It’s hard to believe the 90s were almost thirty years ago, and what a decade it was. The world was introduced to the internet, technology was improving every day and becoming more available to the everyone. And don’t forget Y2k when we were convinced the world was going to end. Vehicles were rapidly improving as well, cars were getting faster and more fuel efficient and it seems trucks went through a slew of trends as well.
The beginning of the 90s was dominated by the mini trucks, when it was all about fuel efficiency while still reaping the benefits of having a pickup truck. The early 90s also seemed to be when all the big competitors were flirting with crazy designs, some being awesome and some just being weird. By the end of the decade the full sized trucks had taken over, dominating the market. By then they all seemed to have the same goal, making the trucks faster, bigger and tougher.
This list has a bit of everything from compact, mid and full-sized trucks with a few special editions you may of never heard of and even a few convertibles. No, that’s not a typo. It says convertibles. A couple decades later all of these pickup trucks are worth buying.
20 GMC Syclone
The Syclone was a special edition of the GMC Sonoma S15 that only produced for one year. In 1991, GM made less than 3,000 of these now unicorns.
They all came the same exact way: black on black.
The Syclone was all-wheel drive and came packed with a Grand Nationals turbocharged 4.3 V6 that was capable of making 280 hp at 4400 rpm and 350 lb/ft of torque at 3600 rpms. According to Car and Driver, The Syclone was capable of doing zero-to-60 in 5.3 seconds, giving it the ability to outrun a Ferarri 348 at that time.
19 Chevrolet s10 Xtreme
Just making the list being released in 1999 is the Chevy s10 Xtreme. The Xtreme came with a sporty ground effect package, sport wheels and the option to upgrade the engine. According to Auto Trader you could had the standard option 2.2-liter, but why would you opt for that when you could have had a 4.3-liter Vortech that made 190 hp and 245 lb/ft of torque. The Xtreme came in both a regular and extended cab option, with two different bed options; regular or flare side.
18 Ford F150 Lightning XLT
The Ford Lighting first wowed the world in 1993 as part of Ford’s Special Vehicle Tea, aka SVT. According to Motor Trend the lightning came with a 5.8-liter V8 with upgraded heads, throttle body and a nasty cam.
The modified V8 was capable of making 240 hp at 4,200 rpm and 340 lb/ft of torque at 3,200 rpms, 55 more lb/ft of torque than the Mustang Cobra SVT.
In 1995 the lightning was discontinued, but don’t be sad it made a comeback later on in the decade and even makes it on the list again.
17 Rod Hall Signature Edition Dodge
Rod Hall is said to be one of the best Baja racers to ever race so it made sense that Dodge would have wanted to team up with him to create the Rod Hall Signature Edition Dodge. According to Popular Mechanics first design was scrapped by the NHTSA after finding flaws in the suspension. With the help of Carrol Shelby, they were able to the design right but sadly only 33 were produced before Shelby suffered from a heart attack, and production ended.
16 Nissan D21 "Hardbody"
The Nissan D21, aka the “Hardbody” got its nickname due to its double-wall bed. The D21 was discontinued after 1997, being replaced by the current Frontier. Back in 1990 both the D21 and the 240x came with identical KA24E engines. According to DSportMag the KA24E was capable of making 140 hp at 5,600 rpm and 152 lb/ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. The Hardbody nickname was never officially given by Nissan for this model, but it speaks to the reputation.
15 Ram Cummins Turbo-Diesel
The first generation of the Cummins powered Dodge Rams was introduced to the world in 1989 and wasn’t redesigned until 1994. According to Truck Trend the 5.9 12-valve Cummins was capable of making 160 hp at 2,500 and an all impressive 400 lb/ft of torque at just 1,500 rpms.
Those are impressive numbers almost thirty years later, so it’s not surprising that it was among the more powerful pickup trucks at that time.
This would definitely still be a good purchase for the right price.
14 Ford F-150 NASCAR Edition
Offered as a special edition in 1998 was a NASCAR edition of the F-150, a limited batch of 3,000 were made. The NASCAR edition came black with black aluminum wheels with a custom interior, grill and was 1 inch lower. Sadly the NASCAR edition was just a looker, and came with the same 4.6-liter V8 that came in all F-150s and was only capable of making 231 hp. According to Ford F-150, it did come with a FOUR1 computer code, but that was to compensate for the back pressure caused by the dual custom Roush exhaust tips.
13 1991 Sky Ranger
The Sky Ranger is a bit of a unicorn as according to Motor1 only 17 of these were ever produced. The Sky Ranger wasn’t anything special when it came to performance as it had its standard Ford Ranger 4.0-liter with no extra bells or whistles. The physical design is what set the Sky Ranger apart from a regular Ranger. It had a canvas convertible top, a wing and sporty ground effects. In addition the Sky Ranger was also lower; but still a 4x4. Perhaps not optimal for off-roading, but definitely good for grip.
12 Ford F150 Nite
Back in the early 90’s, Ford had a special run of trucks and broncos they offered with the “nite” package. According to Ford F150, the nite package was only available to the single cab F150 in the first year in 1991.
In 1992 the nite package was made available for all Ford trucks and the Bronco.
The nite package included the obvious blacked out paint and trim, special pin-striping and aluminum forged wheels. Under the hood the nite came with the option to have a 302 5.0-liter or a 351 5.8-liter.
