They say once a trucker, always a trucker. And we don’t just mean the big rigs; we mean the pickups. The thrill of controlling a vehicle that could turn into a fire-breathing dragon at just a gentle rev is unmistakable. And this is why once anyone becomes a pickup guy or gal, nothing else matters. So said Metallica.
But not all pickup trucks are worthy of consumer interest or loyalty. And many worthy ones have also fallen by the wayside. There are some classic pickups that may not look like much but can get the job done a whole lot faster than many of the fancy pickups of today. Carmakers have to think about quality when it comes to these workhorses, and these are the vehicles that have to be toughest, most reliable, and the worthiest of them all.
These are not the vehicles that should fail anyone at any time. These are the gentle giants of the blue collar crowd, also driven by the white collar among us for sheer driving pleasure. Automakers really need to make sure that the legacy of many of these trucks should not fail. Unfortunately, the opposite seems to be holding true nowadays. So let’s revisit 10 classic pickups that were top-of-the-line in their heydays and deserve a comeback of sorts. And on the flipside, let’s look at the recent fails among popular pickups that need an overhaul lest they become roadkill.
20 Classic Wins: Chevrolet Cameo Carrier
The Chevrolet Cameo Carrier was floored in the car bazaar in 1955. It was an elegantly-styled, strong, and comfy workhorse. It was meant for sheer driving pleasure and not just for work. The company offered class-leading features across all its trims, including the choices of its powerful engines. Technically and mechanically, it was way ahead of its rivals in that era. When launched in 1955, it became an overnight success, posting good sales numbers in its initial years. However, a higher price tag than its competitors affected sales soon after. Sadly, the Cameo saw an early sunset in 1958, despite its strengths and abilities. Such immense success surely deserves another go.
19 Classic Wins: Toyota FJ40 Truck
Toyota is a legendary brand that is still alive and wins the hearts of its fans across the globe. This iconic auto brand is famous for its rough and tough appeal. The FJ40's journey in the auto bazaar started in 1960 and it went on selling like hotcakes till 1984. Plus, it continued to rule the Brazilian marketplace until its last breath in 2001. The FJ40-generation is also one of the most beautiful and sought-after collectibles ever built, for it rubs shoulders with the Jeep CJ and Land Rover for its all-terrain abilities across the globe. This iconic pickup is also dubbed as the most desirable pickup in the auto world and honestly, needs a comeback.
18 Classic Wins: Dodge Power Wagon
The Dodge Power Wagon is one workhorse that stands true to its name. It is the quintessential pickup that has its roots in World War II. The Power Wagon started its journey in 1941 as a half-ton, medium-duty, and four-wheel-drive version of Dodge’s WC Series Army truck. After the war, it reached Dodge’s dealerships across the country and began to attract new buyers in hordes. It has the honor of being the first factory-built 4X4 truck on the domestic market. It was, of course, laden with niceties like an enclosed cab and styled bed. It stayed on sale till 1968 and left domestic shores to spend another 10 years in the foreign markets. With RAM's new offerings floundering in the market, this one should be brought back.
17 Classic Wins: Dodge Custom Sport Special
The Custom SportsSpecial belonged to Dodge’s first-generation D/W Series of classic and rugged beauties. This was the time when Dodge ruled the market. This classy and classic pickup attracted buyers who were fond of both muscle cars and pickups equally. Apart from its iconic steel wheels and racing stripes, it also featured a comfy bench seat with thick pile carpeting. Plus, with the CSS, one could also opt for a high-performance special package. This package comprised of Chrysler’s wedge-head, 7-liter V8 powerplant capable of coughing up a massive 365 horsepower and an equally immense 470 ft-lb worth of torque. So, maybe it should be made again?
16 Classic Wins: Ford F-Series
The Ford F-Series has come a long way since it went into production in 1948. And the iconic brand never really looked back ever since. Currently, it’s the backbone of Ford’s dominion in the not just the trucking bazaar but in the entire auto world, too. It actually took the Ford F-Series four generations to gain strong leadership and establish its clean, boxy image. In 1973, venturing into its sixth generation, Ford loaded the F-Series with attractive class-defying comfort and safety features and gave it a fresh lease of life. The 1965-1996 F-Series trucks were one of the best pickups that buyers lapped up more for personal use over work use. Sure, The F-series is still alive and well but maybe Ford needs to a focus a little more on the upgrades to win the market over again.
