Home > Car Culture >  

20 of the Rarest and Coolest Pickup Truck Special Editions You’ve Probably Never Heard About

These Special Edition Rare Pickup Trucks Are Hidden Gems

For decades, pickup trucks have been nothing more than straightforward utility vehicles with purpose of providing the helping hand. As time progressed, markets evolved and so did consumers’ preferences. People weren’t satisfied with plain old pickup truck anymore, and they wanted the same level of individuality and pizzazz offered in passenger cars. Thus, special edition trucks entered the fray. Some of them only offered unique colors and badging inside-out, but some offered much more than that, like numerous performance-edition trucks, for instance. Furthermore, some pickup trucks were downright outrageous or even outrageous to the level they were actually great. Whatever it was, special editions were rare then, and they’re even rarer today. I bet you haven’t even heard about some of these. Take a look at what we’ve dug up for you.

 Rare Trucks - dodge-jean-machine

Here Are 20 Rare Trucks You Should Seek Out!

Dodge D100 “The Dude”

Years: 1970-1971

“The Dude” was present long before the “Adult Toys” and their colorful lineup of custom edition vehicles. The “Dude Sport Trim Package” which was its official name, appeared right at the end of Dodge D Series’ second generation. Available with the 383ci V8, “The Dude” was essentially the predecessor of performance-oriented pickups. You could have recognized it by its all-over C stripe in either black or white, unique badging on the rear end of the box, and dog dish hub caps with trim rings. There was also “The Dude” adorning Fargo trucks marketed as Dodge clones in Canada. These were sold by Chrysler-Plymouth dealers only, while Canadian Dodge-Desoto dealers sold Dodges like it was the case in the US. Only between 1,500 and 2,000 Dudes were produced, and there aren’t many of them left today.

Rare Trucks - The dude

GMC Sierra Classic Gentleman Jim and GMC Sierra Classic Beau James

Year: 1975

These two packages for the GMC C/K pickup truck were offered at the same time and they both targeted the upmarket customers. It was one of the first attempts by GM to create a luxury pickup truck. Gentleman Jim came in black and gold paint scheme which was complemented by air conditioning, AM/FM stereo with 8-track player, tailored tonneau cover, CIBIE headlights, and woodgrain interior trim.

Rare Trucks - 1975-gmc-gentleman-jim-pickup-02-03

Beau James, on the other hand, came in silver and blue, and had velour seats, unique floor mats, hood ornament and decals, and wire-look hubcaps among other things. It was exclusively offered with 350ci 4bbl V8 and 454ci 4bbl V8 which clearly demonstrated Beau James was more than simply good-looking truck.

Rare Trucks - beau-james

Ford SkyRanger

Year: 1991

As its name suggests, it’s actually a special edition of the Ford Ranger. If you haven’t heard about it, don’t get depressed. Less than 20 of them have been produced. Records vary, but either 17 or 19 would be the exact number. SkyRanger was basically a conventional Ranger with extended cab, 4.0L Cologne V6 engine, and all-wheel drive. It was then converted to the SkyRanger by American Sunroof Company. ASC added the targa removable top and had great expectations for it. Unfortunately, Ford scrapped the project after less than 20 of them were made, as noted above.

Rare Ford Trucks - 1991-ford-skyranger-123-876x535

Dodge Ram Rod Hall Signature Edition

Years: 1986 and 1990

Famous off-road racer Rod Hall wasn’t only known for his insane driving. He also created one of the rarest and most badass special edition pickups, together with Dodge, and later Carroll Shelby. First they made 14 units in 1986 and early 1987, but the NHTSA would have none of it. High and stiff racing suspension might have been normal to Hall, but it wasn’t in accordance with the safety regulations. NHTSA seized all of them and only 9 would end up being retrofitted. Hall then teamed up with Carroll Shelby and tried again in 1990 with more success. This time, he made 33 units. They had distinctive Rod Hall off-road lights, paint job with stripes, bed-mounted lightbar, and 318ci V8 mill generating 170 horsepower.

Rare Trucks - rod-hall

Ford F-150 Nite

Years: 1991-1992

Nite package was only available in ’91 and ’92, but it wasn’t entirely limited to Ford’s half-ton pickup truck. If you had ordered a brand new Bronco, you could have had it with the package as well. However, it was limited to the XLT Lariat trim of the F-150. Moreover, in ’91 only regular cab worked, while in ’92, Nite migrated to all other configurations. Although both 2WD and 4WD were compatible with the package, only 302ci 5.0L V8 and 351ci 5.8L V8 came into consideration on powertrain part. That is to say, Nite was an appearance package for the most part. It did have a sport suspension, though. Other than that, you could have distinguished it by Raven Black paint job, forged aluminum wheels, white-letter tires, and special bodyside multi color tape stripes. Interior was offered in Dark Charcoal, Scarlet Red or Cyrstal Blue.