11 Dodge Dakota Convertible
The Dodge Dakota convertible was only produced for 3 short years. According to Auto Trader the Dakota convertible wasn’t a huge hit, only producing less than 4,000 total, making only 8 in its last year of production. There was a lot of flaws in the design, but mainly the convertible top that apparently leaked terribly. Ford makes this list with their very short lived version of the convertible that was also a huge fail. Makes you wonder if the car world will see another attempt at a convertible pickup soon?
10 Jeep Comanche
The Jeep Comanche, also known as the MJ, was produced between the years of 1986 and 1992. According to All Par, the Comanche went through a slew of changes in its short lifetime and was even available as a diesel for a moment. In its 2nd year of production the Comanche received the Jeep famous; inline 6 4.0-liter engine. After a few years of tweaking the 4.0 was capable of making 190 hp, significantly more than its competition. The Comanche also had the upper leg on the Ranger and s10 with the fact that it had a towing capacity rated up to 5,000 lbs.
9 Dodge Ram Indy 500 Pace Truck
Back in 1996 the Dodge Viper was the chosen as the pace car for NASCAR, and the Dodge Ram Indy 500 Pace Truck was designed. The pace truck came with a 5.9-liter engine with a sport exhaust that tacked on an extra 15 hp, making 245 hp in total.
According to Auto Trader, the pace truck only came in the colour blue and came uniformed with racing stripes sport wheels and tires on a lowered suspension.
It was offered again the following year now under the name Ram SS/T which stood for “Super Sport Truck” and was available in red, black and green.
8 Chevy 454 SS
The Chevy C1500 454 SS wowed the world when it was introduced in 1990. According to RoadKill.com, the SS massive 7.4-liter engine was eventually capable of making 255 hp at 4,000 rpms and 405 lbs/ft of torque at 2,400 rpms, which was all the more impressive almost thirty years ago. Only 17,000 of these trucks were made, a majority of them being produced in 1990 when they all came the same way black with a red interior, they were later offered in Victory Red and Summit White colour options.
7 Dodge Dakota RT
Making its debut in 1996 was the Dodge Dakota RT. The RT had a 5.9-liter engine that was capable of making 250 hp at 4,400 and 345 lb/ft of torque at 3,200 rpm. According to Hot Rod the RT also received an upgraded exhaust, lowered suspension and a stripped down interior with no power options; helping to make the lightest truck Dodge ever. In addition the lightest truck that Dodge ever made, they created a new class it was the first mid-sized truck that the world had seen.
6 Dodge Ram 2nd generation
The all new Dodge Ram wowed the world in 1994. Prior to 1994, Dodge had been making the same truck since the 70s. Motor Trend crowned this truck “Truck of the Year” in 1994 and it has taken the title 4 more times since then.
The new Ram came packed with a 5.9-liter V8 engine that could make 230 hp and 330 lb/ft of torque at 3200 rpm.
These models would put Dodge at the forefront of the pickup world, and are still a smart purchase years later.
5 Ford Lightning
The first Ford Lightning was introduced to the world in 1993, being discontinued after just three years. Things got really interesting when the lightning went back to the drawing board and was reintroduced to the world in 1999. According to Car and Driver, the lighting, part of Ford’s Special Vehicle Team, aka SVT, is powered a by a supercharged 5.4-liter engine. Upon it’s released in 1999 the 5.4 was capable of making 360 hp at 4,750 rpms and 450 lb/ft of torque at 3,250 rpms, eventually it was capable of making 380 hp at 4,750 and 450 lb/ft of torque at the same rpm.
4 Ford Super Duty
While pickup trucks have been around forever it wasn’t until 1999 that Ford came out with a line of trucks that was specifically made to be extra tough; they called them “Super Duty.” According to Popular Mechanics, the Super Duty had beefed axels, leaf springs and frame, in addition to having an increased towing capacity. The Super Duty was all around bigger and stronger and geared to be used for commercial work, and remains the best-selling in its class.
3 Toyota Tacoma
The Toyota Tacoma made its debut in 1995 , according to MotorTrend the Tacoma was first as a compact truck, although it is now classified as a mid-sized. The Tacoma came with two engine option, the limited model coming with a 3.4-liter V6 engine that made 190 hp at 4,800 rpm and 220 lb/ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. The compact pickup was still capable of towing up to 5,000 lbs. The name has endured for many years, and Toyota has built a reputation as a reliable pickup builder.
2 Dodge Ram 50
The Dodge Ram 50 was a compact truck you might not have heard of that was popular back in the 80s and early 90s and was actually a rebadged Mitsubishi Triton. According to Mighty Ram50, 1990 was a big year for the Ram 50 as they put their carburetors to rest and all trucks from there on were coming fuel injected. They also had the option for a 3.0-liter V6 that was capable of making 142 hp. Its square shape really aged well and finding one in good shape could mean a real deal for a potential buyer.
1 S10 EV
Making the list again is the Chevy s10, this time with the EV edition. Only produced for 2 years in 1997 and 1998, and according to Auto Trader there was only 492 of these gems were made. So what made the EV so special. It was completely electric and capable of 70 mph and could go for up to 95 miles on one charge, which may not seem all that impressive now in the world of Teslas and Prius’, but twenty years ago, it was. Of the 492 produced used mostly as fleet vehicles, only 60 were rumored to be sold, as most were used as a lease and then crushed when they were returned.
Sources: Autotrader.com, FordF150.net, TruckTrend.com, CarandDriver.com