Pick ’Em Up: The 51 Coolest Trucks of All Time

-There's just something we all like about a pickup, man. Note: Our list is not ranked from 51 to 1. These are just our favorite trucks.---This story originally appeared at Popular Mechanics.-Jeep's replacement for both its Willys pickup and the FC (Forward Control) truck was the Gladiator pickup. The Gladiator was a much more modern full-size pickup than Jeep's earlier workhorses. This Jeep was contemporary enough that, with a few updates and styling changes, it stayed in production without a ground-up redesign for 24 years.---The earliest Gladiators used an advanced six-cylinder engine, while larger V-8 engines were optional throughout the life of the Gladiator and later J-10 and J-20 trucks. Since Jeep didn't make its own V-8s, these were supplied by Buick and, of course, AMC. The largest was the AMC 401 V-8—the biggest engine ever offered in a Jeep pickup.---By 1976, the J-trucks received a new frame, and an awesomely disco "Honcho" package became available in the late 70s. The rarest and coolest of all the J-trucks of this generation would be the stepside bed Honchos of 1980-1983—only 1264 were made.-No doubt the Blazer deserves a place on this list. But instead of picking a pedestrian version, we selected the rare Chalet. In the mid-to-late 1970s, off-roading and camping were two red-hot trends. But to do both, you needed a motorhome and a 4X4 to tow behind it. Not so if you ordered a Chevy Blazer Chalet. The Chalet was a pop-up camper body made by Chinook that slid into the cargo hold of a 4WD Blazer and provided sleeping accommodations for two. This meant you could tackle a tough trail in your Chalet and carry everything you need for camping at night. Brilliant. The Chalet retailed for just under $10,000, and less than 2000 were ever made.-The Highboy is one of the toughest-looking Ford trucks of all time. We love its sky-high stature and ultra-rugged drivetrain. You could bolt on a massive 35-inch tire under these trucks without lifting the suspension. These trucks sat a few inches taller than the 3/4-ton trucks from GM, Dodge, and Jeep, too.---After 1977.5, the F-250 was revised with a new frame, suspension, and drivetrain that lowered the new trucks 2 inches. From that point on, the older F-250s were known as "Highboys" and the new trucks were "Lowboys." Many of these early tall F-250s came with Ford's 360 V-8 paired to either a sturdy C6 automatic or a "granny low" NP 435 4-speed manual.---It might seem odd that a heavy-duty pickup truck from the 1970s could begin to interest truck collectors, but the cool stance, durability, and lore of these “Highboy” Ford trucks make restored or low-mile examples very desirable.-The Willys CJ-2A is so much more than the civilian version of the Willys MB. The original “Jeep” would become the blueprint and inspiration for just about every recreational four-wheel drive vehicle for the next seven decades, including every Jeep. Perhaps the most iconic aspect is that seven-slot grille, a design cue baked into every modern Jeep.---Between those flat fenders sat Willys' little 60-hp, 134-cid “Go-Devil” engine. But because the CJ-2A ran on an 80-inch wheelbase and weighed just 2100 pounds, it was not only maneuverable but also peppy.---The CJ2A was more of a workhorse than any SUV today, and often ran farm implements and other attachments—even snow plows. To us, the CJ-2A is most in its element when crawling over the rocks on a four-wheel-drive excursion, enjoying the open-top fun that this vehicle practically invented.-After nearly a decade marketing gargantuan SUVs, Hummer finally launched a smaller vehicle for the 2005 model year. The H3 was based on the bones of the Chevy Colorado, and so it had that vehicle's pokey inline 5-cylinder engine. The power deficiency was fixed in 2008 when the company slid its potent 300-hp, 5.3-liter V-8 into the compact H3. This model finally had the muscle to match its brawny appearance. The H3 Alpha could hit 60 mph 2 to 3 seconds quicker than the five-cylinder models.-The original Jeep Wagoneer was, along with the Chevy Suburban, one of the forefathers of the modern SUV. The Wagoneer used the same basic chassis as the Jeep Gladiator pickup truck and saw few changes through its nearly 30-year production run. From 1974 to 1983, Jeep sold a two-door version of the Wagoneer that it called the Cherokee—another legendary Jeep nameplate.