15 Classic Wins: Chevrolet C10 Cheyenne
This second-generation Chevrolet C/K is dubbed in the trucking world as one of the best-looking pickups that Chevrolet ever built. It still is. It went on sale between 1967 and 1972. It was unveiled in 1966 to the global audience and was nicknamed “Action Line”. In it, the buyers had a full-size truck that had the comfort of a luxury sedan, too. The 1971-72 Cheyenne was armed with front disc brakes, an all-new standard radio, an insulated cab, and lavish interiors. The best one in the Action Line lineup was the C10 Cheyenne that housed a 6.6-liter V8 worth of capital as its heart. Chevy just needs to look back in time for some much-needed inspiration for its floundering Silverado 2500HD.
14 Classic Wins: Jeep Scrambler CJ8
The Jeep CJ has had a long flourishing career in the automobile history, from military to civilian use. Jeep rolled out more than 1.5 million CJs between 1944 and 1986. The legendary CJ-5 and CJ-7 Jeeps are revered in the off-roading community even today. Their sibling, the CJ-8, also known as Scrambler, is considered as a bit of a unicorn. It's a legend unlike another. It arrived at the dealerships in 1981 as a fresh long-wheelbase avatar of the CJ-7. However, it left too early in 1986 and became one of the most sought-after Jeep pickups that the legendary auto giant ever created. Now, the Gladiator looks ready to jump back on that bandwagon.
13 Classic Wins: GMC Syclone
As the name suggests, the GMC Syclone was nothing less than a cyclone on its own. It carried a 4.3-liter Chevrolet V6 unit under its hood that thrashed out a whopping 280 horsepower. It also featured a Mitsubishi-sourced turbocharger, a Borg Warner all-wheel-drive mechanism, and industry-first Anti-lock Braking System. The end result of this conglomeration was outstanding. It could keep up with Corvettes and Ferraris and stood tall and intimidating in front of its rivals, too. Equally outstandingly is the fact that most of the total 2,995 GMC Syclone that GM ever produced and sold are alive and still kissing the roads. Remember, though, it barely had a payload or a towing capacity. But it could outrun just about any muscle car out there. We miss you, little storm!
12 Classic Wins: Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup
This pickup looks weird, design-wise, and sported an equally strange name. This compact unibody was the pickup version of the Rabbit hatchback, a rebadged Golf for the domestic market, and was mostly based on the Golf mechanicals. According to Jalopnik, the Rabbitamino, so nicknamed by Jaloppers, had awe-inspiring fuel economy and is now highly desirable by the vegetable-oil-fueled-car crowd. According to CarBuzz, it’s one of the smartest ideas that Volkswagen ever worked on. Volkswagen managed to move a good number of Rabbit trucks off the showroom floor from 1980 till 1984. After it left domestic shores, it remained in production until 1992 in Europe. Wasn't too smart to take it off the market, was it? Especially since, just recently, VW broke every law in the world with regards to emissions and all.
11 Classic Wins: Dodge Li’l Red Express
The mid-70s are considered as the lowest point of Detroit's automotive performance by various noted auto journalists and writers. Rising insurance rates, shift to the use of unleaded gas, and stricter safety and emission norms were a few of the reasons that led to this gloomy situation. Somehow, pickup trucks were still unaffected by these regulations. Or rather, some pickup trucks emerged the winners. Chrysler wasted no time and launched the Li’l Red Express in 1978. It has been dubbed as the most unique Dodge pickup in the market to date and remains a highly sought-after collector's item. Plus, it was the fastest truck ever made in the late 70s.
10 New Fails: Nissan Frontier
There is a commonality about most of the reviews about the 2018 Nissan Frontier on most car sites, like Edmunds. Most consumers say that everything about the Frontier feels boring, commonplace, been-there-done-that, and of course, average at best. This truck proved to be noisy from start to end, and apparently, when irate drivers brought them in to get them looked at, they were told the noises were normal. Many others reported issues with the drivetrain and the gears, especially while going uphill. So basically, the Nissan Frontier is one pickup that comes with a plethora of problems and needs to be shown out and kept out.
9 New Fails: GMC Sierra 2500 HD
The GMC Sierra 2500HD did not get a very high-reliability rating in 2018 and not too many sales either. According to RepairPal, it has been hit with problems in just about everything. The engine, electrical, drivetrain, brakes, air conditioning, as well as heating systems all seems a tad weak and not well put together, as per consumer reviews. The 6.0-liter Vortec engine that delivers 380 horsepower and ft-lb of torque each sounds good on paper. As does its maximum payload of 3,500+ pounds. And yet this truck fails to deliver where it matters the most—consumer satisfaction. It's a no-go for the Sierra.
8 New Fails: Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD
So what do you get when you pair an awesome engine with a truck that refuses to steer properly, brake in time, and has visibility issues? Yup, you get the Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD. This was the truck that gave tough competition to the Ford F-Series for a great many years and Chevy fans will always go for a Chevy pickup than a Ford one. The engine is sturdy enough. A standard 6.0-liter Vortec V8 churns out 360 horsepower and 380 ft-lb of torque. Then there is the 6.6-liter Duramax turbo-diesel V8 engine version, as well, that thrashes out 445 horsepower and 910 ft-lb of torque. And yet, there is many a problem, too.
