By on December 22, 2017

Image: Ford

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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129 Comments on “QOTD: What Was the Golden Age of Pickups?...”


  • avatar
    MBella

    I would say the 97-03 F-150 and the GMT 800. I wish I could buy either today, maybe with modern safety features.

    • 0 avatar
      Drew8MR

      I dunno, I’m inclined to say for me it was over for Ford with the 8th gens, which was what? 87? I could maybe push that to 91, but I wouldn’t drive anything newer.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Modern safety features won’t improve upon the crash performance, which was notably poor. All the airbags in the world won’t help if you’re completely crushed.

      Since the 2004 redesign, F-150 is at the top of its class in that department. Its really a shame at how bad the 97-03 did.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Before any old loud-mouth with a blog who commanded their derp disciples to “Buy American!” (small ticket things like denim, musical instruments, sweater vest, coffee mugs, skateboards, bicycles), but then themselves WENT OUT AND BOUGHT $50,000 HECHO EN MEXICO SILVERADOS (not only assembled in Mexico, but having 65% non-U.S.’made parts content).

      • 0 avatar
        Jack Baruth

        $58,200, actually.

        Just about what I spent on American made shoes between, say, 2001 and 2006.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          Who the heck makes/made your shoes?? Or, what the heck do you do to your shoes?

          Isn’t the main benefit of the most commonly lauded US shoe makers/factories (Allen Edmonds and Alden), that they take on patina and get better with quite a lot of wear? A new pair every day, euro-fashion foot-condom style, would seem to defeat that whole reason for buying them.

          • 0 avatar
            Garrett

            It’s a bit more than that.

            For starters, once you know exactly which last fits your foot best, it makes finding the perfect set of shoes easier. For Aldens, this is either a modified last or their true balance last for me. When it comes to Allen Edmonds, I always go for their shoes designed for traveling, as they are more comfy than sneakers and I can log several miles without blisters.

            As the shoes get older, you can have them recrafted, as the Goodyear welted construction technique lends itself to that sort of thing.

            I good point of entry is to find an Allen Edmonds outlet and get some factory seconds, or get on The Shoe Mart’s Mailing list for Alden irregulars.

            Your feet will fhank you.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Eh, There are Doc Martens still being worn that saw Cobain in person.

      • 0 avatar
        Hydromatic

        Glad you could be here with us, DW.

    • 0 avatar
      jonnyanalog

      GMT400 88-98 Chevy/GMC trucks are some of the best looking trucks on the road. Perennially styled and built to last, I see many on the road today whether beat to hell or in pristine condition. They just seem to go on and on.

      My father-in-law bought one new and still drives it daily. He uses an F-250 to pull his trailer but the Chevy is still his favorite.

    • 0 avatar
      arach

      97-03 were rust buckets, ugly, and felt outdated even when they were new.

      Give me the 04+. I think 04 was revolutionary.

    • 0 avatar
      philipwitak

      back in the day, when i was just a youngster and the original “lassie” television program was first being broadcast, a supporting character on the program called ‘gramps’ drove an old – late 40s to early 50s, i’m guessing – pickup truck.

      that era was the ‘golden age’ for pickups, as far as i am concerned.

      happy new year, all.

    • 0 avatar
      DirtRoads

      I still have a 1990 Chevy WT 1500 with 270k on it and have always loved the sheer simplicity of it. No electronics inside, a simple computer and TBI under the hood with a 4.3 V6, no remote, no electric windows, nothing to break, and anything that does, I can fix.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    According to today’s sales figures and the countless options available now, I’d say today is the golden age of pickups.

    • 0 avatar
      jack4x

      Agreed.

      Today’s trucks are more powerful, safe, capable, and fuel efficient than ever. There is a bigger variety of choices from more manufacturers than ever, and the Detroit 3 especially are putting their best engineering into their trucks. They also still allow for a huge amount of customization and special ordering, when most vehicles lock you into trims where you pick a color and a couple options. That alone is worth a lot to me.

      The basic work trucks haven’t gone away, and their inflation adjusted actual transaction prices are the same or lower than the past. I’m utterly baffled by the offense that some people seem to take at the Platinum/Denali/Longhorn luxury trucks. It’s just another option for those who want a nice interior in their truck. Don’t want it, don’t get it.

      I have a soft spot for the older trucks too, especially from a styling standpoint, but objectively there’s no question that this is the golden age for trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        OMG someone making sense while talking about full size trucks! Its a Festivus Miracle!

      • 0 avatar
        Hydromatic

        I dunno….I think the real problem is that the options lists and price tags of the Platinum/Denali/Longhorn luxury trucks is simultaneously dragging the price of the barebones models. Even the bone-stock regular cab/long bed trucks of today are brimming with features that would have been nonexistent a couple of decades ago.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          I have to agree with @SCE to AUX. Trucks today are incredible. My 2010 F150 beats my 1990 F250 in every measurable way.