---The Super Wagoneer of 1966 packed more luxury features and a strong V-8 under the hood. It became a precursor to the more upscale path the Wagoneer brand would blaze through the ’70s, ’80s, and early 1990s, with trims such as the Brougham, Limited, and finally, Grand. And the faux wood grain side panels would become a Waggy trademark. Today, these SUVs look and drive like the classics they are.-Back in the 1950s, Chevy and GMC didn't offer in-house-designed 4WD pickup trucks. But Dodge had been building its trucks with 4WD since the 1940s. So the Northwest Auto Parts Company (Napco), an engineering and fabrication firm from Minnesota, began to produce conversion kits that could transform GMC and Chevy trucks (as well as Fords) into 4WD trucks.---By 1957, both manufacturers were installing Napco Powr-Pak 4WD conversions directly on the assembly line. Once the OEM manufacturers began building their own 4WD trucks in the 1960s, the Napco conversions were no longer needed. Today, Napco trucks are rare and highly desirable collectables with a strong owner's group. This 1959 Chevy 3100 sold at a 2008 Barrett-Jackson auction for a whopping $72,600.-Although GM and Ford fans would argue that the 1983 S-10 Blazer and Bronco II were the first “downsized” compact SUVs, it was the Jeep Cherokee XJ that really set the stage for what modern SUVs and crossovers would become. The Cherokee didn't use conventional body-on-frame construction. Instead, XJs were unibody, which combined the body and frame like passenger cars. And perhaps most importantly, the Cherokee was available with two or four doors. The Chevy and Ford wouldn't get proper four-door versions until 1991.-When the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon launched in 2003, this optional package became an instant hit. The second-generation Jeep Wrangler TJ was, for many, the high point of Jeep off-road capability thanks to its flexible coil-link suspension and nimble size.---The TJ was smaller than today's Wrangler and used Jeep's torquey 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine, so it could crawl up hard, narrow trails with practically no modifications. To transform the TJ into an even more talented dirt machine, the Rubicon package included beefy Dana 44 axles front and rear, with electronic locking differentials, an ultra-low gearing in its transfer case, and aggressive 31-inch Goodyear mud tires.---The rarest and most desirable of the Rubicons from this generation are the long-wheelbase Unlimited models that were sold from 2004 to 2006 and set the stage for today's four-door Unlimited.-The International Harvester Scout was one of the most popular 4WD vehicles of the 1960s and 1970s, with just over a half-million produced in that time. The original Scout 80 and later 800s were solid competitors to Jeep. But it was the later, larger, and more modern Scout IIs that many enthusiasts pine for today.-The Chevrolet Suburban might have invented the SUV, but it was International that put the proper number of doors on it. With four real doors, it was easy to climb into the third row of a Travelall. And in 1961, the Travelall received stylish new bodywork with curves that make it a classic.---Starting that year, the 2WD models sat lower to the ground and rode on a torsion bar front suspension. But the 4X4s were still tall and used the same solid axle and leaf spring suspension as the International Harvester pickup trucks. The four-inch wheelbase stretch over the 1950s Travelall meant that this one could really haul, whether it was people or stuff. The brochures bragged that the Travelall could swallow a 4-foot-by-8-foot sheet of plywood with the rear seats removed, or stow 124 cu-ft of gear with a maximum height of 42 inches. With all the seats in place, there was room for nine people.---The Scout II was a heavy and versatile beast, and International designed it to handle just about any task. The short overhangs of the bodywork and beefy drivetrain meant it was a great trail machine. The most desirable of the Scout IIs came after 1974 when the strong Dana 44 front axle came standard, along with disc brakes. The Scout II could be optioned with the 304 cid V-8 or the brawny 345 cid V-8. Starting in 1976, those who needed more room could order a Traveler SUV or Terra pickup version on an 18-inch-longer wheelbase.