7 New Fails: GMC Sierra 1500
With the GMC Sierra 2500HD already on the naughty list, it’s disappointing to have to see the 1500 iteration of the GMC Sierra on it, as well. It’s a simple and straightforward truck with a standard 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V6 engine that churns out 355 horsepower and 383 ft-lb of torque. Other engine options include a 5.3-liter EcoTec3 V8 eAssist engine and a 6.2-liter EcoTec3 V8 engine. According to Edmunds, unfortunately, all these options come with transmission problems, as well as speed issues. One reviewer even went as far as calling the truck a piece of junk from the start, and that’s sad for GMC, for sure.
6 New Fails: Nissan Titan
Now how wrong can a truck from Japan go? And to be honest, the Nissan Titan isn’t a bad truck and nor does it come with too many problems or complaints. It’s just not terribly impressive. In fact, if the Titan were an Emoji, it would be a Meh. It is marketed as a full-size pickup but with a towing capacity of just 9,400 pounds, it falls way back in the race. The 5.6-liter V8 Endurance engine churns out a respectable 390 horsepower and 394 ft-lb, which isn’t too bad, but it isn’t great shakes either. As a standalone, these specs seem fine but compare it to the competition and the Titan becomes a laggard.
5 New Fails: GMC Canyon
So 2018 wasn’t the GMC Canyon’s year. In fact, seeing the growing number of GMC trucks on the fail list, apparently, it wasn’t GMC’s year in general, either. According to CheatSheet, the GMC Canyon’s reliability rating has hit rock bottom and is headed way down below the earth’s core. Why? Well, this pickup seems to be having problems every-which-where. The fuel system tends to go bust, the cabin's electronics are moody, and the transmission tends to take its own sweet time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a recall because of the faulty fuel line as well, since this truck has had a penchant for catching fire. And not in a good way.
4 New Fails: Ford F-150
We are as surprised to see this one on the list as you are, but that's the way the wind blows. Initially, 2018 seemed to be a bright year for the all-new F-150. A standard 3.3-liter Ti-VCT V6 engine churned out 290 horsepower and 265 ft-lb of torque. But you could also opt for a higher model with a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine, a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine, or the big-daddy 5.0-liter V8 engine. The price range also seemed economical enough. But then the consumer complaints began rolling in. According to Car Complaints, there have been transmission problems, engine problems, electrical ,and steering issues. Not expected from the Ford legacy, right?
3 New Fails: Dodge Ram 2500 & 3500
The RAM marque was separated from the Dodge marque a few years ago to better develop the RAM trucks and regain the market leadership they once enjoyed. The 2018 model year seemed to be contradictory for RAM, as reliability ratings for RAM 2500 and especially RAM 3500 are on a free-spiraling downfall. Despite various engine options like the 5.7-liter HEMI VVT V8, the 6.4-liter HEMI V8 heavy-duty, and the 6.7-liter I6 turbo-diesel Cummins engine in the Ram 2500, complaints have been trickling in about many an issue. The 3500 also offers the same engine options and a heavy towing capability of 31,200 pounds but it, too, is failing to meet consumer expectations.
2 New Fails: Toyota Tundra
The Toyota Tundra should now be renamed as the Toyota Trundling because it is simply no longer up to the mark. Yes, it’s a very safe truck and boasts comfortable and spacious interiors. The powertrain options are two V8s with measly towing capabilities of 10,500 pounds. The truck is getting too old to handle the newer, tougher competition. According to Edmunds, the suspension is stiff and makes for a jarring ride and the steering is a tad too light for such a heavy truck. Since no major upgrades have happened since 2007, this Tundra needs to be written off or get a major facelift to survive in the new era of pickups.
1 New Fails: Mercedes-Benz X-Class
Now, why would Mercedes-Benz try to make a pickup truck? Well, because they could. In fact, they seemed pretty excited about it! Their idea of a pickup truck was to strike the fancy of the rich and famous, so they got in a ladder-type frame, high-torque six-cylinder engine, and permanent all-wheel drive. They forgot to rev up the engine, though, and the 2.3-liter diesel engine could only thrash out a measly 187 horsepower and 332 lb-feet of torque at its best. And let’s not even talk about towing or payload capacity. Now just because Mercedes made a truck doesn’t mean anyone would buy it, right? And not many did!
Sources: Seeking Alpha, Carmax, Jalopnik, CarBuzz, Car and Driver, CarComplaints, AutoInfluence, Edmunds, and CheatSheet.