          @Hydromatic – actually NO. I ran the price I paid for my 1990 F250 reg cab through an inflation calculator and the price is comparable to a low end trim model F250 made today. The difference in options is staggering i.e.5.0 with 195 hp and 5 speed manual versus 6.2 with 385 hp and 6 speed auto.
          From what I’ve seen on the web, mpg would be comparable if not slightly better for the new truck.

        • 0 avatar
          Maymar

          Hydromatic, as much as I’m no fan of the modern crop of pickups (or at least the hyper aggressive styling, and the prevalence of loaded mondo cabs driven by people absolutely incapable of parking something so large), one inflation calculator pegs the $16k of Jack’s ’96 equivalent to about $26k today, which is right about what it’d cost you to get a base F150 today (a truck that is faster, safer, much more efficient, better equipped, and should be still capable of of hitting 150+k with no problem). Only thing is, good luck finding a stripper regular cab truck on too many lots.

        • 0 avatar
          SD 328I

          You don’t have to buy those ones, not everyone needs or wants a $60,000 luxury version.

          You can still get a pretty basic one, mine is a 2015 XLT Supercab, cloth bench seat, 2.7L, power everything, but that’s about it.

          It stickers for $38,000, but I got it well below that.

          I can take 6 people if needed, haul more weight than I’m licensed to do, it does 0-60 in 5.8 seconds and gets me 23 mpg on my daily commute, which is only 2 mpg less than my last sedan driving the same commute.

          It is the best truck, possibly best vehicle overall that I’ve ever owned. This coming from a guy that also owns an E46s and E90. That’s how much I love this truck.

          • 0 avatar
            HattHa

            ’16 XLT Supercab buyer here – paid up for the 302a package (bigger touchscreent, android auto, heated seats, etc.) Best vehicle by far I’ve ever owned. Nicer ride than a ’13 Cayenne I drove recently – I’m chalking this up to tire/wheel choice, but still. Roomy as hell, reasonably fast and quiet. Shitload of room under the hood – way more room than my ’99 had.

    • 0 avatar
      1500cc

      @SCE to AUX: If you’re going by sales, 2004-2005 was the high water mark; overall pickup sales haven’t been as high since.

    • 0 avatar
      MrIcky

      Yup, now. I’ll watch stranger things if I need a nostalgia fix.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Too bad Ford just keeps driving grille-first into the ugly tree with every succeeding generation…

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    http://www.bustopia.com/Images/vw-single-cab-pickup20.jpg

  • avatar
    NoID

    Agreed on the GMT400 series, but I’ll delay through ’97-’03 for Ford before I’d say things went off the road and onto the rails as far as size and garishness is concerned. As for Dodge, the ’94-’02 models.

    Dodge / Ram has done the best at keeping their trucks from looking like me-too Kenworths, but even so they haven’t totally avoided the bloated TRUUUUUUUCK look. Beginning to abandon the drop-fender look I fear will complete their transformation, but I’m cautiously optimistic. One thing that the drop-fender look gave them was best in class aerodynamics, and with fuel economy always on the mind I think they’d be hard pressed to abandon that claim.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Why did you Boomer jerks stop buying muscle cars and PLCs?

  • avatar
    phxmotor

    Oh boy… my pickup is so tough it van hit 150,000 miles… wow.
    Get with it already…
    That’s when normal people buy them.

    150,000 miles… hahahahahahahaha

  • avatar
    sjd

    I’ve only owned 3 trucks in my life, a 1994 F-150 Flareside 4×4, 2013 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off Road and currently my short bed fleetside 1965 GMC project truck but I agree with Jack’s thoughts on the 1992-1996 F-150 and would include the 88-98 GM’s and 93-02 Dodges as well.

    However, the best looking truck ever built were the 1971-72 Chevrolet Cheyenne models. GM will never make a truck that looks that good again.

  • avatar

    Today’s base trucks aren’t that out of hand though, they are just rare outside of fleets. I too had a RC 1995 F150 (parts still in the back field) and the EFI is great, the E4OD and some other things maybe not quite as much.

    I had been selling commercial trucks until a few months ago, and even without a fleet code, you could walk in and get a base truck with crank windows for around $20k, and that’s really not bad. Nor do these trucks feel huge.

    My current pick up though is a 1979 F250 RC. It still starts pretty easy and works great on the farm. I paid $25 for it, saving it from a fate with the scrap yard. I wish the AM only radio and defrost still worked, but I presumed they did when new. The only modern factory option I wish this 4×2 truck had is the electronic locking rear dif.

