By on May 10, 2018

1974 Chevrolet El Camino in California junkyard, grille, © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars

Forgive us for the gratuitous use of the R-word, but stereotypes loom so large that it’s the easiest way to describe this automotive subsegment. Unfair, perhaps, and potentially offensive to some, but that’s the way it is. Decades of conditioning — helped by our friends in Hollywood — have led us to associate certain vehicles with a certain socio-economic group of rural land owners.

Frankly, who doesn’t want to own a patch of God’s green earth and tear it up on lonely dirt roads in a rear-drive American car? Let’s see a show of hands.

Anyway, we’re not here to cast judgement on anyone, nor are we here to talk about any tweet-worthy social issues. We’re definitely steering clear of that. It’s the cars we’re interested in.

Your author doesn’t live in the South or Midwest, not even a rural area, but those aren’t prerequisites for redneck car ownership. (Man, do I wish there was a better word for this.) But that doesn’t mean there’s not a ’79-’81 Trans Am, complete with eagle and louvres, resting on a neighbor’s lawn. Because there is.

Sometimes the bitchin’ old Pontiac makes room for an early ’90s regular cab Silverado dually, which is an imposing vehicle in its own right. Just think of the impressive rooster tails that thing could throw up!

Having grown up in the country, and having watched far too many Dukes of Hazzard episodes in my youth (thank you, TNN), there’ll always be a soft spot in my heart for any 1970s Ford pickup, any rear-drive Mopar, plus the second-generation Camaro and Firebird. Only later in life did I discover it’s hard to find anyone who shares my particular love of the Chevy El Camino — a vehicle that could come in handy in so many situations. What’s their problem?

Sure, the Ford Ranchero fits the bill, too — not the early Falcon-based ones, anyway — but they’re not nearly as thick on the ground as the ubiquitous final-gen El Camino (the ’81 model’s single headlamps and face full of chrome make it the pick of that particular litter. The later eggcrate grille looks too low-rent.)

Yes, I’m most certainly a fan of the redneck automobile, as long as it stays factory not-so-fresh. No cheesy add-ons, please. Do you count yourself a member of this particular club? If so, what’s your personal preference?

I think we’re already pretty well-versed in what this subsegment entails, but let’s just lay down some basic parameters. Older (but perhaps not that much older) affordable, rear- or four-wheel-drive vehicles made in American and most likely found outside of the Northeast and Northwest. Maybe you feel an import or front-drive vehicle falls into this category. If so, convince us.

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars, General Motors]

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56 Comments on “QOTD: What’s Your Preferred Redneck Ride?...”

  • avatar

    As someone who does live in the rural South, I’m here to tell you that most rednecks aren’t wealthy enough to live up to your stereotypes – don’t let Hollywood fool you.

    Typical redneck rides are actually clapped out Kias and Fiestas, with some ancient trucks thrown in for good measure. Nasty cheap scooters for those caught DWI with suspended licenses.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, also from the deep south…you forgot the one donut tire and the engine playing the spoons. I’ll nominate any Hyundai from the bad Hyundai days that the BHBH lot managed to let off the lot in hopes that weekly check will show up, throw in a multi-color (due to fading) plastic clad pontiac grand am for the more well to do.

      All of the cars you listed above were redneck aspiration vehicles when they were new and the ones that are left are collectables now

      • 0 avatar

        My first thoughts were Grand Amsterdam and Cavalier. In my old neck of the woods there are still late Escorts soldiering on, and of course lots of worn pickups.

    • 0 avatar

      I was logging in to post the same idea but yours is better!

      From my time living/dating in the Ozarks, it was lots of Kia’s and Suzukis with the occasional Cavalier coupe. I had totally forgotten the scooter thing. On those old forested two-lanes that can be great driving roads and kid vomit-inducers you do have to look-ahead for scooters headed to the liquor store or rural Walmart (they build much smaller Walmarts in Ozarks full of rude tank tops and 24-packs). Most highly prized was a Geo Prizm. They get passed on generation to generation.

      As for my pick for Redneck Ride / yard art? Disco Malaise Seventies Corvette, baby. Bonus for missing T-Tops. Since everything in Ozark lake country is wet all the time, the carpet and seat mold are magnifique.

    • 0 avatar

      Explain to me the scooter thing? I have never heard of that. I need to learn a new thing every day so today is this fact.

