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2004 Dodge Ram SRT-10

Top 10 Hottest Muscle Trucks Ever Built

Why Settle For A Muscle Car When You Could Have A Muscle Truck Instead?

Updated October 3, 2018

Automotive fans are crazy about Muscle Cars, both Classic and Modern. Detroit automakers have spent billions of dollars to recapture the same magic in modern versions of Camaros, Mustangs, and Challengers. But every once in a while a manufacturer would release a truck that had equal and sometime higher performance of the same brand’s muscle car of the era – a Muscle Truck. Here’s our pick of the Top 10 American Muscle Trucks that were the equal of virtually any Muscle Car of the same era.

10. 1993 Ford Lightening

1993 Ford F-150 Lightning - Muscle Truck

Entering the Muscle Truck marketplace just 5 years after the Shelby Dakota, the 1993 SVT F-150 Lightning brought a balanced approach to high-performance pickups.

Rather than focusing purely on acceleration, Lightning added sporty handling allowing it to lap a road course as fast or faster than a 1993 Mustang GT. Developed by the Ford F-150 team and marketed by SVT, the 1993 Lightning featured a 351 CID Windsor V-8 rated at a respectable 240 horsepower, good for 0-60 mph launches in the mid 7-second range and quarter-mile times in the mid-15s.

9. 1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota

1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota - Muscle Truck

In retrospect, the 1989 Dodge Shelby Dakota isn’t all that impressive, unless you consider that it was built almost 40 years ago as a one-year only model with just 1500 of the small pickups built.

Certainly the Shelby Dakota wasn’t a pavement-burner, because it wasn’t. The run-of-the-mill Dakota came with either a four-cylinder or a V6 engine. The Shelby was fitted with a 5.2 L V8 that produced 175 hp. The heavy-duty suspension was from the the Dakota Sport while the Shelby was fitted with a limited-slip differential. The Shelby could hit 60 in about eight second and run the quarter in 16.5.

8. 1978 Dodge Lil’ Red Truck

1978 Dodge Lil' Red Wagon - Muscle Truck

The 1978 Dodge Lil’ Red Truck was sort of like the last Neanderthal – a type of vehicle whose time had come to an end, and this was the last big hurrah.

While engineers at all the automakers struggled to meet emissions regulations (much looser than today – and look at the progress they’ve made) Dodge engineers discovered a loophole in the EPA regulations. These would allow them to build one of the last of their “Adult Toy” models (which included a full-size van easily-outfitted for hanky panky).

The engineers installed the Police Interceptor engine, which was already EPA qualified, plus made some allowed changes under the rules. They swapped out the camshaft, valve springs, and retainers to 1968 spec. The exhaust used Street Hemi mufflers feeding two vertical pipes behind the cab. Power was 225 horsepower with a quarter-mile time of about 15 seconds.

7. 1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS 454 LS6

1970 El Camino 454 SS LS6 - Muscle Truck

The 1970 Chevrolet El Camino SS LS6 offered an engine with  the highest horsepower rating in a production car, up to that point, the new solid-lifter LS6 version of the 454 CID V8 that produced 450 HP and 500 lb-ft of torque.

However there was more than just a big engine. Available were the F41 performance suspension, cowl induction, dual exhaust, and power front disc brakes. The engine was backed by the heavy duty Muncie M22 close ratio “Rock Crusher” four-speed matched to a heavy duty 12-bolt rear axle. On the strip the 1970 El Camino SS 454 LS6 could run 13.1 and 108 mph.

While it did have some cargo capacity, it still was essentially a coupe with a small bed. Still, we wouldn’t turn one down.

6. 1999 Ford SVT F-150 Lightning

1999 Ford SVT F-150 Lightning - Muscle Truck

SVT engineers were able to extract an additional 20 horsepower and 10 lb-ft of torque from the supercharged V-8 through the use of a larger mass airflow meter, a larger intake-air opening in the fender well, and an optimized intake manifold. At 380 horsepower it was the highest-powered vehicle built in America at the time. The Lightening clocked a best run of 13.8 seconds at 104 mph.

The suspension set-up was reported to be truck-like, especially with the stiff Bilstein shocks.

