QOTD: What Was the Golden Age of Pickups?
She was only sixteen… only sixteen… with her eyes all aglow.
“She” in this case was my 1995 Ford F-150 XL Regular Cab 4×2, and she was only sixteen thousand dollars plus change. Of course, the equipment list was pretty light: 300 cubic-inch inline-six, three-speed automatic, air conditioning, sliding rear window, argent styled steel wheels, argent rear bumper, full vinyl bench.
You can’t get a truck like her anymore, and in some respects that’s a relief, particularly when it comes to the absurdly skimpy legroom Ford regular-cab trucks had until the Great Change of 1997. Yet as I steer my Iowa-class 2017 Silverado Crew Cab Long Bed around town I can’t help but feel a bit of nostalgia for the sensible size, simple operation, and anvil toughness of the old trucks. Even the loaded-up Eddie Bauer F-150s of those years look fairly basic in retrospect.
My wife, the infamous Danger Girl, has similar feelings about the Chevrolet half-tons she drove around Albuquerque as a teenager. Her 1990 regular-cab 1500 (struck, but not quite totaled, by an undocumented dreamer) and 1995 regular-cab 1500 (struck and absolutely totaled by an undocumented dreamer being actively chased by police) were already pretty beat-up by the time she took delivery, but they each went well past the 150k mark with very few problems. Simple, reliable, and sensibly sized.
With the introductions of the ever-more-medium-duty-ish 2018 F-150 and ziggy-stardust-style 2019 Silverado, maybe it’s time to ask ourselves where the half-ton wave broke and finally rolled back.
I’m going to vote for the 1992-1996 F-150 as the best and most appropriate half-ton ever built. It amounted to a light polish on the all-new 1980, but the changes were worthwhile, particularly in regards to electronic controls that made both the straight-six and the optional 302 cid V8 easy to start in all weather and dead reliable on the move.
On the Chevrolet side, I think the 1988-1998 GMT400 was probably the best compromise of size and capability. I prefer the styling of the “squarebody” predecessors, but they were pretty nightmarish from a safety perspective.
In terms of sheer truckin’ beauty, I don’t think you can beat a mid-80s Dodge Ram in midnight black with gold trim. But that’s just me.
What say you, B&B? When did pickup trucks reach a peak — and when did they go too far?
[Image: Ford Motor Company]
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