Pickup trucks are America's workhorses. Each year Ford, GM, and Dodge move more than a million of them, most of which are destined for a lifetime of heavy duty. But a small percentage of these trucks are special editions, models designed with standout style, performance, or both.
1991 GMC Syclone
The Syclone, a one-year-only monster mini pickup, arrived just as the sport truck scene was gathering steam. GM had some recent experience turbocharging V-6 engines, and this one channeled the soul of the mightiest turbocharged Buick Grand Nationals of the 1980s. The result was a GMC S-15 pickup that trounced a Ferrari in a famous Car and Driver test that pitted the just-under-$30,000 Syclone against a $122,000 Ferrari 348.
The turbocharged 4.3-liter V-6 that sent the Syclone to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds put out 280 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque, channeled to all four wheels through a four-speed automatic borrowed from the Corvette. The Syclone only came in black and was followed in 1992–1993 by the Typhoon, a GMC Jimmy SUV with the same powertrain.
1989–1991 Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible
Who says you can't have utility and fun in the same package? Before hitting the showrooms, the American Sunroof Company removed the metal roof and installed a folding fabric top and roll bar. The result was the only convertible pickup truck until the Chevrolet SSR came out in 2003. But unlike the Chevy's retro styling and limited utility, the Dakota convertible was pretty much exactly like the hard-top Dakota. That didn't seem to make a difference, however, as both droptop trucks sold poorly and have kept automakers from trying this wacky experiment one more time. The closest thing we have to the Dakota today is the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet convertible SUV.
1977 GMC Indy 500
GMC produced some strange special edition pickup trucks in the '70s. In 1975 the company made a black and gold truck called the Gentleman Jim, though the difference wasn't much more than a paint job. That same year the Beau James model debuted, packing some more serious equipment. It was a blue and silver heavy-duty 3/4-ton truck with softer springs and a smoother ride.
In 1977 GMC was the official truck of the Indy 500. To commemorate the occasion, the company built special edition GMC pickups in both 2WD and 4WD, with deep front spoilers, a sweet black and white paint scheme, and big wide raised white letter tires (and red pinstriping). These were some of the coolest and rarest of the 1970s GMC pickups. The success of these trucks made room for 1980's GMC Indy Hauler, when the company joined Pontiac (Turbo Trans Am) to pace the race that year. Indy Haulers were even emblazoned with the Trans Am's screaming chicken hood sticker, making them one of the most outrageous pickups of the era.
2004–2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10
GMC wasn't the only brand making wild, hot-rodded trucks in the '70s; Dodge's 1978 L'il Red Express Truck, with wood bed accents, giant 18-wheeler-like exhaust pipes, and a Police Interceptor 360-cid V-8 under the hood, was one of the craziest.
In 2004 Dodge reprised that idea with even more radical results. Chrysler's in-house tuning arm, SRT, took the 500 hp, 8.3-liter V-10 and six-speed manual transmission from the Dodge Viper and slithered it into the chassis of the Ram pickup. The incredible package, combined with hardcore suspension enhancements, produced a pickup that would hit 60 mph in the 5-second range. In 2005 a Quad Cab model with an automatic transmission and the ability to tow made the SRT-10 slightly more practical, but practicality wasn't why anybody bought this $45,000 monster. This remains one of the most potent pickups in history, and we wouldn't be surprised if they become highly collectible in years to come.
1976–1983 Jeep Honcho
In the 1970s the more aggressive the vehicle name and the wilder the paint, the better. Jeep had plenty of wild models at the time: Remember the 1975 Golden Eagle, a gold accented package available on the CJ? The Golden Eagle was emblazoned with (of course) a giant eagle sticker on its hood. It was like the Trans Am of Jeeps.
But one of the coolest packages Jeep offered was based on Jeep's half-ton full-size pickup, the J-10. Jeep's J-series full-size pickup trucks were launched in 1964 as "Gladiators" but no model was more brazenly over-the-top than the Honcho. Ads proclaimed "Honcho means boss... and Honcho is macho. And that means brawny, powerful and tough."
The Honcho package used the "wide-track" Dana 44 axles from the Cherokee and included big 31-inch tires and white wagon-type wheels. The stoutest Honchos packed AMC's 401-cid V-8. Many wore the optional front brush guard as well as a roll bar in the bed. And some even came with a dealer-installed hidden recovery winch. Jeep produced less than 1500 Honcho Sportsides so these rarities are coveted machines.