      • 0 avatar

        In most of the south, you are not required to be licensed/insured to drive a scooter (some HP limit and top speed of 35mph), so after a DUI or enough DUI’s that you’ll never get your license back, you get a scooter, the more rural you get the more you see. Only place they can’t drive are interstates and some of the big state Hwy’s, any other road, even with a 55mph limit, you might find yourself cruising at for a good long way (or if the dude is fat enough and the scooter is 25 years old, about 20)

  • avatar

    2nd kkop and add that around here a typical ride is a late 70s early 80s van chassis motorhome, Dodge or Ford based. Usually with varying bits of crash damage and the amount of weathering expected from four decades of sun and rain.
    A close second,even though it is not actually a ride, is any vehicle, usually a pickup with one front corner torn off. Sitting on blocks in a driveway for years. Every few months another damaged part will be removed and eventually the truck will be gone.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    No joke, my 14 year old son us saving his lawn mowing monies for his dream car, a malaise era El Camino. Next to a 70′ Road Runner, his favorite car. He knows he wont have the dough for one of those, sadly.

    As for me, i will take an early 80’s silverado with a 6 inch lift, long bed.

    • 0 avatar

      Real RoadRunners may be out of reach, but keep an eye on Craigslist for the occasional Satellite that might show up. Much less expensive for the same body.

  • avatar

    Why not just ask what’s everyone’s favorite beater?

  • avatar

    There is a tendency to overlap “Redneck” with “Whitetrash”. Redneck is almost exclusively pickup truck oriented, at least around here. While most of these trucks are the Big 3, there are a surprising amount of Toyota Tacomas used as well, especially by those of the coon hunting persuasion. Whitetrash, on the other hand, is usually a clapped out Hyundai/Kia with some older generation Honda Accords and Camaros thrown in for good measure.

    I have lived around both segments of these folks my whole life, and while I don’t necessarily find either of these words offensive, some might. I doubt we would see a similar topic regarding the transportation choices of urban Black Americans or those of Hispanic origin who may have recently immigrated to this country.

    So, Rednecks around here, pretty truck centric.

  • avatar

    I will take two. An orange 1968/69 Charger with a roll cage and turbine wheels and a Power Wagon right off the set of Simon and Simon.

  • avatar

    Here in SW Florida, there aren’t many true rednecks left due to high real estate prices. There ARE plenty of posers who think that any diesel-powered pick-up with camo-colored graphics and Salt Life stickers give them redneck street cred. They’re wrong. Pulling a $15k boat with a YETI cooler in the back is also a clue-in to poser status. I’m not dissing, just calling out their false redneckness.

    REAL rednecks drive old, clapped-out Chrysler products that haven’t seen a car wash since the last time Florida went blue in an election.

  • avatar

    Let’s not forget, there’s nothing more entertaining than a redneck with money. Where do you think a lot of those bro-dozers come from?

    When I want to get in touch with my inner redneck, I just slide behind the wheel of my ’95 Bronco.

  • avatar

    Waaaal… My dream car has always been the 1959 Chevy El Camino, followed closely by the same model Impala 2-door hardtop. Give it a good resto-mod to bring it up to modern highway manners and I’d be happy.

  • avatar

    Rednecks (I am one of them) aspire to own lifted diesel trucks, period.

    I get more complements and people saying “I wish I had that” in my F350 than I ever do in my Ferrari around here. “Nice truck” is heard almost any time I’m filling up with diesel…

    And its a 10 year old F350 with 200k on the clock…

    The second car that got a lot of props from my fellow rednecks was my 2nd gen Camaro.

    But both the truck and camaro are “Aspirational” cars for them. they love them. they want them. They dream of them. A ferrari symbolizes a world they don’t know, don’t want to know.

    So I think the PREFERRED redneck ride is definitely:
    1. Lifted Diesel Ram Pickup Truck, followed by Chevy and Ford
    2. Early generation Muscle Car

    Problem is, these “cars” are aspirational. So while they WANT these cars, they don’t own them. For the most part they own the downmarket cars just like you’d expect, and as others alluded to. they buy what they can “afford” (I say that lightly, because many will go to a BHPH lot to buy a $2000 buick lasabre and pay $8000 in payments to get it). They don’t travel to the cities, so its got to be whatever works its way to them through the auctions, trickling out…. but they avoid even cheap highlines.

  • avatar

    Oh, you mean REDneck! Hey, give me any pre-1990 Chevy S-10/GMC S-15 in reasonably good condition.

  • avatar

    My ex-wife referred to me as an “Educated Redneck” with varying levels of affection as time wore on…

    I’d take Bandit’s Trans Am any day and make some fairly minor changes to wake up that smogged V8.

    For a modern “Redneck Ride” give me a GMC Sierra SLE crew cab 5.3 4×4 tow package bench seats front and rear. I’d be more than happy to have the outgoing model.

  • avatar


    I grew up where the term hillbilly was used instead of redneck. In my world view, Redneck/Hillbillly are two words that have the same meaning. Either way – l grew up in the sticks of the Northeast and now I live in the sticks of the south. Call it what you will, both words make me chuckle. I’ll take an early 80’s Subaru Brat in mint stock condition, please!

    • 0 avatar

      You must have loved Joy Turner and her AmeriBrat from My Name is Earl.

