April 15, 2024 | Peter Kinney

20 Of The Greatest Pickup Trucks Ever Made

The Best Of The Best

Whether you’re hauling heavy loads, looking for off-road adventures, or just want to look good cruising the streets, a pickup truck can handle anything you throw at it.

We're all familiar with modern greats from brands like Chevrolet and Ford, but when it comes to the best pickups of all time, we’ve got to go back a few years. 

Here are 20 of the most powerful and reliable pickup trucks ever made.

Greatest Pickup Trucks

1. 1972-1979 Datsun 620

Back in 1959, Datsun made history by bringing the first compact truck to the US. 

Fast forward a bit, and they dropped the Datsun 620, which was like a dream come true for pickup fans. 

Not only was it easy on the eyes, but it also came with cool features like a roomy long bed.

Red Datsun 620 in Thailand - 2012M.rJirapat, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

1972-1979 Datsun 620 (cont’d)

In 1977, Datsun kicked things up a notch with the King Cab model, giving folks even more space to stretch out. 

In California, surfers couldn't get enough of it. The 620 pretty much kickstarted the sporty compact truck craze. 

You can still find fans of the truck proudly cruising around in these vintage gems today.

1977 Datsun 620 King Cabpeterolthof, Flickr

2. 2004-2008 International CXT

Back in the early 2000s, International had big plans for the pickup truck scene. 

They were aiming to dominate the market by rolling out the biggest heavy-duty pickup truck ever seen. 

And that's how the CXT was born.

International CXT pickup truck photographed in a parking lot - 2009Andrew Fresh, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

2004-2008 International CXT (cont’d)

This bad boy weighed in at a whopping 14,500 pounds, sporting a Ford Super Duty pickup bed on top of its commercial-grade 4WD chassis. 

Standing at nine feet tall, it could handle a hefty payload of 12,000 pounds

Perhaps calling it a pickup truck is a bit of an understatement for this powerful beast. 

Black International CXT Commercial Extreme Truck - 2011Thilo Parg, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

3. 1981-1985 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler

Some might think the Jeep Gladiator is the company's first foray into the world of pickup trucks, but Jeep's been here before. 

Back in the '80s, Jeep wanted a piece of the small pickup market, so they took their trusty CJ-7 and gave it a makeover. 

That gave us the CJ-8, also known as the Scrambler.

White Jeep Scrambler - 2008Mr.choppers, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

1981-1985 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler (cont’d)

With a longer wheelbase than its predecessors, the Scrambler delivered a smoother ride while still maintaining the off-road capabilities that Jeep is known for.

Jeep rolled out around 30,000 Scramblers back in the day, and some of these classics are still cruising around, gaining value as they go.

Yellow Jeep Scrambler CJ-8 - 1981harry_nl, Flickr

4. 1974-1977 Mazda Rotary Pickup

When Mazda launched the B-series, it was already a seasoned player in the car game, with 45 years of production under its belt. 

But between 1974 and 1977, Mazda decided to shake things up by throwing a Wankel rotary engine into the mix.

Mazda Rotary Pickup (Motohide Miwa, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

1974-1977 Mazda Rotary Pickup (cont’d)

Enter the rotary-engined pickup, or REPU for short. It wasn't the most economical ride and the cab was nothing to write home about. 

But that 1.3-liter Wankel engine was a thing of beauty. Cranking out 110 horsepower at 7000 rpm, it was like music to a driver's ears.

1974 Mazda Rotary PickupAlden Jewell, Flickr

1999-2007 Ford Super Duty

When Ford unleashed this beast onto the streets, it drew in both the work crowd and people who just wanted something fun. 

With options like a 6.8-liter V-10 engine or a 7.3-liter turbo diesel, drivers had some serious power under the hood.

Portland, Oregon-USA-Jan 23, 2024- White Ford F-250 Exterior PhotographyHrach Hovhannisyan, Shutterstock

1999-2007 Ford Super Duty (cont’d)

When it came to towing, the Super Duty made things easier with manual telescoping side mirrors that could slide out when hauling a load.

