corvette that was being sold at Chevy dealerships at the same time, and there were rumors that bigwigs at General Motors wouldn’t allow another vehicle to have a higher horsepower rating than the company’s halo car. Whatever the true number was, no one doubted the 4.3L V-6 engine, with its air-to-water intercooled turbocharging system and upgraded internal parts, was making all of the advertised 350 lb-ft of torque. All of that twist, along with the viscous-coupling transfer case, which was also used in the Oldsmobile Bravada, propelled the Syclone pickup from 0-60 mph in just 4.3 seconds and the SUV Typhoon to that speed in about 5 seconds or less. Sure, the turbo lag is completely noticeable, but the huge surge of power that follows is intoxicating (and was enough to cause one of our staffers to smoke the transmission of their ’92 Typhoon during just one afternoon of careless brake-boosted launches). Even though the Syclone was only produced for the 1991 model year (less than 3,000) and the Typhoon only during 1992 and 1993, there always seems to be a few unmodified SyTy trucks for sale online. If we didn’t want to hoard them all for ourselves, we’d suggest you pick one up for less than $15,000 and drive it until the wheels fall off.
1984-1988 Toyota Pickup 4x4
McFly’s Ride
Photo 3/14   |   1984 Toyota Pickup 4x4 Back To The Future
The 1984-1988 Toyota Pickup is one of the toughest, most reliable vehicles ever produced, which is why many of them get turned into trail buggies. Available with the carbureted 22R I-4, bulletproof 22R-E I-4, punchy 22R-TE turbo I-4, or 3VZ-E V-6, the Pickup rewards its owners with year after year of rugged performance, low operating costs, and a fun-to-drive personality that’s missing in most other trucks. Pick one with four-wheel drive and a manual transmission and you can’t go wrong.
Admit it, anyone who can fog a mirror wants a bitchin’ black-on-black-on-black 1985 Toyota Pickup 4x4 like the one in Back to the Future, preferably with Elisabeth Shue riding shotgun. There’s no denying that Marty had good taste.
1983-2011 Ford Ranger
The Pickup
Photo 4/14   |   2011 Ford Ranger Xlt 4x4
The Ford Ranger had an astonishing 29-year production run from 1983 until 2012. We debated even putting the Ranger on our list because it’s highly likely that any truck lover alive during this time would have already owned at least one. The Ranger was the pickup for everyman; during its lifespan Ford produced a truck for any purpose, with a multitude of different suspension systems (two and four-wheel-drive), cab configurations, bed lengths, transmissions (manual and automatic), and engines (both four and six-cylinder; gasoline, diesel, and electric). Rangers were the first vehicle for many teenagers just learning to drive, the lifeblood of working fleets, and weekend toys for the enthusiast. During the height of its popularity, Ford was selling nearly 400,000 of these trucks each and every year.
In the years leading up to the Ranger’s demise its main competitors, the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma, had both been redesigned and enlarged towards the mid-size market, while Chevy discontinued the S-10. This left the Ranger alone in the mini-truck segment. Declining sales, tightening government regulations (CAFÉ and crash safety), and the introduction of the EcoBoost F-150 all lead Ford to discontinue the legendary pickup just one year short of its 30th birthday. 2011 was the final year of retail Ranger sales, while 2012 was the final model year of fleet sales.
1986-1997 Nissan “Hardbody”
Putting the Hurt on Toyota
Photo 5/14   |   1989 Nissan Hardbody Pickup Front Three Quarter Blue
The 1986-1997 Nissan Pickup, known unofficially as the Hardbody, is one of those quintessential fun trucks from your formative years. For this young author, there was nothing more enviable than his older brother’s 1994 Nissan 4x4, which was covered in mud or towing personal watercraft more often than not.
The Hardbody differs from other compact trucks of the era with its aggressive styling. Front and rear flared wheel arches made the truck look muscular, and its four and six-cylinder engines could back up the claim with power ratings that beat that of the contemporary Toyota pickup.
Model years 1990-1995 comprise the Hardbody’s sweet spot. Earlier trucks featured lower-output engines, and later ones had complicated emissions equipment and airbags. Get one that’s just a little rusty so you’re not afraid to scratch and dent it while you’re out having fun.