    • 0 avatar

      Hillbilly and Redneck are two totally different groups of people.

      There’s no hillbillys in Texas, Alabama, or Arizona.

      There’s few rednecks in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.

      They are very different culturally

      For example, Rednecks tend to value independence, while Hillbillys often have significant dependence.

      Rednecks are almost always Libertarian Conservatives while Hillbillys are either religious conservatives or Liberals.

      Hillbilly’s work on coal mines and steel factories, while rednecks work on farms, construction, and assembly lines.

      Hillbilly’s love unions. Rednecks hate unions.

      Hillbilly’s are more likely to be opiod addicts, while rednecks are more likely to be alcoholics.

      • 0 avatar

        Wrong, there are sh!tloads of rednecks here in Ohio, we don;t use the tern “hillbilly” in this state. Never have.
        Signed: a 55 yr old Ohioan.

        • 0 avatar

          I don’t care what term you use, but hillbilly’s are a demographic of people.

          The term comes from those who come from the Appalachian Mountains.

          Many hillbilly’s are fairly proud, and while you might call them “rednecks”, I bet they are often hillbillys… unless you get up to the north / Northwest.

          Definitely the South/Southeast are hillbilly’s. When you get towards the North / Northwest, into Indiana and such you start having more rednecks.

          But a redneck is pretty clearly a rural working-class white person, while a hillbilly is specifically an Appalachian mountain family, many of which have spread throughout southern ohio, WV, PA, and KY looking for work. The steel mills actively recruited them out of the Appalachian regions for example.

          But I guess we can all have our regional opinions.

          • 0 avatar

            The Appalachians are a very sparsely populated part of Ohio that cover a small part in the SE of the state. The rest is flat and full of rednecks, as you’ve described them.

            And even then, we’d call those hillbillys “yinzers”.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I support Ryan to a degree.

      I do know the media has strong influences in US culture.

      So, what about the Beverly Hillbillies? Texas Gold!

      So, Hillbilly was a term used to describe certain environmental personality traits (cultural) across a group of people.

  • avatar

    I will reserve my comments until the next week’s feature on negro rides.

    You guys are truly idiots.

  • avatar

    Has to be my 85 GMC Suburban. Former State Department of Roads vehicle ( Orange ). 4 speed on the floor complete with granny gear and locker rear end. No A/C. AM radio. Only 2WD, but impossible to get stuck in mud or snow. Oh, with nice new front (bench) and rear seats transplanted from a newer plush Suburban.Has a large old-fashioned couch in the back for sleeping on camping trips, very comfortable. Does that qualify ?

  • avatar

    White stereotypes are low-risk. Go for it.

    Just don’t stray, or you will pay, as others have.

    • 0 avatar

      “White stereotypes are low-risk.” This x 1000.

      Just want to preface my statement, as someone who has lived their whole life in Eastern Kentucky, most of these descriptions are dead on. And no, I am not offended by any of these generalizations. But there is no way in hell we would be discussing “What is your least favorite car in a Black ‘hood” or “Which Hispanic driven car would you prefer to hoon”.

      Just seems like an odd title for a blog post, funny comments and accurate descriptions notwithstanding.

    • 0 avatar

      “White stereotypes are low-risk. Go for it.

      Just don’t stray, or you will pay, as others have.”

      The 20 words or less post of the year.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    In the early 90s when I started noticing things like this there were several flavors of cars favored by the rural folk. I lived within 15 miles of West By God Virginia and my town had the closest shopping centers (Walmart) so every weekend we would be flooded with ratty Monte Carlo SSes and pickup trucks that were on their final owner.

    The top two redneck rides were mid to late 60s Mopar cars and, the reddest of the red, were pickup trucks with 4 doors.
    It’s funny how things have swung around.

    I don’t see much red anymore living in a DC exurb. But I have the occasion to go out west and it seems like the redneck chariot of choice seems to always be 15 year old Dodge Caravans.

  • avatar

    Well, the poorest of this lot may have old domestic-brand cars or trucks; the employed men greatly prefer late-model domestic-brand trucks, women like 2-door coupes (if single), or vans/SUV/CUVs (married). High-level aspirational would be big new Dually/Super Duty/Hemi, etc. (men); Tahoe/Suburban (women).

  • avatar

    In my part of the world one cannot really single out pickups because everyone has one. I do see the occasional beaten up 4×4 with a “molon labe” or “we stand on guard for thee” gun sticker in the back window and beater cars with what appears to be the “cast of extras” from Deliverance behind the wheel.

    The cold winters tend to be hard on anything that one would stereotypical associate with “red necks”.

  • avatar

    Mine? How about a 2nd gen Bronco :) . With obligatory mismatched body panels.

  • avatar

    Ideal redneck drive is a tractor, maybe a Fordson; heck, even a riding mower will do. How else y’all gonna keep that neck red?

