By Andrius Mikonis
Pickup trucks are not often associated with speed, but truckmakers have definitely produced some memorable pavement burners. So we've picked the top 10 performance trucks you can take to work or to the drag strip.
All of these trucks were available in a dealer showroom or at least could have been ordered in one. Only one is still on sale. Most of them were limited releases, but made a big splash when they arrived in showrooms and continue to have cult followings.
With the increasing popularity of pickups, it's surprising we don't see more models of this ilk today. With all the great high-performance technology going into autos right now we would sure welcome more new-truck efforts reminiscent of our picks.
Without further ado, here are our 10 favorite hot-rod trucks that haul more than cargo. Tell us what performance pickups are on your list or in your garage.
1. 2004-2006 Dodge Ram SRT10 (photo courtesy manufacturer)
While a V-10 engine in a work truck was not unheard of, Dodge created the ultimate performance pickup by adding the 505-cubic-inch, 500-horsepower V-10 straight out of the Viper. Initially offered only as a regular cab with a Hurst-shifted six-speed manual transmission, Pirelli tires on 22-inch rims and a lowered suspension with Bilstein shocks kept it planted. Zero-to-60 times in the 5-second range were enhanced by a 4.56:1 axle ratio, but aerodynamic enhancements helped the Ram SRT10 set a Guinness World Record for the fastest production pickup truck at 154.587 mph. For those who actually wanted to use it for work, a Quad Cab model followed with a heavy-duty automatic rated for towing 8,150 pounds.
2. 2010-2014 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor (photo courtesy manufacturer)
Though the rest of our selections are decidedly tarmac-purposed machines, the list would not be complete without the radical F-150 SVT Raptor. Powered today by a 6.2-liter V-8 with 411 hp and 434 pounds-feet of torque, this go-anywhere-as-fast-as-you-want off-road machine has 11.2 inches of wheel travel in the front and 12.1 inches in the rear. Maximum traction is delivered by an electronic locking rear differential complemented by a Torsen differential in the front. Unique bodywork necessitated by an almost 7-inch increase in track width over a standard F-150 gives the Raptor its distinctive look, complemented by meaty skid plates and decal packages geared for the extreme off-road crowd.
3. 1963-1966 Dodge D100/200 High Performance Package (photo courtesy Chrysler Museum)
In the mid-1960s Dodge went for a sporty look with the Custom Sport Special, an appearance package that added racing stripes, chrome bumpers, buckets and a console to the pickup of their choice. That included the slant six or 318 V-8 engine, but a handful of buyers between 1963 and 1966 checked another box for the High Performance Package. The truck was then fitted with the 365-hp 426 Street Wedge engine complete with the same chrome engine accessories the 426 cars received. The original muscle truck received other go-fast modifications such as dual exhaust, an upgraded gauge cluster with a Sun tachometer and torque rods, a traction-bar-like arrangement sourced from Imperial. Reportedly, approximately 50 were produced; and maybe that's not surprising given the package raised the truck's price by nearly half.
4. 2007-2008 Saleen S331 Supercharged (photo courtesy Saleen)
After the second-generation SVT Lightning faded into obscurity, famous Ford modifier Saleen picked up the pieces and created the S331 built on the foundation of the two-wheel-drive F-150 SuperCab. Saleen tweaked the base naturally aspirated 5.4-liter V-8 to 325 horses, but also offered its own supercharger for an upgraded model with 450 hp. Unmistakable with its unique body treatment and interior touches, the S331 sat on 23-inch wheels on a 2-inch-lowered Saleen-stiffened suspension. Best of all, not only did it represent a 70-hp increase over the also supercharged 5.4-liter second-gen Lightning, it retained a 9,500-pound towing capacity compared to 5,000 pounds for its SVT predecessor.
