The 90s was an all-time high for trucks. This was the time of the bad sedans because suddenly, everyone wanted a big, bad car. No one wanted a small, compact set of wheels anymore so this was the decade where every carmaker tried to churn out the best they could when it came to SUVs and pickup trucks.
Since then, everybody has been on the bigger bandwagon when it comes to cars. While sedans and compacts have their place in automobile history, it is the pickup truck that has come of age today, starting its modern journey in the 90s. Here go ten of the most powerful pickup trucks the 90s gave us, and with good reason…
10 Looks Can Be Deceptive: 1990 Rod Hall Signature Dodge
When racer Rod Hall, who has gone down in the annals of auto racing as one of the bests, teamed up with Carroll Shelby – it gave rise to great expectations. No, not the book, just that greatness was expected. And so they churned out the Rod Hall Signature Edition Dodge pickup in 1990 that was based on the Dodge RAM 150.
Each one looked the part with new bumpers, a light bar on the bed, and Rod Hall driving lights. Now while this one looked stunning, it disappointed its buyers because under the hood was the weakest Dodge engine – the 170-horsepower 5.2-liter V8 – but 33 of these sold on looks alone.
9 1995 Ford Ranger: Aerodynamic & Compact
The Ranger nameplate has been used many times by Ford, and there was even an Edsel Ranger. In the mid-80s, the Ranger came to fruition and became a full-fledged pickup in its own right. Sold mostly in North America, it became popular because it was the first compact pickup by Ford. Pleasing to the eye, the Ranger also was full of power.
The 1995 Ranger was redesigned majorly and moved from being just a smaller version of the F-series into a far more aerodynamic model. Engine options ranger from a 2.3-liter inline-four to 3.0-liter and 4.0-liter V6s – enough to propel this little pickup with adequate if not stormy power.
8 Powerful and Limited: 1990 Chevrolet 454 SS
With the Ford F-Series on the list, can Chevy be far behind? In 1990, Chevy brought out a version of its C/K pickup truck in special ed, the 454 SS – much like its other SuperSport models before. The 454 was the engine displacement, meaning it was a powerful 7.4-liter V8 that jetted out 230 horses and 385 ft-lb of torque.
The axle of this truck was also unique and so built to support the heavy-duty engine, and the interior was given special red and black treatment to make it memorable. With only 17,000 of these made, finding one at an affordable cost is now a rarity.
7 1995 Toyota Tacoma: For The Young At Heart
The Tacoma has consistently been of the bestselling pickup trucks from a Japanese brand ever since its debut in 1995. The Tacoma came with all the reliability of a Toyota but instead of concentrating on a big size or a bigger payload – they made their marketing campaign all about safety, riding comfort and quality and drivability.
From 1995 itself, the Toyota Tacoma began to appeal to the younger generation of pickup owners who wanted it to be a complete adventure car – something they could get their work done in but be comfortable enough for leisure and entertainment. Engines were 2.3-liter and 2.7-liter four-cylinder with 142 and 150 horses; or a 190 horsepower 3.4-liter V6.
6 Live Tough and Hardy: 1990s Nissan Hardbody Pickups
The Hardbody isn’t your average pickup – and while it does fine on normal terrains doing everyday stuff, it excels when you go out on a limb and let it feel the toughest and roughest terrains of the world. And by that, we mean hot and harsh desserts, as well as humid and slushy rainforests.
The Nissan Hardbody remains one of the hardiest pickup trucks of the worst with a specially built super heavy-duty axel that lets the frame and the suspension handle the most brutal terrains around. It has been known as the D20 and the D21, and in 1955 was known as the Datsun truck. The badging changed to Nissan in 1984 but it was the 90s Hardbody trucks that were the most powerful to date. In 1997, the Nissan D21 became the much-acclaimed Nissan Frontier.
5 1999 Ford SVT F-150 Lightning: Came Before Thunder
The first SVT Lightning Ford F-150 was launched in 1993 and after a production run of more 11,000 units, it was withdrawn in 1995. Enough clamoring from fans made the second generation Lightning come back to life in 1999.
The engine was the 5.4-liter SOHC Triton V8 with tweaks made to the compression ratio and a supercharger added in. The 360 horses and 440 ft-lb torque took the second Lightning 0-60mph in 6.8 seconds which is way too fast for a vehicle that size. The speed had to be limited to 140mph, and this superfast truck could still haul as good as its normal, slower, and non-Lightning version.
4 From Dud To Hit: 1998 Dodge Ram 1500
While there’s no matching the popularity of the Ford F-series, which have been America’s favorite and bestselling trucks for many, many years – Dodge Ram trucks were no less. While now they are sold solely as RAM trucks, in the 90s it was the Dodge RAM 1500 that ruled the roost.
Engine options were pretty diverse and cool – 3.9-liter Magnum V6, 5.2-liter and 5.9-liter Magnum V8s, 8.0-liter Magnum V10 and a 5.9-liter Cummins Diesel inline-four. Redesign in the 90s roared the Ram trucks back into the bestselling list. While some 95,000 units were sold in 1993; the 1998 sale number stood at a whopping 600,000.
3 1991-1994 Jeep Wrangler Renegade: Almost Pickup Like
So technically, the Wrangler Renegade is not a pickup – but if you’ve got no one in the last row and the roof and the doors are off – it might as well be. Of course, the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator pickup is making all the right news everywhere and rightly so but the Jeep Wrangler Renegade (YJ) of the 90s was no less awesome.
Renegade was a trim of the Wrangler in the early 90s and came in standard black, red or white colors. But the real magic was under the hood with a 4.0-liter straight-six mill with an all-new fuel injection system that pulsed out a neat 190 horses.
2 A Longtime Bestseller: 1999 Toyota Tundra
The Toyota Tundra has been a longtime bestseller since its launch in America in 1999, barely making it to the 90s list of powerful trucks by a year! It has been a long-awarded truck and became a hit instantly.
Performance and comfort were good, but it was also the first pickup truck with a “good” rating for a frontal offset crash, so given by IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety). Toyota yet again managed to prove its superiority to its buyers, and the Tundra became a hot-selling car for many first-time pickup buyers and with good reason. Of course, its sales took its competitors by surprise as well!
1 1991 GMC Syclone: As Fast As A Ferrari
One of the earliest pickup truck models of the 90s, the GMC Syclone and Typhoon were the niftiest little trucks you could have ever seen. The 280-horsepower spewing engine was a turbocharged 4.3-liter V6 that also churned out 350ft-lb torque with 35% power to the front wheels and 65% to the rear wheels.
This spurred the Syclone, which was a high-performance build version of the GMC Sonoma; from 0-60mph in just 4.3 seconds. At the time, this was comparable to sports cars like Corvettes and Ferraris – so clearly when it came to power, this ruled the roads, even if it couldn’t haul all that much payload.