Rare Trucks - 92 blacknite

Dodge Midnite Express

Years: 1978

Of all the “Adult Toys”, Midnite Express was likely the rarest. It appeared to be the Warlock with Lil’ Red Express appearance. That’s because it was the Warlock with Lil’ Red Express parts. I reckon things worked in the following order: first you buy the Warlock and LRX packages with their black paint, golden stripes, and wood-plated bed. Then you order 18-wheeler vertical exhausts straight from the Lil’Red Express, and voila! There’s your Midnite Express.

Unlike its red sister which came exclusively with 360ci V8, most Midnite Expresses seem to have been equipped with the 440ci V8. However, it also seems most of the other engines were applicable as well. Tracking those 270 of the original ones down today is practically impossible as most of surviving ones are conversions. After all, it wasn’t all that hard painting your Dodge D Series truck black, applying a few decals and fitting it with semi’s stacks.

Rare Trucks - 1979_dodge_midnight_express_

GMC Sierra California Sundancer

Year: 1987

California Sundancer, as its name suggests, was a regional special available only in Southern California. That’s probably the main reason it has fallen into obscurity. Special edition pickup truck was designed for Southern California sport truck market but that didn’t hinder it from having the roll bar. Not really a sport truck thing (more 4×4), but then again it was ’87. Other than that, all were painted Bright Yellow, and had had two-tone blue pinstripes and  Gunmetal Gray lower treatment. They also had Smittybilt tubular steel bumpers, sunroof, Bilstein gas-pressure shock absorbers, and BFGoodrich radials on 15×7 Mag Sprinter Western wheels. Good luck finding one intact today, though.

Rare Trucks - GMC sundancer

Chevrolet K10 Sno Chaser

Year: 1984

This K10 Chevrolet is more or less the opposite of the California Sundancer. It was offered in northern states and other wintery areas, and its production numbers seem to be among the lowest of all special editions. It would appear they were all painted red with golden stripe and black lower treatment. What they certainly had, was the cab spoiler mounted on the bed behind the cab, and Sno Chaser decal on the rear bedsides. One of the few rare examples we managed to find is fitted with the 350ci V8 in Scottsdale trim, but that doesn’t have to mean all of them were limited to this setup.

Rare Chevy Trucks - sno-chaser

Dodge D100 Spirit of 76

Year: 1976

Celebrating America’s Bicentennial with a special edition trim package is something all manufacturers did 40 years ago. Dodge offered one such package with the Dart and D100 pickup truck. Spirit of 76 consisted of numerous red and blue decals and stripes all over the truck’s white body. Package was only offered on the cheapest available trucks which means they all came with the slant six engine. Interior was a little bit more premium with colorful cloth and vinyl or all vinyl bench seat that followed the exterior theme. Finally, finishing touches were the courtesy of special bright wheel covers.

Rare Trucks - Dodge 76_spiritof76

Dodge Ram 1500 Hemi GTX

Years: 2004-2005

Hemi GTX sport package was introduced in 2004 in order to celebrate the golden Mopar years and their most famous engine to date – the 426ci Elephant V8. It was commissioned by Dodge, but customized by a third-party producer, LA West of Indiana, after being ordered from the dealers. Only 433 have been commissioned in 2004 and similar amount of units followed the next year. They were available in all of Mopar High Impact colors of the early seventies including Hemi Orange, Plum Crazy Purple, Sublime Green, and Banana Yellow. Moreover, they came with 20-inch American Racing Motto chrome wheels, blacked out cowl hood, “hockey-stick” stripe on the side, and specially trimmed 2-tone leather interior. The engine, as you might have guessed, was the 5.7L Magnum V8.

Rare Trucks - hemi-gtx

Ford F-150 Free Wheeling

Year: 1978

Free Wheeling edition wasn’t only limited to F-150 which makes it a little bit less scarce overall. Whether styleside or flareside (fleetside or stepside in GM tongue respectively), they all came with some colorful striping. Former got blacked out scheme with rainbow decals on the side, while latter were offered with pinstripes outlining the fenders, doors, and bed panels. The problem is, color scheme is their prime asset, and you can guess how non-repainted models look like after almost 40 years of rusting. Another problem is – no one makes these decals and stripes anymore, so that leaves their owners with a dilemma. Should they repaint it and lose the original color and soul of the car, or should they let it rust away to its prime elements?

Rare Trucks - free-wheeling

Chevrolet C10 Big 10

Years: 1975-1980

Chevy Big 10 and GMC Heavy Half were GM’s answer to the hated catalytic converter. These were basically regular half-ton trucks, but they were marketed as heavy duty pickups in order to bypass the emissions regulations. If you remember, all vehicles weighting 6,000 lbs or less were forced to comply with the strict emissions standards, but Big 10 weighted 6,200 pounds, so it was exempt. Mid way through 1975 model year, GM also offered one weighing 6,050 pounds which later replaced the regular C10 with 6,000 GVWR. 350ci V8 was the minimum requirement for it, while 454ci V8 became the most popular choice. Back in ’75, 454ci Chevy C10 Big 10 could have almost outrun a Corvette. It ran 0 to 60 in 8.9 seconds, while the 350ci-fitted ‘Vette did the same in 8.1 seconds.

