History is a wacky thing because perspectives are different. The very person making the change doesn’t always know that history is being made by his/her actions. I’m talking about Henry Ford here, who kind of gave the world the modern car. What he gave the world was essentially a working automobile that an average person could afford. Indeed, that was his whole philosophy, to simplify tasks and make things universally available.
Just check out the latest Ford pickup. It looks dashing and rugged. The towing capacity is improving year by year, along with the hauling capacity. The fuel economy is getting better; the luxury features are abundant. I don’t want to necessarily assume that Henry Ford didn't have this vision or that he’d be surprised by the extent to where cars have come. After all, it takes a great vision and foresight in the beginning to be able to take such a risk.
But all that didn’t happen overnight. There was a process to it, a mechanism. Various manufacturers, numerous designer, millions of people and uncountable hours are what led to where we are. However, there were various points in time during which something instrumental was produced. So let’s look at pickups that made history.
20 1959 DATSUN 1000
First of all, the so-called Datsun is actually now known as Nissan. While small pickups are not unseen on the highways nowadays, before the arrival of the Datsun 1000, there was not a chance that you’d have seen a compact truck in the US. This was the first one.
The tiny truck didn’t have much to it; there was the 37 HP and 1000 cc four-cylinder engine that could haul about 500 pounds.
While full size pickups were already there, Datsun essentially created the compact truck category. Notable is the fact that Nissan beat Toyota in doing this by half a decade. Over the next few decades, the sales of these trucks boomed.
19 1957 INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER TRAVELETTE
While the name is not known anymore, this manufacturing company is actually US based. It was a company that focused on manufacturing agricultural machineries. The beauty of this beast is that it led to the creation of the first crew cab body style that we are familiar with.
The “Travelette” part referred to it being a six-passenger pickup. Initially it had three doors, but eventually it got four doors. Although Detroit was producing trucks, it didn’t have what the International Harvester Travelette had discovered. But it wasn’t too long after the discovery that Ford and Dodge incorporated the crew cab body style.
18 1973 CHEVY C/K 30 “BIG DOOLIE”
If you cruise around the towns and rural areas of the US, you’ll more than likely bump into trucks that have dual rear wheels. And there’s a good reason for that. Sometimes people use such trucks to their fullest capacity, which means that the truck could be pulling something really massive, and having two tires on each side helps. Two tires essentially split the load between themselves, which stabilizes the truck even more.
And if you’re wondering when the dual rear wheel thing came out, it was 1973 (although the 1974 version is the one pictured). Chevy and GMC had thought of this back then, but Ford didn’t pick up on it until 1980.
17 1989 DODGE W250
If you check out this truck, it looks rather cool. The wheels are thick, the body looks awesome, and it seems like it’s eager to go and tackle the world. Those wheels are really itching for an off-road adventure. But as macho as the exterior looks, the precious item was under the hood.
This was the first year that Dodge came out with that Cummins turbo diesel.
Now, it wasn’t the first truck diesel ever. It wasn’t even the second. It was just the best. The 5.9L V12 supplied 400 lb-ft of torque at just 1.7K RPM! That’s just insane, folks. It actually saved Dodge’s flailing truck business.
16 1947 WILLYS PICKUP
Willys was known to have experience in the segment. It had built Willys MB during the war and then the civilian CJ-2A postwar. So it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that Willys built the first factory-built light-duty 4WD pickup when it built the 1947 Willys Pickup.
This was one of the most awesome things to happen in the US at that time. Who didn’t want a 4WD truck even back then? While Chevy and Ford did offer 4WD, theirs was converted by a third party, so those trucks weren’t exactly factory built. Willys dominated 70% of the 4WD market because of this.
15 1960 CHEVY PICKUPS
Have you ever gotten into a pickup and had the experience of a car while driving? You carried a 15K lb trailer in the back, but the ride quality was just amazing? The harshest of bumps on the road seemed to be nothing more than the mildest hiccups?
