The Top 10 Performance Pickups of All Time

Dodge 67 by David Stallings owner Dodgeconnection.com II                                     1967 Custom Sport Special with 383 provided by owner David Stallings

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)

Dodge Ram SRT10 II

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)

  2012 Raptor II

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)

1964_Dg_Custom_Sport_pickup_lft_frnt II

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)

Saleen_331_Front II

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 Syclone II

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)

1993 Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck neg CN304007-287 II

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)

Chevy 454 SS II

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)

Redtruck_Crop_300 II

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)

69 CST 10 II

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)

2005_Tacoma_X-Runner II

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.

 

Comments

All1:: My thoughts exactly! to leave out the LRXT, and then go and include a tacoma?

Should have done a top 3 or 5, some of these don't belong on any performance list.

BAFO: "I do think this site could do better if it removed itself from it's reliance on a very limited theme, ie, pickups."

Are you seriously complaining that a sight called "pickuptrucks.com" (you know, the address you type to get here) discusses pickup trucks? What the hell else would you find on pickuptrucks.com, kitchen cabinets? How to find the best nail salon? 10 best smartphones?


As for the article, is the raptor even that fast? Sure it's got power, but it also takes power to turn those 35's. I agree with others about the Little Red Express (faster than the Corvettes even), the Dakota R/T, and the Saleen. Didn't know about the first gen lightning, looks pretty neat. And the other lightning was mentioned and the reason it wasn't included given, so I can't fault that being absent.

See bafo is just so argumentative. He's great at straw man arguments. Always arguing with somebody, but usually a few people. I do catch some of his posts, but yes I probably skip most of them. Not on purpose, I just get bored with his constant mention of vehicles that I've never even heard of. I probably started to read his initial post, and then skipped it when he mentioned "I've had this debate on this site previously". I did go back and read the rest of his post after many people responded to him. With my post I didn't mean to ARGUE with him. I just was making the point that his precious maloo probably wasn't included in this list because most people just don't CARE about it. I think even he knows that is the truth.

The "Lil Red Express" would needs to be on that list!
Very suprised it wasn't.

Sport trucks are an interesting animal. I'd rather buy a muscle car or street bike. Car companies wouldn't make them if they didn't sell.

For those like Jason that are arguing this is not just street trucks, this was taken from the article "So we've picked the top 10 performance trucks you can take to work or to the drag strip". Last I checked drag strip was on the street. Raptor shouldn't be on there, Roush made a performance truck, Hennessey made one, the Silverado SS could have filled it's spot. The Raptor is a horrible drag strip choice. The GMC Denali with the 6.2 should be on there more than that...

Guys, the reality is this regarding PUTC, most who comment like pickup trucks.

I do believe this site should incorporate all vehicles that could be deemed pickup truck alternatives.

Looking at the cross section of guys who blog on PUTC, they are either retired or school kids.

Most anyone who would want to buy a pickup would receive better advice on any consumer site. PUTC doesn't give anyone any reason to read these blogs.

That's why I think this site should look at all competing light commercial vehicles.

Then will people visit and read about pickups and associated vehicles. We will then have a better cross section of commenters and not the riff raff that currently pollute the comments sections here.

Who on this site would give an honest comment to someone out to buy a commercial vehicle. That's why not one person has ever asked for advice since I've been commenting on this site for several years now.

Don't you think if you guys are so great at commenting people would visit this site for guidance?

You guys really think you are something......when you aren't much.

Crap, I spelled "site" wrong.

Little Red express should definitely have been on the list. Also the Dodge Warlock (440 magnum).

The cyclone was not a truck with pathetic tow haul numbers.
That's why you don't see big block El Camino with 427 on the list. It's not a truck. It's a car with a bed.

@Big Al the maloo is not a truck either. It's a car with a bed.

The Dodge SRT10 is the fastest truck.

1978 Dodge Warlock,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgOj6GewzSU

@Big Al--This is the last place I would look for advice to buy any vehicle or anything. Too many fan boys. There are much better sources and sites . This site is owned by cars.com which basically gets its revenues from the manufacturers. Eventually this site will not have a comment section and will have articles posted like cars.com. Cars.com had a comment section but that is gone. Cars.com is good for researching vehicles.

@Jeff S

You say that Cars.com gets its revenues from car makers? I suggest that it comes from car dealers, a different proposition altogether.

Admit that car dealers have some opportunities to get Co-op money from the car makers but mostly it's because car dealers spend huge sums every year on local TV ads and local newspaper.

Alternatively the Big 3 advertise very selectively and refuse to pay much. Car dealers cannot go a single week without ads so their whole business-marketing model is driven by ads.

two cents.

@papa jim--Yes you are correct, it would be mostly the car dealers but the manufacturers kick in as well. Cars.com is a good for comparing vehicles and for research. It is good to campare options and features. I was not criticizing cars.com as much as making the point that they have gotten away from the comment section and have gone to reviews and research. I could see this happening to trucks.com since cars.com owns them. There are other sites that are more for enthusiast such as TTAC. Each site servces its own purpose.

@Lou BC--I would rather have a muscle car as well. I don't fault there being performance trucks I just not that interested in one. Give me a Mustang, Challenger, or Camaro instead.

Out of the seven GM and Ford pickups I've owned over the past twenty years, there's only one I miss and that is my 2003 Silverado SS with AWD. It's certainly better than #10 on the list.

@Jeff S - I've never had any interest in performance oriented street trucks. Maybe because I have long winters. A Raptor would be as close as I'd want to get but they are way to expensive in Canada. They'd be great on logging roads that are in active use but they would suck on narrow trails. I put a lot of scratches on my truck this summer. A Raptor would of lost the mirrors and all of the paint on the same trails.

I've owned a 10 second quarter-mile street-bike with 163 mpg top speed. After a few years on that machine everything else pales in comparison. Even 250K exotics don't impress me any more.

@Lou BC--Once you get use to the quick response of a motorcycle from a dead stop a performance car or truck will never be the same. I had a Suzuki GS-450-S that was inexpensive, sporty looking, good mpgs, and extremely quick and nimble. Nothing against Raptors but they are not as nimble. I have a feeling that most of these performance trucks are owned mainly by collectors and less of them are raced on the streets. I do see that these trucks bring interest to a brand and draw additional sales similar to what a Corvette or high performance versions of Mustangs, Camaros, and Challengers.

PT - haven't you forgotten the Li'l Red Express Truck from Dodge? Probably the first ever purpose built muscle-truck...ant GM next El Camino SS454, Chevy SSR...?

The #1 slot should be "any GM truck with a LS engine". Nothing else comes close in aftermarket performance potential. It costs a fortune to make a Ford truck fast and the Dodge/Ram trucks are just too heavy to compete.

Hi:

You forgot the Dodge Lil REd Truck and Warlock.

No Dakota R/T???

What no Dakota RT 5.9L in a small mid size truck?

Um Gen 2 lightning, Joe Gibbs silverado, Callaway tahoe/truck were limited production. If the syclone typhoon are on the list then any small speciality vehicle like saleen and roush trucks should be considered as gm didn't build the sy/ty they sent the Jimmy to a little shop in Shreveport to make it a beast much like G2 and slp ta/camaros. I'm a previous owner to a 92 Typhoon 0040.



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