The Best Truck Ever Made – Truck culture is quite a blow to be honest. I understand that. But for those who use their pickups for work and play, the last half century (or more) has had no shortage of great options. We will pay attention
Listed here are some of the best special edition trucks with a few speed demons and even the odd city track.
The Best Truck Ever Made
Everyone knows that starting a truck is easy. Dodge’s L’il Red Express was the first hot-pack pickup with a 225-horsepower, 360-cubic-inch V8. It was decorated with wooden panels on the bed and a pair of chimneys, which combined a strange but wonderful beauty.
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Dodge also offered a lesser-known version called the Midnite Express, which was only available in black and featured a standard 440 cubic-inch V8. The actual production numbers for this truck are much lower, only around 200, but Dodge officially built 2,188 L’il Red Express pickups in ’78, and an additional 5,118 in ’79.
In its first year on the market, the L’il Red Express was awarded the fastest production vehicle from 0 to 100 mph. It could run the quarter mile in 14.7 seconds, and according to those who drove them, they were very fast. But I can’t confirm it myself.
The first generation Dodge Dakota had more than one super special version. If you wanted a midsize pickup with a drop-down ragtop, there was the Dakota Convertible, and for those who preferred speed, there was the Shelby Dakota. The latter featured a shoehorned 318-cubic-inch V8 and served as the spiritual successor to the L’il Red Express.
This was the era of the Rad, so the Shelby Dakota rocked a pillar behind the cab instead of a stack. It also had vinyl graphics, and none of these could be mistaken for a regular Dakota.
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The Shelby-fied pickup was actually the second-fastest pickup ever, behind the L’il Red Express, which is said to have beaten the Ford Lightning and Chevy 454 SS on the road. More on those later, but there’s something to be said for the V8-powered Dakota, even if it only makes 175 horsepower.
Some would argue that the list should stop there. It doesn’t get much better than the GMC Syclone, a turbocharged truck from General Motors with a 4.3-liter V6 and all-wheel drive. It later launched a Blazer-based SUV called the Typhoon, but true OGs consider the Syclone the greatest.
It wasn’t great for a regular truck—you’d push it with 500 pounds in the bed, and it could technically tow 2,000 pounds, but only when you really needed to. It claims an unofficial quarter-mile time of 13.4 seconds, while still impressively hitting 60 mph in 4.3 seconds. Not bad for a factory car.
The Syclone had 280 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque, and GMC only made 3,000 of them. All were black except for the Marlboro Edition, which was painted red and white. Good luck finding one on Craigslist.
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Another exceptional performance by the GM. The 454 SS was based on Chevy’s two-wheel-drive half-ton truck, lowered and sporting 15-inch wheels with meaty street tires. It ditches the usual 350-cubic-inch small-block for a 454 big-block that makes 230 horsepower and 385 pound-feet of torque, all dressed in a menacing black scheme.
Or you can make it red. Or white. Despite the majority being black, the value of the 454 SS is increasing regardless of color. Millennials are looking for their own gas-burning car, with average gas mileage of nine or 10 mpg, perfect for weekend getaways.
So bringing out the Chevy S-10 EV is a bit ridiculous. Some might not consider it a production car, but GM produced the battery-powered pickup for two years before discontinuing production. The 16.2 kWh model had an EPA-rated range of just 33 miles, so the truck was primarily aimed at fleet operators who needed a high-efficiency vehicle for around-town driving. But the 29kWh truck can travel 72 miles on a single charge.
The short-range S-10s were built with lead-acid batteries, while the others had nickel-metal hydride units, similar to other early EVs. A single AC induction motor produced 114 horsepower, which was more than enough to move the relatively heavy S-10s from stand to stand. They weighed more than 4,000 pounds, while traditional gas models weighed 3,000 pounds.
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On a slightly more basic note, the S-10 Electric had front-wheel drive. In the end, 70 miles per hour was possible, and with a maximum weight of 971 pounds in the bed, that period must have been considerably longer.
Yes, the first generation Old Body Style Ford Lightning may be the most popular, but the second gen is even better. For starters, it has a 5.4-liter V8 rather than the tuned, naturally aspirated 351 Windsor. It’s a 00’s street truck body kit, and if you want to go faster, there’s a huge market for the platform.
The 1999 and 2000 Lightning was rated at 360 horsepower, while the 2001 and later trucks were equipped with Eaton’s V8s rated at 385 horsepower and up to 450 lb.-ft. Later versions also had a 3.73 rear end, which is perfect for quick pulls up to highway speeds…maybe even more.
Pure examples are not easy to find, but they certainly exist. If you’re looking for an automatic transmission yourself, but you hate automatic transmissions, there are forums for Tremec T56 six-speed replacements.
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Just like today, Ram’s people were in power in the mid-2000s. They made this very clear when they put the Viper V10 in their half-ton truck. It was available in a variety of specifications, including a single or quad cab, a four-speed automatic or even a six-speed manual. What more could you want from a 500 horsepower super truck?
Those primarily focused on street performance should definitely opt for the single cab because of its low ride height and preferred shin. If you’re going to buy an SRT-10 to tow your Viper, you need a square cab. That said, it can tow an impressive 7,500 pounds without any problems. Trade? It is only available automatically.
Despite the slight change in styling from one generation to the next, you can get the 8.3-liter racing truck to your heart’s content. When new they stuck $45,000 on a hair after $50,000, primo examples today command as much.
International hasn’t mass-produced pickups since the 70s, and even then, they’ve always been known for their medium- and heavy-duty trucks that power America. That didn’t stop him from creating the MXT 4×4, a tactical military vehicle suited for civilian use.
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Obviously, the MXT rides higher than most factory pickups. That’s because it rides on 40-inch Pro Comp wheels that are 13.5 inches wide. Its 6.0-liter DT365 turbodiesel engine produces 300 horsepower and 530 pound-feet of torque, so it’s no problem revving. International 6.4-liter V8 diesel models appeared later, but I’d advise you to avoid them.
Most MXT owners love them for their tough, rugged looks, but they’re capable of towing 15,000 pounds when needed. If you’re really, really interested in one, be prepared to pay six figures.
Rounding out our list, the Chevy Colorado ZR2 Bison is the latest hot take on American Expeditionary Vehicles. They are still sold on the Chevy dealer lot and you can buy them new if you want. Whether you get petrol or diesel, what you get for your money is amazing.
The great news is that you’ll get these sweet Multimatic DSSV spool valve dampers with many of AEV’s products. Think stainless steel skid plates, stamped steel bumpers front and rear, winch mounts, and multiple recovery points when the going gets tough. The ZR2 is very capable from the factory, and the Bison makes it more adventure-ready out of the box.
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You can’t do that with a single cab because Chevy doesn’t build them that way. However, the Colorado ZR2 Bison can slay any road that SUVs and even new Ford Broncos are cruising on without a problem. We all know the definition of a good pickup truck. It’s a sturdy, sturdy body on a frame vehicle with at least some sort of bed, capable of towing. The more you tow, the better. Some would say it’s something every average pickup truck has, and they’d be right. After all, that’s what pickup trucks were for. Not to mention the revolution they started in the automotive world when they first appeared.
This list will highlight something else. It didn’t take long for manufacturers to realize that they could start experimenting