5. 1991 GMC Syclone (photo courtesy manufacturer)
GMC engineers saw their Chevrolet cousins make a big truck go fast, so they made a small truck go faster. They succeeded in making the GMC Syclone the quickest production pickup truck of the time. Based on the compact Sonoma, the Syclone employed a turbocharged 4.3-liter V-6. A four-speed automatic transmission sent power to an all-wheel-drive system with a rearward bias. Available only in the obligatory 1990s fast-truck black, the Syclone struck a distinctive pose with its lower sport suspension. The Syclone was notably the first pickup truck with four-wheel anti-lock brakes. While production ended suddenly, a sister product with shared mechanicals, the GMC Typhoon SUV, continued on two more years.
6. 1993-1995 Ford F-150 Lightning (photo courtesy manufacturer)
With a 5.8-liter 351 Windsor V-8 borrowing parts from the Mustang Cobra, the Lightning captured the horsepower crown in the new pickup truck arms race of the 1990s. At 240 hp, it had 10 more horses than the 7.4-liter Chevrolet 454SS, which was about to step aside. Dual exhaust and a 4.10 axle ratio with limited slip helped the Lightning clock zero-to-60 in the 7-second range. Even though the Lightning name was reapplied to a more potent, supercharged truck in 1999, we chose the menacing original Lightning since it was the inspiration for the later version and a subsequent string of hot production and concept pickups from Ford's Special Vehicle Team.
7. 1990-1993 Chevrolet 454SS (photo courtesy manufacturer)
During a time that looked like the sunset of V-8 performance, the 1990 Chevrolet 454SS reignited interest in high-performance pickups, and perhaps muscle cars in general. Two hundred and thirty horses from a huge V-8 sounds laughable now, but this was a lot in the dark days when big-blocks themselves faced extinction. Though subsequent years offered more power and colors, the 1990 premiere issue's only choice — the striking Onyx Black with red bucket seats and prominent 454SS decals on the bed sides — made the biggest impression on power-starved V-8 enthusiasts and sold the bulk of the four-year run.
8. 1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota (photo courtesy Chrysler Museum)
Looking at what seemed like a bleak future for rear-wheel-drive performance with a Mopar label (little did we know Viper development was about to start), Carroll Shelby must have seen the pickup as the last shot to make something memorable out of his licensing agreement with Dodge. After tweaking a series of front drivers, the legendary racer-turned-tuner took the relatively new midsize Dakota and shoehorned the venerable 318-cubic-inch small-block V-8 into its V-6 hole. Having to lose the fan to make it fit even boosted horsepower to 175. Still, it was the hottest performing truck of the day, if not for very long. Flashy stripes and numbered dash plaques make these quite the period piece.
9. 1968-1969 Chevrolet CST 10 396 (photo courtesy manufacturer archives)
What would possess the Chevrolet truck team in 1968 to make available a big-block engine that originally debuted in the Corvette and Chevelle? It could have been the increasing popularity of recreational use and trailer towing, but limiting it to a two-wheel-drive half-ton configuration ruled it out for many campers. Choosing the optional Custom Sport Truck model gave buyers a two-tone vinyl interior with color-keyed carpet, extra badging, chrome bumpers and bright trim inside and out. At the height of the muscle-car era, the Chevrolet CST 10 with a 396 gave truck lovers a piece of the action.
10. 2005-2008 Toyota Tacoma X-Runner (photo courtesy manufacturer)
Think Toyota Racing Development's truck efforts and most will recall the off-road variety. An often-overlooked model tuned for pavement performance was the Tacoma X-Runner. Start with a longer, lower and wider truck. Longer and wider from next-generation model bloat and an extended cab, lower by an inch via special suspension with stiffer springs and anti-roll bars. The namesake rear X-brace added to platform rigidity. Add in its 18-inch 45-series tires, and the X-Runner reportedly pulled .90 Gs on the skid pad. A 4.0-liter V-6 gave it respectable truck acceleration, but essential equipment is a dealer-sourced TRD supercharger and optional TRD brake upgrade to haul it down.