5. 1990 Chevrolet 454 SS pickup

1990 Chevrolet SS 454 Pickup - Muscle Truck

Every other truck on our list so far (excluding the El Camino) has been powered by the manufacturer’s small block engine. From its name it’s clear that the 454 SS pickup features an engine of greater displacement. Although the 454 produced only 230 horsepower, its 385 ft-lb of torque powered it into the 7s on a 0-60 run. Suspension was upgraded with stiffer anti-roll bars and Bilstein shocks, along with fast-ratio steering gear.

For 1991, there were a number of upgrades. Out was the three-speed auto, replaced by four-speed 4L80E. Power and torque both climbed, 255 horsepower and 405 ft-lb, respectively. A lower 4:10 replaced the 3.73). As a result a dual exhaust was added. 1992-1993 model year models. Except for additional color options, the 454 SS remained mechanically the same.

4. 1991 GMC Syclone

1981 GMC Syclone - Muscle Truck

Up to this point, all the trucks we’ve reviewed have following the simple recipe of: drop a big engine under the hood, upgrade the suspension and brakes, and throw some stickers on it. The GMC Syclone couldn’t be more different. The only vehicles to compare it to at the time were Porsches and Ferraris. The Syclone was a Sonoma mini-pickup with sophisticated AWD system, ABS brakes (a first for a truck), and an intercooled, turbocharged V6 producing 280 horsepower and 350lb-ft of torque. It wasn’t just the power of the Syclone that made it special — it was its ability to put the power down without dramatics. In fact, in a heads-up drag race, a Syclone trounced a Ferrari 348ts. Now that’s the kind of truck we can get behind.

3. 2010 Ford F-150 SVT Raptor

2010 Ford SVT Raptor - Muscle Truck

Introduced in 2010, the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor was the most capable off-road, mass-produced vehicle available. For the 2010 model year, the base engine was a 5.4 L V8 producing 310 horsepower. A 6.2 L V8 was an option added mid-model year.

For the 2011 through 2014 model years a 411 horsepower 6.2 L V8 matched to a six-speed automatic were the only drivetrain choices available. The Raptor features a long-travel suspension with unique springs and shocks. To accommodate its larger tires, the Raptor shares only the cab with a standard F-150; the pickup bed, hood and front fenders are sized to fit the Raptor.

2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

2017 Ford 150 Raptor - Muscle Truck

For 2017 technology was added to brute power. Aluminum dropped the weight by 400 pounds. New Fox Shox helped add two-inches of ride height and increased wheel travel. A Terrain Management System with terrain-specific powertrain calibrations switches between two-, four-wheel (locked) and AWD modes based on the mode selected, along with three steering modes.

The twin-turbo V6, and engine similar to that in the Ford GT, develops 450 horsepower. Power is delivered via a  10-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. If not the best muscle truck, the 2017 Raptor is certainly the most capable.

2004 Dodge Ram SRT-10

2004 Dodge Ram SRT-10 - Muscle Truck

Perhaps the most audacious of all the muscle trucks on this list is the 2004 – 2006 Dodge SRT-10 Ram. If you want to define a muscle pickup you can’t get much closer than one powered by a 500 horsepower 505 CID Viper V10. Unlike the cast iron truck V10s, the SRT-10 utilized the Viper aluminum engine, with an increase in bore and stroke. Custom-tuned suspension featuring Bilstein shock absorbers and performance-tuned springs mount to a unique hydroformed frame Combined they lowered ride height of the SRT-10 by one inch in the front and 2.5 inches in the rear.

Available later as a Quad Cab, the Regular Cab was the one that hit all the performance marks: 0-60 in 4.9 seconds, and a 13.7 second quarter at 106, darn close to the 1970 El Camino SS. And surprising for a full-size truck with real-world payload and towing capacities. On the skidpad it generated a sport car like 0.86g.

Finally, to seal its title of King of the Muscle Trucks, under the watchful eyes of the Guinness World Record officials NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan set a top-speed record of 154.587 mph for full-sized product pickup trucks that still stands. Now that’s a muscle truck.

 

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Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. GearHeads.org gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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