As the Super Duty gained popularity, Ford went all out, introducing models like the Super Duty F-450. 

White Ford F550 Super Duty TruckJack Snell, Flickr

1946-1968 Dodge Power Wagon

The Power Wagon is a legendary vehicle that was top of the pickup game for more than two decades. 

Looking like a fire truck, many would assume there's a massive engine under the hood, but it was powered by a 230-CID I6 engine that only produced 94 horsepower. 

Black Dodge Power Wagondave_7, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

1946-1968 Dodge Power Wagon (cont’d)

But don't let the small engine fool you—this bad boy was built for heavy lifting and could carry up to 3,000 pounds in the bed. 

With ultra-low gearing for hauling big loads and huge tires giving it over 10 inches of ground clearance under each axle, the power wagon could handle just about anything. 

1947 Dodge Flatbed & 1948 Dodge Power Wagon Pick-UpGreg Gjerdingen, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

1986-1997 Nissan Hardbody

Back in the day, the Nissan Hardbody (originally called the D21 pickup) was the talk of the town. 

Truckers nicknamed it the Hardbody for its sheer strength and killer looks. 

Nissan Hardbody Pick-Up - 1997Greg Gjerdingen, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

1986-1997 Nissan Hardbody (cont’d)

Even though it was built during the era of basic trucks, it boasted modern features like fuel injection and electronic ignition. 

The Sports package 4x4 model was decked out with 31-inch tires, brush and light bars, and fender flares, which added some flair to its ruggedness.

The Hardbody proved to be a reliable truck and you can still find them cruising on the streets today. 

Green Nissan Hardbody Pickup - 1997 Close UpBballman35676, Wikimedia Commons

8. 1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota

By the late 1980s, the pickup truck market had seen a diverse range of vehicles hit the scene. 

While buyers were loving performance cars like the Mustang GT and Trans Am, the pickup market lacked a vehicle that could deliver high-speed thrills. 

So, Dodge decided to step up to the plate.

1989 Dodge Dakota Sport Shelby ConvertibleMichel Curi, Flickr

1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota (cont’d)

Teaming up with Caroll Shelby, Dodge introduced the Dodge Shelby Dakota. 

This result of this unique collaboration was a pickup truck equipped with 4-speed automatic transmission and  a powerful 5.2-liter V-8 engine that produced 175 horsepower

Finally, there was a pickup that could meets consumers' need for speed.

1988 Dodge Shelby Dakota Prototype, FrontMr.choppers, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

9. 1967-1969 Kaiser Jeep M175

Back in the 1960s, if you wanted to cruise around town in a military vehicle, then the Kaiser Jeep M175 would have been perfect for you. 

Originally designed as an army truck, Jeep drew inspiration from its Gladiator pickup to make the Kaiser.

Kaiser Jeep Jeepster Commando Station Wagon - 2017Gestalt Imagery, Shutterstock

1967-1969 Kaiser Jeep M175 (cont’d)

Setting the Kaiser apart from its Gladiator roots, Jeep outfitted it with Dana 60 and 70 axles, a low-gear Warner T-98 four-speed manual, and ultra-low gears. 

Despite its heavy military build, the Kaiser was no slowpoke on the highway. It could hit speeds of up to 55 mph, which was pretty good for the time. 

1966 Kaiser Jeep Jeepster Commando Open Roadster at a local car show - 2018Gestalt Imagery, Shutterstock

10. 1953-1956 Ford F-100

Ford's legacy of crafting exceptional pickups stretches back for decades, and the 1950s were no exception. 

The second generation of Ford trucks introduced innovations like the first-ever modern nameplate and a sleek wraparound windshield.

Red Ford F100 Pickup - 1955Patrick, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

1953-1956 Ford F-100 (cont’d)

Under the hood, the F-100 sported an overhead-valve design V-8 engine, producing 180 horsepower. For its time, that was quite an accomplishment. 

Ford also made waves with the release of its first automatic transmission which featured an integrated torque converter. Ford fans affectionately nicknamed the new truck "Effie". 

