If you love muscle cars – if only you could afford to own a Mustang, Camaro or Chevelle. Right? How about setting your sights on the affordable muscle car … a muscle truck. That’s right. Even if an iconic 1960’s-era muscle car is out of your reach, you may be able to afford a 1967 longbed C10 or an early 90’s single-cab, shortbed GMC Sierra -and convert it into what they call a performance truck. With one of these, you get the best of both worlds: a functional-use vehicle with street-racing hotrod style that also has that “incredibly cool” factor. Does that get your motor running?
From the Minds of American Gearheads
It is during the 1970’s that American automakers start doing to trucks what American automakers do best: Drop in a bigger engine just to see what happens. And there is something about a huge engine in a humble truck that makes gearheads smile. Is it the roar? The power? Both, probably. General Motors manages to cram 454ci V8’s into several of their mainstream pick-up trucks at the time. However, it is Dodge that introduces the true performance truck with the LRT.
One of the Ultimate Adult Toys
Complete with giant smokestack exhaust pipes and wood trim, the Dodge Lil’ Red Express or LRT, is a sight to behold. Somewhere between a fire engine and a Sherman tank, the LRT roars out of the Dodge assembly line in 1978 with a 360ci V8 dropped into a single-cab flareside body, the lightest truck body Dodge has. In the late 70’s auto manufacturers aren’t required to produce pick-up trucks with catalytic converters. Dodge leverages this loophole in the manufacturing regulations and installs a more powerful engine that breathes easier, delivering more punch.
Because We Can & Because It’s Fun
Once the specs are established for muscle trucks -the lightest possible body with a ridiculously powerful engine- automakers begin creating classics. A few of the most notable:
1990 Chevrolet 454 SS – Chevy is a household name when it comes to some of the greatest muscle cars, like the Camaro and Corvette. In 1990, Chevy applies their knowledge to the 454 SS. With a base C1500 short-bed platform, Chevy drops in a 7.4 liter 454 big-block, upgraded suspension and wide 275/65-series tires on special 15-inch chrome rims. The 385 lb-ft of torque inspires awe.
2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8 – With 20-inch chrome rims, a center-mounted exhaust and 6.1-liter Hemi V8 that makes 420hp and 420 lb-ft of torque, this beast claims 0 to 60 miles per house in five seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. Fuel economy? What fuel economy? That’s not really what you’re looking for in a muscle truck, are you?
1991 GMC Syclone – While many are dismayed over the V6 engine at first, the 4.3-liter turbocharged V6 produces 280hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. With its black paint job, oversized wheels and flared fenders, soon even critics become fans.
Just Convert It
The true age of muscle trucks is driven by what collector enthusiast restorers have a lot of: ingenuity and spirit. If you have a truck with a V8 engine and rear-wheel drive that’s easily modified and a lot of performance parts are available -you’ve got yourself a high performance truck, even a muscle truck (a snazzy paint job is a must). The most popular models for conversion to muscle truck status are traditionally the 1967-1974 Chevy C10 and the Ford F-150 of the early 70’s. The recipe for transforming a truck into a muscle truck is pretty straightforward: Get the lightest truck body you can find, stuff in the biggest engine you can and enjoy!
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