Rare Chevy Trucks - big-10

Jeep J10 Honcho

Years: 1976-1983

Not as rare as others, but certainly not less worthy of a mention. Plus, Jeep didn’t offer that many special edition trucks, so Honcho stands up in not so large of a crowd. Anyway, Honcho offered some rather bold stripes and decals, and numerous additional equipment which varied from year to year. Only stepside and short bed J10’s were applicable for Honcho package which featured the wide-track look of the Cherokee Chief. Some could have been ordered with special Levi’s interior trim, and some even had the roll cage. Not something one would expect from a conventional pickup truck.

Rare Trucks - honcho

GMC Sierra Grande Olympic Edition

Year: 1976

This special edition pickup truck was marketed exclusively in Canada. It was commissioned in order to commemorate the Summer Olympic Games held in Montreal that year. Only 630 of them have been built, and all were based upon Sierra Grande trim level. They were painted white with red hood, frontal fascia and upper stripe encircling the vehicle. Furthermore, logo of the 1976 games could have been found on both the rear bedside (inside the stripe), and on a special hood ornament. They were powered by 165-horsepower 350ci V8, and came with extras such as chrome mirrors, bumper and grille, rally wheels, and wheel opening moldings.

Rare Trucks - GMC olympic01

Chevrolet Silverado Intimidator SS

Year: 2006

Introduced in 2006 in order to honor the late Dale Earnhardt, Chevy Silverado Intimidator SS is one of the latest Chevy pickup special editions. It wasn’t much more than the regular Silverado SS, but it did have a few details of its own. For starters, there was the Black Onyx paint job, and then there were the Intimidator custom badges and the rear tailgate spoiler. Interior could have been ordered with either cloth or leather, but had unique embroidered seat headrests in both instances. Just like the SS, Intimidator too was powered by 345-horsepower 6.0L Vortec V8. Only 933 were made out of 1,033 planned. Final 100 were sold as conventional SS models the following model year.

Rare Chevy Trucks - 2006 silverado ss_1

Ford Bigfoot Cruiser

Year: 1987

Bigfoot Cruiser is an optional package that was available on Ranger, F-150 and F-250. As you might have guessed it by its name, Bigfoot Cruiser promoted the popular Bigfoot monster truck. BCs came with oversized 33 or 35-inch tires, light bar with KC light, and front bumper with winch. They had their share of problems, as you can imagine. Few units caught fire for which Ford blamed the aftermarket parts, but it turned out to be the cruise control. Moreover, some of them were caught up in accidents, and those big tires didn’t exactly help them out. People on the short end of the accident sued Ford for putting these rolling disasters in traffic, and Blue Oval responded with a recall, effectively ending the Bigfoot Cruiser line.

Rare Trucks - bigfoot

GMC Sierra Indy 500

Year: 1977

GMC got to be the official car of the Indy for 1977, so they naturally used that honor to create the Indy 500 Pace Truck edition of their Sierra pickup truck. Both 2WD and 4WD models were available, and so were both the wideside (fleetside) and fenderside (stepside) models. Moreover, 6 and 1/2 bed was available with both wideside and fenderside, while 8-foot bed was exclusive with the wideside body. They had black and white paint scheme complemented by red pinstripes, and likely only V8 engines.

Rare Trucks - 77indy3

Chevrolet S10 EV

Years: 1997-1998

Not exactly a limited edition pickup truck, but a model of its own inside Chevy’s lineup. However, considering the numbers, it’s actually rarer than the rarest special edition trims. Of 492 S10 EV’s made, only 60 were sold to fleet customers, while the rest got scrapped. People really didn’t seem to like the GM electric cars as similar fate befell the EV1. Guess 114-horsepower electric motor, 1-speed fixed gear and short range (33 miles with 16.2 kWh battery and 72 miles with 29 kWh battery) weren’t enough even by ’97 standards.

Rare Chevy Trucks - s10-ev

Dodge Jean Machine

Year: 1978

Dodge tried to exploit the jeans craze by creating special edition package and fitting it in their D Series trucks. Dodge Jean Machine pickup truck maybe looked like a denim-clad sweetie on the outside, but it wasn’t all that special on the inside. Blue denim theme with orange pinstripes carried over inside, but there wasn’t even a “D” from denim there. Seats were furbished in regular cloth, although they did get the orange piping around the edges. Very few of these have survived the test of time, so we don’t know which engines could have been ordered with the package. 318ci V8 is everything that we could have dug up, but others aren’t excluded.

Rare Trucks - Dodge jean-machine

GMC Sierra Mule

Year: 1979

Although “Mule” package could have been ordered with any GMC pickup truck engine (including the sixes) back in the day, very few of them ended up being ordered. The reason for that is; Mule was a regional special only available in Chicagoland GMC dealers, in Illinois. There’s precious little data available on it, and we’re still to see one of these, so we have to assume they weren’t that different from the conventional lineup. Apart from special spoke wheel covers, unique decals and pinstripes, GMC Sierra Mule came with solid oak side rails as its most distinctive detail. It would have been great if one of them actually marched its rear out of some Prairie State barn.

Rare Trucks - mule

Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much!