Green Ford F-100, Rear Right - 1956SsmIntrigue, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

11. 1991-1993 GMC Syclone

In the early 1990s, GMC decided to shake up the pickup scene by making a truck that wasn't just about hauling loads—it was about speed. 

Enter the Syclone, a lightning-fast upgrade of the S-10 compact pickup.

Black Gmc Syclone - 1991skinnylawyer, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

1991-1993 GMC Syclone (cont’d)

With a 4.3-liter V-6 engine that cranked out an impressive 280 horsepower, the Syclone was a force to be reckoned with on the highway. 

Equipped with Corvette's automatic transmission and shifter, this pickup could go from 0 to 60 in just 4.3 seconds

But where it excelled in speed, it dropped the ball in towing capability, making it more suited for the open road than heavy-duty hauling.

Black GMC SycloneJason, Flickr

12. 1963-1987 Jeep Gladiator

When the Jeep Gladiator made its debut, it set a new standard for full-size pickups.

During its impressive 24-year production run, the Gladiator only underwent minor tweaks, reflecting its timeless appeal.

Metallic blue 1970s IKA Jeep Gladiator pickup truck.Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

1963-1987 Jeep Gladiator (cont’d)

Early Gladiators were outfitted with advanced V-6 engines, with optional V-8s becoming available over the years. Jeep didn't make its own V-8 engines, so Buick and AMC helped out. 

The AMC 401 V-8 was the largest engine option, and this blend of power and reliability ensured the Gladiator's place as a staple in the pickup landscape.

1967 Jeep Gladiator J3000 pickup truck at a local car show.Gestalt Imagery, Shutterstock

13. 1978-1979 Dodge Lil' Red Express Truck

In the late 1970s, if you weren't behind the wheel of a Lil' Red Express Truck, you were missing out on the fastest pickup truck in the world

Back in 1977, Car and Driver crowned the Lil' Red Express as the speed demon of its time, boasting the ability to hit 100 mph faster than any other vehicle on the road. 

So, what was the secret behind its lightning-fast performance? 

Dodge Lil' Red Express Pick-Up - 1978Greg Gjerdingen, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

1978-1979 Dodge Lil' Red Express Truck (cont’d)

It all came down to tuning. Engineers fine-tuned this beast into a muscle truck, tweaking the V-8 engine to crank out a whopping 225 horsepower

This made the Lil' Red Express not just a pickup, but a speedster that left even the greatest Corvettes of the era in the dust. 

Dodge Li'l Red Express Truck, Rear Left ViewMr.choppers, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

14. 2004-2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10

If you had a need for speed then Dodge had you covered with the Ram SRT-10.

To create this mind-blowingly fast truck, Dodge engineers took the V-8 engine and 6-speed manual transmission from the Viper and put it into a Ram 1500. 

The end result was a beast with 500 horsepower under the hood.

2005 Dodge Ram Srt-10 8.3 FrontVauxford, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

2004-2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10 (cont’d)

With a top speed of 155 mph, this pickup was in a league of its own. And the manual transmission with the tall Hurst shifter only added to the thrill of driving this beauty. 

No wonder it earned the title of the fastest pickup in the world at the time.

Ram Srt EngineGarciaegs, Wikimedia Commons

15. 2007 Ford F-150 Harley Davidson Supercharged

The 2007 F-150 Harley Davidson Supercharged didn't just look tough, it packed a serious punch beneath the hood. 

While it kept the classic Harley-Davidson aesthetic with special paint, badging, and huge chrome wheels, it was what was hidden under the hood that really turned heads.

Ford F-150 Harley Davidson Crew Cab - 2007/8Bull-Doser, Wikimedia Commons

2007 Ford F-150 Harley Davidson Supercharged (cont’d)

With a 5.4-liter V-8 engine from Saleen, this pickup cranked out a whopping 450 horsepower. 

With that kind of power, it could leave just about anything else in the dust.

Ford F-150 Harley Davidson Crew Cab - 2007/8Bull-Doser, Wikimedia Commons

16. 2005-2014 Dodge Power Wagon

Some vehicles stand the test of time, and if you've ever owned a Dodge Power Wagon, you know you've got a dream machine for any pickup truck enthusiast. 