-The 1966-1977 Ford Bronco could make this list all on its own. But the peak of coolness was the limited edition Baja Broncos. After much success in off-road racing, legendary racer and fabricator Bill Stroppe teamed up with Ford to produce between 400 and 650 replica Baja Broncos. These trucks were painted to match Stroppe's race trucks. Then, his shop would cut the rear wheel wells and install flares to provide room for larger tires. Under the hood was a 302-cid V-8 matched to a C4 automatic. Stroppe offered a large catalog of parts that could be optioned onto any Baja, including a roll cage, lights, a winch, and even heavy-duty suspension enhancements. Still hot today, Baja Broncos fueled the rise of the off-road scene in the 1970s.-In 1990, famed racer Rod Hall teamed up with Carroll Shelby to build Signature Series trucks based on the Dodge Ram 150. They made 33 of them, and each one wears cool pre-runner bumpers front and rear, a bed-mounted light bar, and Rod Hall driving lights. Unfortunately for power-hungry truck fans, the trucks came with Dodge's least-powerful eight-cylinder engine, the 318-cid V-8, with a measly 170 hp. They weren't nearly as quick as they looked.-In the 1970s, the Chevy Blazer and Dodge Ramcharger SUVs were based on full-size pickups, so they could haul and tow like real trucks. Ford's Bronco retained its original small platform until 1978, when it finally moved to the F-150 chassis. The second-generation big Bronco was no less cool than the original, especially if you checked the box to option a big-block 460-cid V-8 under the hood.---Ford refined the chassis in 1981, and as a result, the Bronco lost its durable Dana 44 solid front axle in favor of a new Twin-Traction Beam setup that was less capable off-road. So it was these first three years of the big Bronco that have found the strongest following among Ford truck fans.-The 1999 Ford Super d-Duty revolutionized the heavy-duty truck market. Before this big, bad pickup arrived, manufacturers largely used upgraded versions of their light-duty trucks to handle heavy-duty work. The 1999 Super Duty was a separate model line with its own style and hardware underneath. That way, the light-duty Ford F-150 could be engineered for milder tasks, while the Super Duty could handle the work crowd as well as the hard-core recreational users.---Under the hood was the choice of a new 6.8-liter gasoline V-10 engine, a 5.4-liter V-8, or a 7.3-liter turbo-diesel with a whopping 500 lb-ft of torque. On the options list were manually telescoping side mirrors, which drivers could slide out just when they needed them for towing. Ford also built the Super Duty in F-450 and F-550 cab-chassis models for the even higher GVWR market—a market it dominates today.-Ford had been toying with the concept of a raging off-road F-150 back in the 1990s. Even so, transformation that Ford's SVT team achieved with the Raptor was shocking when we caught our first glimpse in 2009. It promised to smooth out the worst high-speed desert terrain, fly over jumps, and handle slow-speed four-wheeling better than just about any production truck.---The SVT team chose internal-bypass Fox Racing shocks and urethane bump stops. Although the Raptor's 4WD system is mechanically similar to a standard-issue F-150's, the designers incorporated advanced electronics to increase the capability.-Raptors come in either SuperCab or larger SuperCrew configurations. Whichever setup you selected, the Raptor's soft-riding suspension could sail over jumps, smooth out the worst washboard roads, and still tow an 8000-pound trailer.-The impact of the Chevrolet Suburban can be felt in every corner of the 4WD world. The Suburban (originally named Suburban Carryall) was America's first SUV. Four-wheel drive came along in 1957 and would transform how America got around in inclement weather. The Suburban didn't get four real passenger doors until the boxy 1973 model arrived, but that square-fendered Suburban would stay on the market until 1991.---In the 1970s and 1980s, the big three-row SUV became a popular replacement for the station wagon. Suburbans could be optioned with big-block 454 V-8s and tow 10,000 pounds—perfect for ranchers who needed a vehicle that could haul the crew as well as the horse trailer. The heavier-duty 2500-series Suburban became a favorite ride for the Secret Service.---While competitors from International, Ford, and others have come and gone, the Suburban remains the dominant large American SUV.-The Dodge Power Wagon, like the Willys CJ-2A, was a thinly disguised version of a military machine—in this case, the WC-series Dodge three-quarter-ton trucks used in World War II. It was America's first civilian 4WD truck.