1990-1993 Chevrolet Silverado 454SS
The Reborn Factory Muscle Truck
Photo 6/14   |   Chevrolet Silverado 454ss
One of Chevrolet’s greatest claims to fame is the massive 454ci V-8 from the heyday of the muscle car. Well, in the 1990s, that engine made a brief resurgence, but instead of stuffing it into a Caprice sedan or Camaro coupe, Chevy dropped it into their Silverado pickup, rebirthing the American muscle truck after a decade-long sabbatical.
The 454SS made 230 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque in 1990, and 1991 brought 25 more ponies, a numerically higher axle ratio, and a four-speed auto (replacing a three-speed) for some additional pep. Gas-charged shocks, an anti-roll bar, and quicker steering over a standard Silverado meant the 454SS could corner better than most other trucks.
The 454SS initiated a sport-truck craze that would last through the mid-2000s, but we think the timing is right for another resurrection. Supercharged 6.2L Silverado WT, anyone?
1999-2004 Ford F-150 SVT Lightning
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothes
Photo 7/14   |   2004 Ford F 150 Svt Lightning Front View In Motion
Launched in 1999, the second-generation Ford SVT Lightning featured a supercharged 5.4L V-8 engine and was the fastest production 1/2-ton at the time. The 2003 Lightning was comparatively attainable at $33,555. Even adjusted for inflation, that price comes to only $42,620, pretty close to the average transaction price for a new truck in 2015. But the good news for those that have waited a decade is that you can pick up a used Lightning for between $14,000-15,000 with less than 100,000 miles. However, be forewarned, like many high-performance models, many have been modified and/or driven hard. So it’s probably best to get it thoroughly inspected before scribbling the check, but where else can you get 380 hp, 450 lb-ft, and 0-60 in less than six seconds for $15,000?
2005-2015 Ram 2500 Power Wagon
Return of a Legend
Photo 8/14   |   2014 Ram 2500 Power Wagon 4x4
When Chrysler brought back the Power Wagon name for 2005, it had a lot riding on that reputation, but it certainly came armed for the challenge by packing the Power Wagon with a proverbial truckload of legit off-road hardware. In addition to an almost unheard-of factory-installed Warn winch, the Power Wagon came with innovative sway bar disconnects allowing greater axle articulation when off-roading, as well as electronic-locking front and rear differentials. Since it’s modern-day revival, the only engine offered has been a Hemi gas V-8, first a 5.7L and now a 6.4L in the 2014-newer models. Some have wished for a Cummins, but aside from its voracious appetite for fuel and a slight deficit of low-end torque, we’ve never had complaints about the Hemi’s output.
1999-2015 Ford F-Series Super Duty
King of Work
Photo 9/14   |   2015 Ford F350 Super Duty King Ranch 4x4
Starting with the 1999 model year, the Super Duty decisively broke away from the rest of the F-Series line as a totally unique vehicle, redefining the segment almost overnight. While generally reliable, models equipped with the 6.0L Power Stroke diesel V-8 are trouble prone, although a few strategic upgrades can make them reliable runners. We would get the earlier 7.3L Power Stroke or later 6.4L Power Stroke diesels. The 6.7L Power Stroke that debuted in 2011 is a real gem, with lots of power and unbelievable refinement. If you need a no-nonsense workhorse that’s not afraid to get dirty and knocked around a little, you owe it to yourself to check out a Super Duty.
2006-2015 Dodge/Ram Mega Cab
Bigger is Better
Photo 10/14   |   2006 Dodge Ram 2500 Mega Cab Right Front
If a regular crew cab is just not roomy and comfortable enough for you, then you can step up to the ultimate in cowboy livery with the Ram Mega Cab. This model offers simply ludicrous rear-seat room. The rear cabin of the Mega Cab is so roomy that rear passengers can recline their seats and still have space to spare. Available as a 2500, 3500, and dually model, you’d be hard-pressed to beat the Mega Cab for room and comfort, especially in the back seat. Most are equipped with the legendary Cummins I-6 diesel, but a small number of 1500 models were sold with the 5.7L Hemi V-8. Although badged “1500,” these models had 8-lug wheels and were, in reality, just softer-sprung 2500 models.