    My 2015 Ford Fiesta hauls more chicken feed and construction materials for the farm than most private pick up trucks ever see. I even put a hitch on it for small farm implement transport. If not for the huge size of the RVs in today’s world, it’s hard to justify the amount of truck the common person buys today.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      …I had been selling commercial trucks until a few months ago, and even without a fleet code, you could walk in and get a base truck with crank windows for around $20k, and that’s really not bad. Nor do these trucks feel huge…

      Worth noting for $20K you’re getting more equipment overall, vastly better safety equipment, more horsepower, torque, MPGs, and cargo capacity, better steel/paint, along with overall better reliability than Jack’s wax poetic, “you rotten kids get off of my lawn” reminiscing of his ‘ye old Ford. No 30K mile tuneup interval, no 3K oil change interval, brakes last vastly longer, just a vastly superior truck. Adjusting for inflation, that $20K stripper you were selling would be cheaper too.

      • 0 avatar

        Oh no doubt! $20k for a brand new truck is crazy cheap and you get huge gains compared to a 1995. I didn’t mean to imply that it was expensive, the topic seemed to make it seem like his $16k truck from 20 years ago is a bygone era when he said “you can’t get a truck like that anymore”. Sure you can, people just choose to spend $50k-$80k instead. Even here in PA you really don’t need 4×4. It doesn’t snow that much and they clear the roads quick. Heck, as said, I live on a farm and for most field work with a pick up my 4×2 does the job just fine.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Agreed 100%. It also drives far better, I promise you. Compared to a 1996, a new F-150 base reg cab is an M3.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      1979 Ford F250 is one of my all time favourites. I find the ’79 F250 looks better than an equivalent F150. I think it has to do with the taller stance.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’m fond of fuel injection but I’m also fond of solid front axles for 4×4 but I’d prefer 1/2 ton over the bigger boys.

    I guess that narrows me down to the Dodge Ram of 1994-2001.

  • avatar
    Syke

    For me the golden age of pickups weren’t full sizers.

    Second generation Dodge Dakotas. Or what I call second generation, the original Dakota after the front end was slightly rounded off. Followed by the third generation Dakota, the one that looked like a smaller 95- Ram. Which I unfortunately never owned, because the wife asked that I go for something smaller.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      I love my 1999 Dakota. Handles shockingly well, rides pretty darn smooth, the Magnum 5.2 has enough grunt to maintain highways speeds even with what I assume is a 4 speed auto…it’s sad that run-down beater Dakotas give the Dakota a bad name, as my well-maintained relatively low mileage example (I’m at around 90,500 miles) proves they can hold up.

      • 0 avatar
        D. Saxton

        I am in agreement with you. I thought seriously of buying a Dodge Dakota with the 318 c.i. v-8 when I looked into a replacement for the Toyota, as such a combination would have been ideal for my needs. Sadly I sold the 18ft Trailer and junked the Toyota instead.
        Only reason i have a 2005 Chevy Silverado pickup now is my kids gave me a 24ft trailer as a retirement gift. Had to have something as the 2005 Chrysler Pacifica could do it!!

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          The 318 might be hard on gas (I think I average like 12mpg) but it’s a tough old lump of iron, an easy 250,000 mile motor. Sure wish I had a 5.7 Hemi instead though, especially since it apparently fits without having to do any insane cutting.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    I have a 1992 Ford F-150 Custom, standard cab/8ft. box, 2WD, 300CID I-6, 4spd./overdrive manual transmission and 57,000 miles. Great for doing what trucks were meant to do – haul stuff. Any kind of stuff. While it lacks the style of the late 60s/early 70s. F-150s and the amazing capability and comfort of the newest F-150s, it is so handy to have. I have friends that lust after that truck and borrow it all the time, which I’m happy to do to see it be used.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    What a crock. Enough of this “new trucks are so YUUUGE” crap. The 1996 was “sensibly sized” yet you complain of the lack of room. The newest F-150 single cab isn’t THAT much bigger, but it is roomier, because the increase in size was to increase interior room. Park one next to an F-750 (medium duty truck like you compared it to) and tell me how close they are in size.

    And yep, you sure can’t buy a regular cab F-150 XL with a 6 cylinder/automatic anymore. Except for the 5,336 (all are new) listed on autotrader.com, that is. If you’re mourning the loss of the Inline 6, that’s one thing, but the same style truck can most certainly be bought new today.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you actually suggesting that an 8′ bed hasn’t grown by several feet over the years?