---There wasn't a giant V-8 under that giant hood. Instead, contrary to the Power Wagon's name, these trucks used a 94-hp, 230-cid inline six-cylinder. A larger 251-cid engine came aboard in 1961. But these trucks didn't need major horsepower to get the job done. They used ultra-low gearing instead. Thanks to massive tires, Power Wagons had more than 10 inches of ground clearance under each axle and could haul around 3000 pounds in their beds.---The original Power Wagons would stay in service for decades to come. Today, Legacy Power Wagon offers fully restored Power Wagons with V-8 or diesel power.-Throughout most of the 1980s and early 1990s, Dodge struggled to make its trucks relevant. The 1989 introduction of the Cummins diesel to the heavy-duty line helped, but everyone bought that truck because of its engine—not because the truck itself was good.---That changed when the redesigned Ram hit the market as a 1994 model. The styling was bold and handsome, evoking the look of the big rigs of the day. Consumers flocked to Dodge dealers: Sales skyrocketed by fourfold in just a handful of years. It's not hard to see echoes of these Dodges in some Ford and GM pickups today.-Among Japanese truck-makers, Datsun may have gotten the first toehold in the United States back in the late 1950s, but it was Toyota that began to dominate the market in the decades after. Toyota would be the first manufacturer to offer 4WD in a compact truck with the 1979 Hilux, and gave this pickup a nearly bulletproof drivetrain. These trucks sat tall on their suspensions, providing serious ground clearance for off-roading. More importantly, these rigs had tremendous reliability and were quickly adopted as the small pickup of choice.-These 4Runners were some of the most rugged and capable compact 4WD vehicles ever offered in the U.S. They were based on the 4WD Toyota pickups of the day and were seriously over-engineered for durability. The solid axle and leaf-spring suspension at each end of the 4Runner provided Jeep-matching off-road capability. And the fuel-injected 22RE four-cylinder engines were nearly indestructible. Take a long look at the 2014 Toyota 4Runner and it's probably tough to see the lineage that dates back 30 years—the early 4Runners were much closer to pickup trucks with caps on the back then they were to integrated SUVs.-Datsun pioneered the compact truck market in the U.S., rolling their first one onto American streets in 1959. By the time the company launched the 4th generation 620 in 1972, it had years of compact truck expertise and a strong reputation. The 620 not only looked great, with those winglets along the bedsides, but also broke through with a number of innovations. It was the first compact truck with a long bed, and in 1977, Datsun debuted a version with more interior room—the King Cab. King Cab 620s became the de facto surf trucks around Southern California in the late 1970s and helped nurture the early sport-compact truck scene.-Back in the ’70s, this red pickup with its wild 18-wheeler exhaust stacks was one of the quickest American vehicles you could buy. In fact, in our November 1977 issue, we here at Car and Driver said it was the quickest to 100 mph of any vehicle that year. The secret was in the tuning. As part of Dodge's Adult Toys lineup of trucks, the Express was meant to be a real muscle truck. So engineers took the same 360-cid V-8 used for police duty and modified it a little more. This resulted in 225 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque—five more hp and 35 more lb-ft than the most potent Corvette at the time. And Dodge slipped the 1978 version of the truck through without performance-strangling catalytic convertors. The truck had them by the next year, yet neither performance nor popularity suffered—Dodge sold more than 5000 of these trucks in 1979.-The high point for sport truck lunacy was the Dodge Ram SRT-10 that would become the world's fastest and wildest pickup. To create the monster speed machine, Dodge's SRT engineers took the V-10 engine and 6-speed manual from the Viper and installed it in a regular cab Ram 1500. The result was a 500-hp truck that could run to 60 mph in the low 5-second range and on to a Guinness record-setting (at the time) top speed of nearly 155 mph. The most satisfying part of this beast is that all the V-10 fun is channeled through a manual transmission with a ridiculously tall Hurst shifter topped with a ball. It's badass.