You can thank Chevy for releasing the first independent front suspension back in 1959.
Before the arrival of this, all pickup trucks behaved more or less like a truck because of two solid axles that were always equipped in them. While they provided exceptional strength, they did break your back.
14 1955 CHEVY CAMEO
In a world that was inundated with stepside beds—when the rear fender is kind of sticking “outside” of its straight alignment, as opposed to not having any arches that increase the width anymore—Chevy decided to do something different by producing stepside beds and thereby eliminating the old-fashioned arches that had annoyed a few.
The Cameo looked all chic with the stepside bed. Atop, the Cameo was also equipped with the new 265 CID small block V8 engine. While Chevy wasn’t the first one to create the modern V8, it did create this highly influential small block V8.
13 1980 FORD F-150
This is that piece of art which combines several inventions and becomes an invention of its own. First of all, the F-150 was already doing decently well. However, Ford went ahead and made it significantly lighter, more fuel efficient, and even managed to make it more aerodynamically than its predecessor.
On top, it had a new 4WD front suspension. This was only possible when Ford let go of the industry standard. While Jeep had done this on its Gladiator, that wasn’t as successful as was this F-150 Series. The suspension system made the ride much smoother and made Ford even more famous.
12 1957-1979 FORD RANCHERO
If you have always wondered when and how a car with a pickup bed came around—and you got pulled away by life and never got the answer—then here’s your day. This beauty rode just like any other car out there, but had a small bed that could pick up decent things.
In fact, the early year models could do more than a few decent things; some of them were capable of being at the level of the full truck brethren. The gig lasted for seven generations and brought about various engine options and body styles. It should be noted that this is what inspired other manufacturers to produce their car truck versions.
11 1979-1983 TOYOTA HILUX 4X4
Datsun beat Toyota in bringing the first compact truck to the market, but Toyota beat Datsun at pioneering the 4WD system.
And boy when Toyota built the 4WD, the 4WD aftermarket industry grew like a wildfire.
These trucks had high ground clearance, looked all rugged and were reliable. Not a lot of vehicles are comparable to the Jeep, but this one right here could stand next to a Jeep on the worst trails. And on top, when the Hilux 4X4 broke down so infrequently, it set Toyota’s reputation for reliability. Toyota had a chance, and it took full advantage of it.
10 1978-1979 DODGE LIL RED EXPRESS
Ah, the Lil Red Express (LRT). After Pontiac GTO created the muscle car era, a whole new world opened up, and that world served as a source of inspiration for others. And that would have been Dodge, which created the first muscle truck of ours.
It was a performance oriented truck—check out those twin exhaust pipes. They scream performance through and through, and a little bit of machoness too.
There were some neat graphics too. Those were all “show” aspects. The “go” aspect was the 360 CID V8 with police grind camshaft that churned out 225 HP with a little bit of smoke coming out of those exhaust pipes.
9 1925 FORD MODEL T RUNABOUT WITH PICKUP BODY
If you or your family owns a pickup truck and are satisfied, go ahead, take a moment to sincerely thank this 1925 Ford Model T. Because this is what led to it all. It didn’t have much—just a bed that measured five feet in length. It didn’t offer more than two colors, green and black. But it did one thing. It came into existence. And that’s what mattered, for the rest is history. These 1,400 pound pickups were very cheap at a lowly price of $281, but they rid our ancestors from the tyranny of either not having anything or using actual trucks.
8 2010 FORD RAPTOR
I don’t think this one needs an introduction. When this came out in 2010, we were just ecstatic. There was nothing in the world that was better than this, although the same is said of the second generation that’s out there now.
It was a true off-roader. You filled up the tank, lowered the tire pressure and took it into the wilderness like you were a lion traversing your kingdom.
You had no worries, no fears. You had it all. You had the Raptor. And then when you got it back on the pavement, it still managed to satisfy you. It changed the way we see off-road pickups.