      On a more serious note, the ground clearance has gotten a bit silly I think. New trucks sit up higher than they need to for most folks. You almost need step bars to avoid the risk of injury.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Seriously considering a 1/2 ton extended or crew cab 4×4 for my next vehicle and I know I’m going to have to install some sort of step for my 5’3″ wife. 5’3″ isn’t even that short but even on my 2004 F150 Heritage 4×2 she bought me “hoop steps” for my birthday shortly after we started dating.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Yes the height is a problem and has been for some time. This summer I purchased an 02 F150 4×4, stock height and stock base size tires. It isn’t easy for me at 6’1″ to get in and out. Step bars or running boards are on the list but me being cheap I keep waiting to find a factory set in the wrecking yard, so far w/o luck.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        Look at the tire size. My brother had a 1987 F150 4×4 that had 235R15’s. My 2010 has 275/65/18’s. My current truck’s tires are even bigger than the 215/85R16’s that came on my 1990 F250. That alone makes a bid difference.

        Current 1/2 ton trucks are as capable as older 3/4 ton trucks. If you want to make comparisons you need to keep that in mind.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Today’s regular cabs aren’t the same and a V6 is not a 300ci.

    • 0 avatar
      Lichtronamo

      I’d take a new F-150 any day for my ’92. I might even take a new F-150 for my GTI… So damn appealing. Will just need to have both!

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      You can get an inline 6…it will just say Cummins on it. But yes, this “trucks are huge” argument will persist no matter how many times you post actual dimensions to contradict it.

      Curious, how much have they really grown compared to say, an NAA vs NC Miata. I bet as a percentage the Miata grew more. And what about weight loss from last gen to current F150 vs NC to ND Miata. Again, bet the truck wins.

  • avatar
    Parousia

    Without a doubt, the high watermark in trucks was one that I owned. And, in a moment of sheer stupidity, sold. For $6,000 (in the heights of the Great Recession), I bought a long bed (w/bedliner) Silverado regular cab, V6 5-speed, crank windows, AC-deleted 1500 series truck with 24,000 miles on the odo. Just a radio. No power locks, cruise-control, or even a sliding rear window. Single at the time, it was the perfect second vehicle for me and my dog.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I’d have to say the 2000-2010 trucks overall. Surprisingly civilized, pleasant to drive, and well-equipped with creature comforts for daily driving without the somewhat unknown long-term reliability of aluminum bodywork, small turbo engines, and over-the-top multispeed automatics. Nostalgia for the ’60s through ’80s trucks is tempered by the fact that the old trucks were not comfortable for long trips – I speak from experience. Plus most of them used gas like there was no tomorrow.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I’ll take the unknown long term reliability of an aluminum bed over the known rot-prone-ness of just about every regular steel truck bed and cab ever made.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      “I’d have to say the 2000-2010 trucks overall. Surprisingly civilized, pleasant to drive, and well-equipped with creature comforts for daily driving.”

      +1. I’m a sometimes borrower of an ’04 Colorado (4×4, I5, 4-speed auto, extended cab, Z71 package), and I’m always surprised at how nicely it drives. I think to myself, “This is a roundly disliked truck and drivetrain? Wow, the industry must have been killing it in ’04.” It does have a cheap-feeling interior, but what’s there either has held up (seat fabric, e.g.) or been cheap to replace (lumbar adjustment knob that broke when another driver used it as a handle to haul himself in and out of the cab; the part cost less than $15).

  • avatar
    cicero1

    Illegal invader NOT “undocumented dreamer”

  • avatar
    whitworth

    I would also vote for the 92-96 F-150. The Lightning version was my favorite, good friend had one.
    I know the redesign in 1997 was “better” but to me it looked like a truck had a bastard child with a minivan.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Diesel peak was pre urea and tightened regs, so maybe ’06 ish.
    Peak utility? with all the safety and convinience features? Right now., marred only by loss of 8 foot beds as commonplace, and mile high rail and bed heights.
    Peak style? Gm mid ’90’s with the Ferrari grille.
    As much as I love the older trucks, my fave mid 90’s Gm’s didn’t even have four doors until real late in their run, and then only goofy suicide doors, unless your talking about their rare and always stripped crew cabs.
    Same for Dodge, which always had the best diesel, but had crap build quality, paint adhesion, and again, no four doors until the modern era. Ford, never liked the Jellybean F150, and the same four door issues along with marginal crash protection. (although prob. no different really than the others)
    So for me, its my ’06 F350 diesel 4×4 long box. About as useful as I can imagine, and I don’t care if I drop gravel into it.

  • avatar
    cak446

    The mid 2000’s was the peak of the golden era of trucks. I ordered a new 2004.5 Dodge Ram 3500, and I wish I could order the same truck today.

    This truck had the reliable 5.9L Cummins, without all the emission equipment diesel trucks are saddled with today. It was fuel efficient, easily started in cold weather, and with a few simple mods, I could beat Corvettes at the drag strip.

    The drive train was dead nuts simple with no hubs, or axle disconnects, just a honest lever actuated transfer case, and a manual transmission. You could get this without being stuck to the base model either. My truck was the sport model, optioned with all the comfort items I could want, including leather.