-As a direct response to Chevy's hot 454 SS, Ford launched the Lightning—a high-performance pickup tuned by the company's Special Vehicles Team (SVT). Instead of dropping in a larger and heavier motor into the truck, the SVT team modified Ford's 5.8-liter small block V-8 inside and out with high-performance parts to deliver 240 hp and a solid 340 lb-ft of torque. The suspension was lowered by 2.5 inches, and thanks to new shocks, springs, anti-roll bars, and huge 17-inch tires, the Lightning handled better than its Chevy rival. Just more than 11,000 of these first- generation Ford Lightnings were produced. The truck was so well received that Ford commissioned a second generation in 1999.-General Motors played it safe with pickups for a long time. The boxy 1973–1987 trucks were dependable and strong but not exactly revolutionary. That changed in 1988 with the new GMT 400. The bodywork was sleek—tuned in the wind tunnel. Even though the body was narrower than its predecessor, there was more room inside. And the really groundbreaking element was in the chassis. Gone was the old-style solid axle, replaced by an independent front suspension (IFS) sprung by torsion bars. This meant that these big 4WD pickups not only steered more like cars, but they also rode better. The new front axle disconnect system meant that you could shift into 4WD at any speed. This IFS would become the standard for light duty trucks. When it was combined with the 5.7-liter V-8 and five-speed manual in the 4WD Sportside, GM had a fun dirt machine on its hands.-By the 1980s, Chevy and Ford were already making heavy-duty pickup trucks with diesel engines. So the Dodge Ram heavy-duty trucks with Cummins turbo-diesels were late to the game. However, by installing essentially the same six-cylinder Cummins diesel that came in large commercial trucks, Dodge got an engine known for its durability and longevity (at that time, the Cummins brand was perhaps even stronger than that of the Dodge Ram). And that's what helped Dodge finally succeed in the heavy-duty pickup market.--At launch, the Dodge Power Ram Cummins six-cylinder made more torque (400 lb-ft) than the comparable Chevy or Ford. The potency of this truck not only encouraged its owners to move heavier loads, but also prodded Ford and GM into a torque war that continues to this day.-The 2005 Dodge Power Wagon was, and still is, a dream package for hardcore four-wheelers. To create this off-road beast, Dodge used its heavy-duty 2500 series chassis and fitted electric locking differentials for more traction, an electrically disconnecting anti-roll bar for more suspension flex, and lower 4.56:1 gearing to turn the 33-inch-tall tires. This means that a Power Wagon can crawl its way up and over just about any trail it will fit on. And if it does get stuck, there's a ridiculous 12,000-pound capacity electric Warn winch mounted in the front bumper.-Jeep forums are clogged with speculative posts about a possible pickup truck version of the next Wrangler. Enthusiasts have yearned for the return of the Jeep pickup for decades—ever since this one went away. In the early 1980s, Jeep needed a small pickup to compete in that new market segment. So it transformed the popular CJ-7 into something more suitable for hauling by stretching the wheelbase 10 inches and grafting on a longer pickup truck-like body with wooden stake bedsides. It was called the CJ-8, or simply the Scrambler. The Scramblers were much nicer to drive than the CJs, largely because that longer wheelbase helped to smooth out the ride. Fewer than 30,000 Scramblers were built, so their value today is on the rise.-The 2015 Jeep Renegade grabbed headlines as the company's newest and smallest vehicle. But back in the 1990s, the name Renegade meant performance had returned to the Wrangler. For the 1991 model year, Jeep took its 4.0-liter straight-six and reworked it with a new fuel-injection system, intake and exhaust manifolds, and cam timing, creating the legendary "High Output" 4.0-liter with 190 horsepower. That Wrangler was so potent (it had just 35 fewer horsepower than a Mustang GT) that Jeep decided to resurrect the Renegade name as a sporty $4000 option package. That 4.0-liter was standard, and the Renegade also wore larger body-color fender flares as well as meatier tires on 8-inch-wide wheels.-There are few pickup trucks as cute as the FC-150, which was built on the same short wheelbase as the 4-cylinder Jeep CJ-5. How? They put the cab over the engine.-The idea of a cab-over-engine (COE) design makes sense because you can package a pickup truck in a much shorter chassis. The proportions made the FC-150 not only maneuverable ("FC" stands for Forward Control), but also frightening to drive at higher speeds. This Brooks Stevens-designed trucklet was, with only 70 horsepower, limited mechanically and aerodynamically to around 65 mph. More importantly, with such fantastic visibility, the FC was great fun to slip into 4WD and drive off pavement into the countryside.