This beast was purpose-built for the off-road, so how did Dodge turn it into the ultimate weapon? 

Dodge Ram Power Wagon at Chicago Auto Show 2010.Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

2005-2014 Dodge Power Wagon (cont’d)

Dodge started by taking the chassis from the heavy-duty 2500 series, then added electric locking differentials for superior traction, lower gearing to handle those huge tires, and an electrically disconnecting anti-roll bar for better stability. 

They topped off the list of cool features with an 12,000-pound capacity electric Warn winch on the front bumper. 

Dodge Ram Power Wagon - 2012artistmac, Flickr

17. 2010-2014 Ford SVT Raptor

Among the lineup of impressive pickups, there's one truck that truly reigns supreme: the Ford SVT Raptor. 

Ford had been playing with the idea of an off-road F-150 since the 1990s, and when they finally brought it to life, they didn't hold back. 

Blue Ford F-150 SVT Raptor - 2011order_242, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

2010-2014 Ford SVT Raptor (cont’d)

Ford engineers wanted a truck that could handle slow-speed four-wheeling better than any other, soar over jumps, and glide over even the toughest terrain.

To make this off-road wonder a reality, they gave the Raptor internal bypass Fox Racing shocks and polyurethane bump stops, along with advanced electronics to boost its capability. 

With the SVT Raptor, Ford set the bar sky-high for off-road performance.

Black Ford F-150 RaptorDiamondBack Covers, Flickr

18. 1998-2002 Chevrolet Silverado

Chevrolet rolled out the Silverado as a full line of trucks in 1999, and since then, they've been the trusted choice of pickup for millions of consumers. 

While they may not have outsold Ford, Chevy trucks are known for their ruggedness and reliability, and have always been up to any task thrown their way.

2002 Chevrolet Silverado K2500HdElise240SX, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

1998-2002 Chevrolet Silverado (cont’d)

Under the hood of the Silverado, is Chevy's small block engine, celebrated for its reliability thanks to its robust and straightforward design. 

With a 315-horsepower V-8 engine supported by a stellar transmission, it's no wonder the Silverado earned its reputation for handling tough jobs. 

And with just two minor recalls affecting this model, it's clear that Chevy built these trucks to last.

Black Chevrolet Silverado 2500 - 2002IFCAR, Wikimedia Commons

19. 1979-1994 Dodge Ram 50

Chrysler teamed up with Mitsubishi to create the Dodge Ram 50. 

With a choice of 2.0L or 2.6L 4-cylinder engines that produced over 100 horsepower, these engines outperformed the competition while coming in at a lower price point.

1987 Dodge Ram 50 PickupAlden Jewell, Flickr

1979-1994 Dodge Ram 50 (cont’d)

While Chrysler eventually moved away from rebadging Mitsubishi trucks after introducing the Dakota, the Ram 50 enjoyed a successful run throughout the 1980s. 

Reviews and consumer reports praised its reliability, despite occasional complaints about rust. Many of these trucks are still cruising the roads today, some with over 200,000 miles under their belts.

Silver Dodge Ram 50 - 1988Michael, Flickr

20. 1968-1995 Toyota Pickup (Hilux)

When it comes to reliability and sheer indestructibility, the Toyota Pickup, known as the Hilux outside of North America, reigns supreme. Toyota began exporting these tough little workhorses back n the 1960s. 

In the US, they became a symbol of reliability and toughness, even achieving some fame thanks to pop culture references like Marty McFly's ride in Back to the Future.

Toyota Hilux - 19883reim, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

1968-1995 Toyota Pickup (Hilux) (cont’d)

The Hilux's legendary durability was put to the ultimate test in one of Top Gear's most infamous challenges, where it survived extreme torture. More recently, YouTuber Whistlin Diesel attempted to destroy one without success. 

Official tests, guides, and reviews all confirm what we already know: the Toyota Pickup is virtually invincible. Simply put, it's the gold standard for tough trucks.

Dark red Toyota hilux FreestylingR Walker, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons


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