    This truck predates the mandatory stability control, and TPMS sensors. All it had was a hazardous abs system, that could be easily disabled for the winter months.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      I had the same, almost. 03′ Crew cab cumins short bed. 5 MT, so it had the non-H.O diesel. Only offered the first half of 03′. The rest got the HO motor and a 6 MT.

      Mine was SLT, cloth interior and just awesome. I regret almost weekly getting rid of it, 8 years ago next month.

  • avatar
    Rick Astley

    The 1950’s were the golden age for light duty trucks, especially when compared against cars of the time and their utility and durability. And they actually had visual styling which didn’t imply overcompensating for your manhood, how novel.

    Things started to go wonky by the late 60’s with emissions controls.

    Nearly all of the 2000’s trucks are over-sized behemoths created by changes to CAFE standards. Your standard 2017 F150 is about the same size as a crane was in the 80’s, have fun with that “utility” away from a farm.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    It depends what you’re asking about.

    The GMT400 has the best styling of any pickup ever made, and it’s not close. Simple, clean, modern, proportions just right. I would restomod a GMT400 starting tomorrow, with a stiffened chassis and a L92/6L80 combo, if I had the time and money.

    But the fact is that more modern pickups are more useful. They usually come with four doors and a usable back seat, and you can get them with 6.5′ beds if the shorty bed isn’t enough for you. They have vastly higher payload and towing capacity even in half-ton form. They have features like hitch cameras that are really useful. My restomod GMT400 would be a fun toy, but if I actually lived somewhere rural where using truck capabilities would be a part of daily life, I’d have a brand-new Ford or GM half-ton. (Sorry, Rambros: your truck of choice is too ugly and too gimped with the coils.)

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      PrincipalDan thought of it first in a thread last week, but if I could do a resto-mod of my own, I’d do a Toyota T100 with a 4.7L 1UZ-FE swap and a factory Toyota e-locker in the rear. Not a do-it all truck nor as capable of a tower/hauler like a modern crew cab is, but it would hit the sweet spot for me in terms of size, power, offroad-worthiness, hypothetical fuel economy, and style.

  • avatar
    JakeSizzle27

    Early 90’s Ford’s in TEAL! The only truck color I ever want to own.

  • avatar
    gtem

    Another vote for the General’s GMT400 trucks. I’ll make the case that they are some of the highest quality half ton trucks made by a domestic brand, ever.

    ’92-’96 F150s are sturdy beasts, but seem to be more rot-prone, and rather crude on road with their ancient (but durable) twin-traction beam from ends. Rams of the same period rotted worst of all three, had interiors that literally crumbled, and had weak front ends. The GMs torsion bar IFS rides well, they still feel relatively modern to drive IMO. Better than average corrosion resistance for the era (and better than GMT800s that followed). The Chevy 350 was the best blend of power/efficiency/reliability at the time, albeit the 4L60E is kind of an “expect to replace it” item. Chevy’s are also the best looking IMO, although I’d have a hard time choosing between a GMT400 and a ’87-91 F150 based purely on looks.

  • avatar
    silentsod

    In terms of crash survivability the modern trucks, bar none.

    If we’re talking styling, well, I have a deep love of the slab sided bricks of the early to mid-1990s. They tend to be decently serviceable in that era, too, which is a big plus.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I’ll go with Jack’s choice – I love that gen Ford pickup. Then of course the iconic mid-70’s Chevys, and finally I thought the 2004 F-150 was a great design.

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    For value and utility it was my 2008 GMC Canyon – regular cab, 4×2, manual, 4 cylinder, air, cruise, blue with nice wheels. For the dealer it was lot poison, so I got it for $14k brand new. As an extra vehicle it was great, and I got top dollar from a dealer trade after 100,000 miles. The only maintenance was new tires and oil changes.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    As far as I am concerned, my first response would have been 1967-1972 Chevy/GMC trucks, but further thought would have to be now. Now is the golden age of pickups, because they are much safer vehicles than ever before, but also drive better and have better road manners.

    Of course for style and simplicity, I would go with my opening remark.

  • avatar
    jfk-usaf

    This story makes me wonder if the big 3 could duplicate the success of the “new” old pony cars that have been released over recent years with new versions of older truck designs. Could a 2019 modernized 1969 C-10ish looking design do well for GM or an 80s looking new RAM speak to the FCA crowd? I was never a fan of the looks of the old F-100s but maybe a modern rendering of it could find room in Fords line up.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      If I could get my current 2015 with an 80s looking body I’d trade today. Problem is the windshield angle screws the look up and you can’t get that upright windshield with current fuel economy. Also the A pillar gets bigger due to rollover, etc. I just don’t think it works.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    “Yet as I steer my Iowa-class 2017 Silverado Crew Cab Long Bed”

    I must be getting old BUT (this should be a question of the day), when did a 6.5 foot box become a *long* bed?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Only in this context, where the standard bed is just under five feet.