7 1999 FORD SUPER DUTY
This is another innovative thing that Ford did. Realizing that not every truck was going to be used in the same manner, Ford went ahead and introduced the Ford Super Duty, which was massive, sturdier and just more powerful. It was completely specialized, having its own chassis and bodywork. The leviathan was larger in every dimension and was stronger in every corner. And all that shows on the exterior. Just look at a Ford Super Duty passing by you next time, and you’ll instantly see the bigger dimensions. Of course, these could haul and pull much, much more weight than that accommodated by the lighter chassis.
6 1987-2011 DODGE DAKOTA
Over the next few decades after Datsun had introduced the compact pickups, the public became crazy for them. By the mid 1980s, the compact pickup was red hot, and Dodge already had its rebadged Mitsubishi Triton under as the Ram 50.
But Dodge thought it could create a US produced pickup and test the waters. So Dodge introduced the Dakota, the first midsize pickup.
It was a little bigger than the little ones and a little smaller than the big ones. It became an instant hit, and there were various configurations, even a convertible, which is the best way to spoil yourself.
5 1991 GMC SYCLONE
While Dodge had created the muscle truck of its time, GMC decided to create a sport truck. Sometimes I think GM was just playing around when it approved this thing. It’s an exceptional vehicle, but it was so specialized that it couldn’t keep up with its truck duties.
It couldn’t tow much, and nor could it haul much. But one thing is for sure: it could go fast. So fast, in fact, that it beat contemporary Ferraris. And that’s a hard thing to do as a sedan, let alone as a pickup, but hey, it’s the lunatic Syclone, so it was possible.
4 1999 FORD SVT F-150 LIGHTNING
While people got excited about the Raptor, let’s not forget this beast that took the world by surprise in 1999. Based on the tenth generation F-150, the truck gave a startling performance—360 HP and 440 lb-ft of torque—thanks to its 5.4L supercharged V8.
Over the next couple of years, Ford went ahead and revised the engine to boost the power output up to 380 HP and 450 lb-ft of torque.
It was Ford’s first supercharged engine in its F-Series, and I think the Lightning just set the path for various special editions in the future, including the Raptor.
3 2004 DODGE RAM SRT-10
If you have ever driven or ridden this truck, you’d know why this beast is placed here. GMC in 1991 had produced the lunatic Syclone, and Dodge did something similar here, although much better. Just check out the front fascia of the car. It has a grille that looks good, a bulged hood that means business, and some ground effects kit that scare children away.
And if the appearance didn’t, then the 500-HP V10 would definitely do that. It was the fastest production pickup of its time, and I don’t think any truck has beaten it yet. This was Dodge’s unofficial Hellcat.
2 2008 TOYOTA TUNDRA SUPERCHARGED
If you picked up on a trend here, you’ll have noted that it was Dodge and Ford who were making the high-performance truck. And if you had to pick the better between the two, you’d likely and hopefully say Dodge. Dodge was just a maniac back then, coming up with ideas left and right. But I guess Toyota decided it was its time to do something a little more.
And that’s how Toyota came out with the Tundra Supercharged back in 2007. It was a 5.7L V8 that had been tuned up to give a massive 504 horses and 500 lb-ft of torque. It was a good pickup.
1 2010 FORD ECOBOOST PICKUPS
In a world that’s fraught with emissions restrictions and high gas prices, Ford did the right thing by producing the EcoBoost engine for various 2010 model years.
The EcoBoost engine is essentially an engine that combines turbocharging and direct fuel injection, with the end result being more power and more fuel efficiency.
Now that’s what winners do—instead of producing the same old, gas-guzzling thing again and again, they go for innovation. This EcoBoost is better than some of the V8 models thanks to what it does. Ford went ahead and produced this bad boy, which has been in the stable ever since.
Sources: edmunds.com; popularmechanics.com