  • avatar

    Yes there are rednecks in the NW. Their preferred rides of choice in my area are in descending order.

    #1 Full size Ford Pickup, 4×4, Lifted.
    #2 Ranger, 4×4, Lifted (tie)
    #2 Toyota pickup, 4×4, Lifted, no straight body panels (tie)
    #4 Cherokee, 4×4, wheel wells cut out for much larger tires, probably not lifted, no straight body panels.
    #5 Full size Chevy Pickup, 4×4, Lifted.
    #6 4Runner, Lifted, Male owned; no straight body panels, cut out wheel wells, Female owned; straight, often with pink accents.
    #7 Full size Dodge Pickup, 4×4, Diesel, Lifted.

  • avatar

    I agree with one of the previous posters that these vehicles are really aspirational vehicles. The “redneck” that “made it” might get a Trans Am. Maybe if he moved to “town” and spent a few years working in “the mill”. I would add a few:

    – Dodge Ramcharger (the Bronco competitor)
    – Chevy Chevelle

    It seems odd to say this, but Ford vehicles are maybe a little too effete to fit in this milieu. Except the small ones like a Fiesta, Festiva, or Escort.

    The regular “Joe Redneck” would probably drive an econocar or cheap truck, as mentioned.
    – Chevy Cavalier (Probably one of the more common rides. But it may be worth mentioning that it came in a couple of aspirational flavors – the Z24, or the convertible!)
    – Chevy S-10
    – Dodge Dakota

    On a side note, I think the Dodge Stealth would almost make it as an aspirational vehicle in this group. But it may be just a tad too complicated and foreign. A “no man’s land” of marketing appeal.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do think most people tarred with the term “redneck” are not rednecks. They are wannabe’s.

    These people have a similar personality disorder to those who are brand fan’s, drive hairdresser chariots, ie, Wrangler, Raptor, etc.

    People who want to be described or want to project the perception of redneck’ism are a group who just don’t fit in.

    A real redneck wagon would be the cheapest piece of sh!t irrespective of brand that the redneck can afford. We have a similar group here in Australia. They generally drive 12+ year old Commodores with mismatched rims, ie, steel and alloy mix.

  • avatar

    I get the idea that most of you are confusing WalMart’s least affluent customers with rednecks.A clapped-out Corolla or Grand-Am, etc. is not redneck, it is just poverty. All poor people are not rednecks, and all rednecks are for sure not poor. I am from Missouri, and my GF’s family call me a hillbilly (not to my face). But the preferred term would be “briar”.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that everyone seems to be confusing poor with being a redneck, certainly there is some overlap but all poor people are not rednecks, some are crackheads for example and there are many hard working rednecks that have enough money to drive something more than the cheapest crappiest car.

      • 0 avatar

        My father-in-law (who grew up on a farm and worked in a paper mill) was driving a late model Coupe DeVille when I started dating my wife. In the 70’s, that was actually an aspirational redneck ride. A few of the Mill guys (with seniority) drove Caddies. He also always had an older Ford PU to do the dirty hauling with.

      • 0 avatar

        Remember, not all rednecks are poor, either. Redneck is a state of mind, not an indicator of wealth (or lack thereof.)

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    There are many who live in Ohio that refer to anyone living in Kentucky as a hillbilly. I have worked with these people asking me if I took my shoes off when I cross the bridge to Kentucky. One person I worked with said there were more songs about Ohio than Kentucky at which I rattled off at least a dozen songs about Kentucky and he had a hard time getting past 2 songs about Ohio. Just the fact that I live in Kentucky was enough for many to call me a hillbilly. I was born in Dayton Ohio and spent 29 formative years in Houston Texas which does have a few rednecks but not very many from Appalachia. I venture that from some of the comments I am a hillbilly because I drive a 19 year old S-10 which I have had since new. It seems that there are many who would rather stereotype than observe and think.

  • avatar

    I grew up in TN, even if I’m originally a Jersey kid. Coming from a blue collar background, a little redneck rubbed off on me…although its more in the vain of the Bandit, the Duke boys, etc. So my ideal ‘redneck ride’ would be your classic low buck hot rod. American, rwd, V8 power–likely hopped up, with a certain mix of wear and tear induced character but style and attitude.

    My top picks would be either a Plymouth Duster or a ’72-93 shortbed 2wd Dodge truck. At least a 318 with mandatory cherry bomb glass packs, bonus points for old school sidepipes. Gotta have the California rake stance and some kind of Day 2 style mag wheels–Keystones, Cragars, slots, etc wrapped in RWL BFG T/As. Just get it running right, make sure the look isn’t too fancy but has a certain character and have some fun raising hell.

  • avatar

    Not to go all Gawker media on you… But, can we agree that “redneck” is a problematic term in same vein as “cracker”, the “N” bomb and “cis”?

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