      If you get this same truck as a 3/4 ton, the 6.5 is short and the eight is long, as God intended.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        I knew that was your point but there are many out there that do see the 6.5 as a long bed. IIRC, Chevy lists the 6.5 box in 3/4 trucks as the “standard” bed and the 8 ft. as the “long” box. There was a time when 8ft was the standard bed “as God intended”.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          Lou,
          Yup, and the manufacturers made the point that an 8’x4′ sheet of ply sat comfortably in the bed.

          Even Dodge with the smaller Dakota used the sheet of ply as a marketing tool.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Count me in as 8′ being the “standard” bed and long meaning at least 8′ if not 9′ like the Chevy Longhorn or some of the 3/4 & 1 ton step sides of the 60’s and early 70’s.

          • 0 avatar
            D. Saxton

            I do have to admit, trying to park my pickup in a parking lot can be a challenge!! And when I park way out, don’t you know it?? by the time you come out from shopping there’s 20 cars parked next to you making exit another challenge!!!!

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    Golden age is today.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    I do a agree that the 1992-1996 is a good looking truck and they were in a sweet spot of being new enough to have EFI and some other modern goodies but still a pretty simple and very durable truck.

    But today is the true golden age, safety, comfort, power, fuel economy, payloads, and towing abilities have never been higher. You can still get a work truck with rubber floors and vinyl seats, to luxury car levels of amenities.

    Sure it might be a little harder to find a basic truck in stock today. But it was that 92-96 generation when the Eddie Bauer trim level was introduced and the trim level escalation started in earnest.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    I’d take that blue F150 in the photo with a modern drive train in a heartbeat.

    The big thing that irks me in the new trucks these days is the bed height.

    I have no need for a 4 X 4 or a 4 door cab, and am pretty partial to the 80-86 Ford 6.9 diesel bricknose That I’ve had for 20 years.. body cancer is catching up with it..but I sure like the dash (looks a lot like an LTD of the same vintage), and it seems like the Second to the last honest truck that Ford built. It’s slow as molasses but runs like a champ and refuses to die, even hauling 4000 pounds of rock without overheating.
    Captain’s chairs are very comfortable and along with the carpet have worn like iron.
    I replaced the AC compressor 15 years ago and it still blows cold.

    But it’s soon going to be time to let it go once I get done with the projects around here and sell out.

    I probably won’t need another one after that, but if the automakers got back to the lower bed heights that would be a good thing. Early 70s GM and early 80s fords are my favorites.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      You could probably build such a truck for not much more than a new trucks cost. You can get both the 5.0 and 3.5 tt with standalone controllers and harnesses from Ford. If you are a GM guy it is even easier with modern LS motors being practically bolt in and the excellent Vortec truck engines that we’re the final old school SBC motors being even easierim a Ford guy, but we’re I to build a daily driver I think I’d do an 86ish Silverado with a Vortec head TBI motor and a 4L60e trans.

  • avatar
    turf3

    For utility and styling, the 1966 Chevrolet with Fleetside bed and either inline 6 or V8 engine wins. Granted, the crash performance was – well, mid-60s crash performance. But there is no inherent reason a truck with that ride height, overall height, full length bed, and general styling couldn’t be built today with proper crash safety, steel bumpers mounted on springs, 15″ or at most 16″ tires, modern fuel controls, etc. Crank windows and vent windows, too, please! And here’s a radical idea – you don’t actually need power locks on a 2 door vehicle. You can actually just reach across and push the button down or raise it up. While we are fantasizing, now that we have a couple dozen airbags everywhere, maybe the dash board could go back to painted steel so the plastic won’t always crack from sun exposure; and let the IP be held in by four screws so you can just yank it out if a bulb burns out instead of having to do two or three hours of disassembly.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Styling wise the best ever is the 1940-41 Ford.
    Durability wise the best is the 1948-55 Chevy.
    Size wise anything from Studebaker, IH, Dodge, Chevy, or Ford from 1940-56.
    Safety wise – newest you can afford.

  • avatar
    Prado

    I would say the golden age was around 1990, where the variety of Trucks for sale was at its peak, and prices were more in line with passenger cars, if not even cheaper.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    GMT900s and 2009-2014 F-150s.