-The GMC Syclone and Typhoon were two of the strangest performance machines ever to come from Detroit. GMC took its humble S-15 compact pickup and transformed it into a monster that could devour just about anything at a drag strip. Its 4.3-liter V-6 was turbocharged to produce 280 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque. That was more torque than the Corvette of the time. The one-year-only Syclone and the Typhoon that followed used the Corvette's automatic transmission and even the same shifter. But unlike the Vette, these trucks used AWD. So beating up on unsuspecting sports cars was as easy as stomping the right pedal. In fact, the Syclone could hit 60 mph in a ridiculous (at the time) 4.3 seconds. The downside of owning a Syclone was that it had very little carrying capacity and was not rated to tow. But who cares? It was damn quick.-The sport truck craze had reached peak levels by the early 1990s, and a large part of the popularity was due to the redesigned 1988 Chevy and GMC full-size trucks. GM decided these new GMT 400 trucks were the perfect template to produce a high-performance pickup, and the black-only 1990 454 SS was a beast. Chevrolet borrowed the 454-cid big-block V-8 from its heavy-duty pickup trucks, along with the stout Turbo 400 three-speed automatic and a 9.5-inch rear axle. The next year, Chevy swapped in a four-speed automatic and bumped the power to 255 hp and torque to 405 lb-ft. As a result, the 0-60 mph times dropped down to the low 7-second range—not far off the speed of some Camaros at that time. What's cool about the 454 SS isn't necessarily the speed. It's that GM took a large engine intended for a heavier application and repurposed it for fun—just like the muscle car days of the 1960s.-Harley-Davidson and Ford have been collaborating on pickup trucks since 1999. The 2007 Harley Edition looked a lot like those from years past—lots of Harley badging, big chrome wheels, and special paint. But beyond the expected style, this one packed an optional supercharger kit for the 5.4-liter V-8, engineered by Saleen, that generated 450 hp. Back in 2007, and even today, a 450-hp pickup truck was serious business. This was up a 110 hp over the last supercharged Harley pickup. And thanks to that engine's 500 lb-ft of torque, it could roast the tires like a real muscle car.-Die-hard Ford truck fans value the first-gen Ford trucks, but let's be honest—compared to these striking 1953-1956 trucks, they look homely. These well-proportioned second-generation Fords were the first with a wraparound windshield and the first to wear a modern nameplate (F-100 vs. the old F1 designation). These machines were more than just stylish. In 1954, Ford replaced the aging flathead with a new overhead-valve design V-8 engine that made close to 180 hp by 1956—up about 70 hp over the old engine. And 1953 marked the debut of the automatic transmission with integrated torque converter in a Ford pickup truck.-If there is a vehicle that's been in continuous production for longer than the Mercedes-Benz G-Wagen, we don't know about it. The Geländewagen, like many great trucks, was developed as a military vehicle. But since 1979, it has been a hard-working and robust SUV. As rugged as G-Wagens are, they have the reputation as street machines because Mercedes-Benz has its in-house hot-rodding arm, AMG, turn these SUVs into road rockets. Today's G63 AMG packs 536 hp and will run to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds. It also costs $135,700 before you add any options.-There are heavy-duty pickup trucks, and then there are really heavy-duty pickup trucks. In 2004, commercial truck maker International decided it wanted to enter the consumer market with a truck that would end the "who's biggest"; discussion. The CXT was simply the company's 14,500-pound medium-duty commercial 4WD truck with a Ford Super Duty pickup bed on the back. The nine-foot-tall life-sized Tonka Truck can handle a payload of 12,000 pounds. So, here's a giant truck that can essentially carry itself.-The High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), otherwise known to the U.S. armed forces as the Humvee, was a revolutionary design when it arrived in 1985. Its incredible 16 inches of ground clearance and well-protected drivetrain meant the Humvee could tackle desert terrain at high speed. And in 1992, the Humvee entered the civilian market as the Hummer.