1990 – 1993 Chevrolet 454 SS
America’s most popular pickup truck has seen two generations of “Lightning” performance. The first, from 1993 to 1995, offered a sprightly 240 horsepower 5.8-liter V8 which made for zero to 60mph in around seven seconds. In 1999, the Lightning returned… and it was mean. The new body came with a supercharged V8 making 380 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, and could shuttle the quarter mile run faster than an SVT Mustang Cobra. Top speed? A brisk 142 mph.
1978 – 1979 Dodge Lil Red Express
There wasn’t a whole lot of “performance” in the performance vehicles of the late ‘70s. Aside from this Dodge of course. In 1978, Dodge sidestepped some hazy emissions legislation and dropped a modified, high performance police 360ci V8 underneath a half-ton D150 pickup.
It pushed 225 horsepower to the wheels through a Loadflight automatic. Oddly enough, it was the fastest American car from zero to 100 mph in ’78. Those exhaust stacks aren’t just for show.
1991 GMC Syclone
With a pitiful 500 pound load capacity, the GMC Syclone is not remembered as a great “truck.” Instead, it’s revered more or less as a sportscar in a pickup truck body.
GM engineers dove into the plain jane Sonoma, dressed its V6 with a Mitsubishi turbocharger, added a Borg Warner four-wheel-drive system, and the end result was a 280 horsepower truck that made zero to 60 mph disappear in under five and a half seconds. With mild tuning, it’s capable of much, much more.
2003 – 2006 Chevrolet Silverado SS
In 2003, the early ‘90s Chevy 454 SS was reborn and refined in sleek Silverado skin. And like its predecessor, it was still plenty powerful. The SS had a 6.0-liter V8, good for 345 horsepower and 380 lb-ft of torque, and mated it exclusively to a four-wheel-drive system.
The quarter mile run took just over 14 and a half seconds with 60 mph arriving in just 6.3 ticks. Two-wheel-drive later followed and in 2006 it eclipsed four-wheel driven wheels.
2004 – 2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10
In the early 2000s, someone at Dodge decided to fit the Ram full-size pickup with the 8.3-liter V10 heart from a Viper. A whopping 500 horsepower hurdled the Ram truck from zero to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, all the way up to 155 mph. It was the quintessential king of performance trucks, and you could say it still very much is.
1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota
Add Carroll Shelby to the mix of any car, and it’s destined to be cool and fast. For the most part, the 1989-only Shelby Dakota was both. Dodge gave Shelby 1,500 Dakota regular cab pickup trucks, to which Shelby added 5.2-liters of V8, mated to a four-speed automatic. 175 horsepower may not seem impressive today, neither the zero to 60 sprint of 8.5 seconds, but in 1989 it made for quite a hot ride.