  • avatar
    D. Saxton

    For what it’s worth, I’d say my 2005 Chevy Silverado 1500 is probably the best pickup I’ve ever owned. It’s a base model only just slightly above the W/T version. Single cab, long box nothing fancy outside of the cloth bench seat that replaced the vinyl one in the W/T. 4.8 litre V-8, 4 spd automatic w/tow mode, Power brakes and steering. Everything else is minimal with the odd fact it has dual mode A/C in a single cab truck (wtf??) It’s got 164k on it and runs great. Pulls a 24ft. travel trailer with ease, and gets 21mpg empty, 14.5mpg when pulling the trailer. Uses no oil, and all indications are it will run another 164k before I need to do any serious repairs if driven properly. It does every thing I need it to do without having options I’ll never use, and to add to that did I say I bought it two years ago for $3k?? Never been wrecked never any serious issues reported via Carfax.

  • avatar
    Dan

    Mid 90s through the early 00s. Malaise was mostly over, even if a few holdouts at the Dodge transmission plant or the GMT800 brake line plant hadn’t gotten the word yet. America was fat and happy. Our cars and trucks were too. Angry road bunker was nowhere to be seen, or $80,000 banker trims either. Hell, they didn’t even have dubs yet!

    In my book the GMT800s were conceptually pretty close to the ideal. GM’s execution was half-assed even by 90s standards let alone today’s. But done right that’d be the archetype for all time.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      My problem with the GMT800s is the silly dash graphics on the early models. Reminded me of a bad video game rendering.

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      “In my book the GMT800s were conceptually pretty close to the ideal.”

      Having owned a 2004 GMC Sierra HD for 13 years/180K miles I’d have to agree with that. Still looked and drove like a brand new truck when I sold it, which took less than a day. I hate strippers and the new ones are almost too nice for a PU. That truck straddled the line between comfort & toughness perfectly.

  • avatar
    sgtjmack

    I think that trucks are actually building on the wave, especially with the amenities that are offered. I mean, look at the towing and payload caps. I for one actually like the comfort, esoecially after working hard all day amd being thrown around in a piece of heavy equipment. It is nice to be able to sit in a comfortable seat and have a lot of sound deadening material around me, and not have to either scream into the cell phone or turn the equipment off for a conversation.
    I recently bought a ’98 Chevy 1500, and it is simple, yet noisy and likes gas, and is a little unresponsive with the steering, and the brakes take a little longer to stop than the 2016 work trucks we have at work, from the F150/250 to the GMC Sierra. So as time goes on, things seem to get better in one way or another. The styles may change, but we continue to buy one brand or another. That is why I believe we are still on the upward bound portion of the truck wave.

    • 0 avatar
      D. Saxton

      I agree sgtmack. I used to drive truck for a living before retiring, so I know your pains!! My pickup does everything I need it to do, comfortably and without complaint reliably. I don’t need all the fancy options, and don’t have a problem with those that do, but there is still a market in America for a simple truck that does what most people use it for.

  • avatar
    D. Saxton

    I don’t look at a pickup as a statement of my Dick size or social status, so such fancy pickups don’t interest me in the least. For those who do need such amenities to send a signal, more power to you.
    All I look for in a pickup is a vehicle that will do what I need it to do, reliably and comfortably for as long as it can. I leave my social statement for my Chrysler to convey, and even then I don’t care what others think of me. They don’t have to live with me!!!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would have to say my 99 S-10 LS extended cab with a 5 speed manual and a 2.2 is one of the best most reliable vehicles I have owned along with the height which I can easily reach into the bed. I have owned it since new for almost 19 years and it has been very reliable, easy to drive and park, and fairly economical with 27 mpgs highway at 75 mph. I plan on keeping it several more years even though I own a new fancier truck. I like it that much.

    • 0 avatar
      D. Saxton

      I had a 80 Toyota 4×4 pickup I ran into the ground over 25 years pulling a 18ft trailer for years. Put over 275k miles on it with little to any repairs on it other than clutch,brake and and normal wear item replacement. that was my all time favourite pickup. but for a domestic Pickup, my 2005 Chevy 1500 Silverado is excellent!!

    • 0 avatar
      D. Saxton

      I might also reply, my Chevy can do hours on end at 80+ mph in temps 100 degrees Fahrenheit at gas mileages at 20!! Done it twice last Summer between Oregon and Montana!!!!
      May you enjoy your S-10 for years to come, as they are a great pickup as well!!

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    I liked the plain look of the early ’70s Dodges, like the ones they used on the tv show “Emergency!”. They just had a serious “truck” look about them.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    TTAC: “QOTD: What Was the Golden Age of Pickups?”

    ANS: Two fold. It’s bimodal.

    1) Today, the current age, — in terms of popularity and capability and safety and comfort.
    2) Late 1950’s, — in terms of simplicity and ease-of-repair and classic style and no-pollution crap (e.g., Chevy Apache).

    In the current age, pickups have become sedan replacements for suburbanites.
    In the 1950’s, pickup were the robust workhorses of farmers and merchants.

    Each era has (had) its own emphasis in style, purpose, and construction of the vehicle.