1996-2004 Toyota Tacoma DoubleCab 4x4
Taco Supreme
Photo 11/14   |   2002 Toyota Tacoma 4x4 Double Cab
Not all of us want or need a fullsize truck. Maybe you live in an urban area where space is at a premium or you’re just used to driving a smaller vehicle. Well, if you have to go smaller, there are few better examples than the first-generation Toyota Tacoma. This is the last generation of the Toyota pickup that could be realistically called “compact.” That tidy size pays dividends in maneuverability and nimbleness on- and-off-road. For those that craved a little more power than that offered by its 3.4L V-6, a dealer-installed TRD Supercharger brought output up to near–V-8 levels. Toyotas hold their resale value well, and the Tacoma is no exception. Nevertheless, enough of them were built that they’re easy to find. Expect to pay between $10,000-15,000 for a clean example.
2010-2014 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor
Desert Dominator
Photo 12/14   |   2010 Ford F150 Svt Raptor
The death of the SVT Lightning in 2004 was a shock to fans everywhere, but little did they know there was a small team of SVT engineers working diligently on the next SVT pickup deep in the heart of the California desert. Intended for intense off-road action, the Raptor received specialized suspension front and rear and was equipped with Fox bypass shock absorbers at all four corners. A 5.4L V-8 powered the Raptor for the 2010 model year, with the 411hp 6.2L V-8 replacing it in 2011. The Raptor wears meaty, 35-inch tall BFGoorich tires and 17-inch SVT wheels and is shod in wider-than-stock front and rear fenders. For the first time since 1981, the grille was devoid of its signature blue oval and instead has “FORD” spelled out in block letters down the center. Only a limited number of these trucks were produced each year, and due to high demand, many dealers sold them at well over MSRP. The Raptor is noticeably absent from the 2015 lineup, and it has been announced it will return in 2017 with larger shocks, better suspension, and more power.
2009-2010 HUMMER H3T Alpha
The Unicorn
Photo 13/14   |   2009 Hummer H3t Alpha 4x4
The HUMMER H3T was a mid-size pickup that was built for the 2009 and 2010 model years. It was originally shown as a regular-cab concept at the 2004 Los Angeles Auto Show, while the four-door crew-cab production model made its appearance in 2008 at the Chicago Auto Show. The H3T was built on a Chevy Colorado chassis and featured an 8-foot bed with built in storage boxes. Powering the standard H3T was the 3.7L inline-five. The Alpha model received a 5.3L V-8 that produced 300 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque and was backed by an automatic transmission. A two-speed transfer case with a 4.0:1 low range, front and rear electronic locking differentials, high ground clearance, and ample skid plating combined to make this one of the most off-road ready factory pickups. Unfortunately, the economic downturn left its mark on GM and one of the casualties was the Hummer brand. Only 2,738 of these pickups were produced before the plant went dark.
Bonus! 1987-2015 Jeep Wrangler
Rock Warrior
Photo 14/14   |   2014 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited X 4x4
Imagine being asked to design a new vehicle in today’s world. It would be a convertible, available in 2 or 4 doors, and with high ground clearance for unimproved roads. That same vehicle would also need to have removable doors, a fold-down windshield, and a true 4x4 system. And what if you were told that vehicle must also pass all safety standards, while being able to comfortably go down the road at 80 mph, and be able to effortlessly crawl over subcompact-car-sized boulders. You might think, “Impossible,” right? As insane as it may sound, that vehicle exists today as the robust and ridiculously entertaining Jeep Wrangler. Although it has evolved with the times, the Wrangler remains true to its heritage and not some designer’s trendy exercise in retro expression. It is a direct descendant of the original Willys flat fenders, even being built at the same Toledo, Ohio, site as its ancestors. Today’s Jeep is tough enough for work, ready for play, and safe and comfortable enough for the rigors of everyday life. With body-on-frame construction and solid axles, the Wrangler is more truck than any other SUV out there. In fact, if the rumors hold true, a Wrangler-based pickup will be available at your local Jeep dealer within the next few years.

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