-These days, Lamborghini is talking about building a four-door SUV, but it's not the first time the Italian automaker has ventured into this territory. The LM002 was a direct descendent of the 1977 Cheetah—and effort by Lamborghini to secure a military contract—though the leather-lined LM002 was quite different from the Cheetah prototype. Instead of a rear-mounted V-8, the "Rambo Lambo": as it was called back in the 1980s, had the deliciously potent 450-hp V-12 from the company's Countach supercar mounted between the front fenders and paired to a five-speed manual. But because the vehicles weighed close to 6000 pounds, the trip to 60 mph took right around 8 seconds. The $125,000 LM002 packed a real 4WD system with a dedicated low range as well as limited-slip differentials in each axle. Fewer than 400 of these wild machines were built.-When Land Rover imported just 500 Defender 110 five-door SUVs for the 1993 model year, many of them were snatched up and squirreled away as investments. Wise move. These rare NAS (North America Spec) beasts are now worth two to three times their original $39,900 MSRP. The Defender 110 was the rugged Land Rover that Americans had been yearning for—the opposite of the luxurious status symbol Range Rover in terms of its ethos. In 1994, Land Rover imported the shorter two-door Defender 90 and sold that model until 1997. Those early D90s all ran Rover's 3.9-liter V-8 backed by five-speed manuals. At the time, a Defender 90 was more capable off-road than a Jeep Wrangler (when both were used in stock form). As a result, the reputation of these classically styled and stout four-by-fours grew stronger. Because the D90 was so rustic, there were far fewer electronic issues compared to the Land Rover Discovery and Range Rover of the late 1990s.-Before the Range Rover arrived in 1987, the landscape of luxury 4WD vehicles in the U.S. consisted of the Jeep Wagoneer, Toyota Land Cruiser, and, in some cases, the Chevrolet Suburban. That was it. But the sharp-looking, V-8-powered Range Rover brought with it an unrivaled brand legacy and capability. The long-travel coil-sprung solid-axle suspension allowed Range Rovers to walk across ravines and rock gardens that would sideline just about any other 4WD vehicle. These SUVs were astonishingly good, especially considering how posh they were inside. By the early 1990s, the engine had been upsized to 4.2-liters and there was a roomier long-wheelbase model available, too.---These classic Range Rovers would be prime targets for collectors if it weren't for their horrid reputation for reliability. Still, we'd be happy to have one parked in our own garage.-The last of the capable and classic FJ-40s left our shores in 1983. But since then, this Toyota has built an incredible following. The FJ packed a torquey inline-six with a four-speed manual on later models, and had a stout drivetrain compared to 4X4s of the same time period. The FJ's durability, design, and reputation for reliability made it a favorite of those who like to venture off the highway. These days, the values of the classic 4WD have soared and companies that specialize in the restoration of FJ-40s have popped up. Perfectly restored FJ-40s can go for more than $100,000 at the right auction.-When automakers replace a legendary model line with a newer, more modern version, the loyalists often stage a revolt. Not this time. Although the rounder and heavily flared bodywork of the FJ-80 wagon was less traditional than that of the old slab-sided 60 Series wagons, it looked great. Under the hood was a reliable and strong 4.2-liter inline six-cylinder engine. It was so good that there are plenty of FJ-80 Land Cruisers rolling around with more than 300,000 miles. And the Land Cruiser was smooth and luxurious enough for Lexus to badge a version for itself, called the LX 450.-If ever there were a Mazda Miata of the truck world, it would be the Samurai. The diminutive Suzuki is one of the lightest and most nimble 4WD vehicles to ever land on American shores. Its wheelbase was more than a foot shorter than today's Jeep Wrangler, and it weighed nearly 2000 pounds less. But the Samurai wasn't some weak-kneed toy. It evolved from the first Suzuki Jimny 4WD way back in 1969, and wore a trail-strong chassis comprised of solid axles and leaf springs that could handle much larger tires than the ones that originally came on the trucklet. For a recreational four-wheeler, the fun little Samurai was tough to beat.---The best ones were the fuel-injected models made from 1991 to 1995. The replacement, the slightly more street-friendly Suzuki Sidekick, was better to drive on the pavement but lacked the hardcore dirt capability of the Samurai.