    =================

  • avatar
    stuki

    The Superdutys prior to the current gen, is my pick for peak pickup. The cab was huge; wide enough to fit a DOT bed in the back by just carving out some interior doorpanels. The thick gauge frames made them safe and easy to MacGyver into almost anything, and the box walls were comparatively low, especially on the F250.

    For smaller halftons, the standouts were the RCSB Tundra. The tundra regular cab always had the most storage behind the seats, making a reg cab more acceptable in today’s more theft prone environment. The Tundra also has the biggest wheel arches, allowing for fitment of the biggest tires. And the best wheelcut. Both of which, along with Toyota’s off road focus, make it the best offroader of the bunch.

    Currently, the belle de balle is the Rambox equipped Ram 1500 RCSB with the Pentastar/8 speed. For all those who lament the sheer outsizedness of current trucks, that’s the one to get. The Ramboxes negates lost in-cab storage, without reducing bed length, nor adding to overall length. The 8 speed has never been bettered by any other slushbox, in any automotive segment; and the Pentastar sits far enough back in the chassis, to make the truck drive almost like a front-mid engined pickup, compared to the rest of the lumbering behemoths. Coils at all corners, doesn’t hurt daily driveability, either. Nor does CUV/SUV like fuel mileage. It’s the truck in the top picture, updated for today’s sensibilities and demands.

    The other current shining star, is also a Ram: the 2500. Again, coils are nice. But it is the only proper tranny left in any truck, aside from that one Tacoma Toyota sent to a Florida dealer about to be washed away in a hurricane, that makes the Ram the big truck to get.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @D Saxton–Thanks, I will enjoy it. It has been a great little truck, much better than I expected. I would have to say that today might be the “Golden Age of Pickups” but I have a fondness for the older trucks of the 50’s and 60’s. My first pickup was my Granddad’s 63 IH 1000 with a straight 6, three on the tree, and nothing extra except for the heater (not even a radio). Built like a tank and easy to work on. I wished I would have kept it since everything was original except the paint which I had repainted in the original metallic light blue. Sure it didn’t ride and handle like today’s truck but it ran great and everywhere I drove it people would ask me about it and admire it. I do miss the simplicity of the older trucks. I miss “Old Blue”.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Current. If you run a straight up “how much capability can my dollar buy” comparison it isn’t even close. If you go back to 1990 you had to buy a 460 powered 3/4 ton to get what a modern 2.7 ECOBOOST will give you. The current trucks reign supreme and any dispute with that is nostalgia driven.

    I will make an exception if you are a compact truck lover. In that case your golden age was the mid 80s to mid 90s.

  • avatar
    statikboy

    Has anyone said Subaru Brat yet?

  • avatar
    doug-g

    I’d never daily a pickup. If I had a some acreage I would have a weathered 1947 Chevrolet Advance Design truck to haul things around and take trash to the dump.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I think historians in a few Centuries will view Post WWII to the beginning of the 21st Century the pickups Golden Age.

    Pickups this day and age have become the large family car.

  • avatar
    jimmyy

    The new Silverados are perfect. Those are peak pickup trucks.

    Two generations ago, Ford also had great pickups. Then came the goofy Tonka look. Then came the ecoboost. And the alum bodies. What the hell happened over at Ford?

    Toyota just can’t get the look right on the Tundra. But, the Tacoma is peak midsized pickup. I love it.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    “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.”

    So your 1995 F150 had a three-speed automatic? Really. None of the other ones did.

  • avatar
    finderskeepers

    I’ve owned lots of trucks over the years, but there is only one that I wish that I could have back again. My 1974 C-20
    3/4 ton. With the factory optioned “high torque LS9” 350 V-8 and the 350 turbo tranny. Although it was equipped with power steering and power brakes, it was missing any and all electronics and had zero emissions controls. If something broke, you knew what and where within seconds of opening the hood. You could sit on the inner fender and work on the motor yourself. I miss that simplicity, now when I open the hood the tubes and wires and sensors are endless, every spare inch of underhood space is taken up with some unknown system.
    I think the 1973-1979 chev and GMC pickups were the high water mark for trucks (as trucks should be). If you had one, chances are you had a farm, a business, a trailer. You weren’t a poseur driving a “bro-dozer” with neon glow lights.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Sometimes I still miss my ’95 F-150 (SuperCab short bed XLT 4×2, 5.0, 4R70W, with a/c, power driver’s seat, Alcoas), but I don’t miss 13 mpg, and my Tacoma (4.0 V6) could smoke it in a drag race, and gets 16-17 mpg. It was a nice truck (stickered for $21,600, I got it for $9k. I put 214k on it in 17 years, and it was amazingly reliable, at least until it developed a random hard start/no-start problem in the last year.

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