-There's no cooler '60s pickup truck than the Kaiser M715. Developed as a ton-and-a-quarter-capacity military truck, the 715 was based on the civilian Jeep Gladiator pickup but upgraded with beefy Dana 60 and 70 axles, ultra-low 5.87:1 gears, and a tough and low-geared Warner T-98 four-speed manual. These trucks could crawl a trail like, well, a Jeep, and hit 55 mph on the highway thanks to the 231-cid overhead cam inline-six.-These were the first GM trucks built to be less utilitarian and more appealing to everyman. And they were leaps ahead of the previous trucks in terms of style and drivability. The trucks were lower than their predecessors, so it wasn't a chore to haul yourself up into the cabs. They also featured an optional coil-spring rear suspension decades before anyone else. The top model was the CST (Custom Sport Truck), which could be had with the big block and torque-rich 396-cid V-8, or, beginning in 1970, the 402 (though they were badged as "400"s). These were true muscle trucks. And this body style became the basis for the very first Chevy Blazer.-Nissan's D21 pickup, launched halfway through the 1986 model year, brought groundbreaking design to the compact truck market. The new pickup was nicknamed the Nissan “Hardbody” for obvious reasons—it looked better than just about any other truck at that time. That's especially true of the Sports package-equipped 4X4 models that wore 31-inch tires, fender flares, and brush and light bars. Both the 4-cylinder and V-6 models have proven reliable over the years and many are still in service globally. Most significant of all, the Hardbody pickups were the basis for the original Nissan Pathfinder.-The Mercedes-Benz Unimog would be on the short list for the most significant truck ever made. The earliest post-WWII Unimogs were simply farm trucks that could double as tractors. But over the decades, the Unimogs expanded from agriculture to include models that could be used in the military, civil services, and on hardcore overland camping expeditions thanks to a heavy load-carrying capability mixed with off road chops. At the top of the Unimog range (which was refreshed last year) are the U 5000s, massive beasts that can haul 16,000 pounds in their beds, clear 16 inches under their axles, and ford through almost three feet of water. These vehicles are rare sights in the US. But older ex-military (particularly Swiss military) trucks from the 1960s have made it across the pond and are great backcountry fun machines.-By the late 1980s performance had returned to cars. The Corvette was making nearly 250 hp, Mustang GT's could run to 60 mph in the low 6-second range, and Trans Ams could top 140 mph. But what about a performance pickup truck? The world hadn't seen one of those since the late 1970s. Carroll Shelby—who by this time was working with Chrysler—fixed that. The Shelby Dakota used the proven formula of putting a big engine in a small car. Out came the Dakota's ordinary 3.9-liter V-6 and in went the 5.2-liter V-8 with 175 hp, backed by a 4-speed automatic. Quick? Not by today's standards. But back then it sure was. More importantly, it ignited a performance truck trend.-The new-for-1988 light-duty Chevy and GMC pickups were revolutionary for their design and drivetrain, and GM built heavier-duty 2500 and 3500-series versions. But that new-school makeover didn't sit well with the hard-core towing and four-wheeling crowd—at least right away.---Lucky for them, GM kept the crew cab 3500 on the old body and chassis until 1992. The old crew cab retained its heavy-duty Dana 60 solid front axle suspended by leaf springs, as well as the all-gear (no chain), nearly indestructible NP 205 transfer case paired with GM's overdrive automatic (in the last year). It was a dream drivetrain for big truck fans.-This list could have included a barrage of cool Dodge trucks from the late 1970's. Dodge's "Adult Toys" line of trucks from that time included the Lil' Red Express Truck as well as the Warlock, Macho Power Wagons, Street Van, and special Ramchargers. But one of the rarest of all is the Top Hand: a 4WD Dodge truck, Ramcharger, or Plymouth Trailduster built with the help of off-road legend Vic Hickey. The Top Hand came with an assortment of bolt-on goodies from Hickey's catalog, including the brush guard and roll bar. Fewer than 500 were made, and only a handful of those remain in good condition today.--
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