"No vehicle offers a broader range of capabilities than a full-size pickup truck with four doors," Tony Swan wrote in a 2009 article for Car and Driver magazine. And he's right. A great truck is like a great boot, it will take you places you can't go without it. They both give you the ability to carry more, grab more attention and they can even save you in an accident.
Even better, they'll not only take a beating, they'll last for years. So, even though they lack the flashy lines and paint jobs of my five favorite sports cars, everyone has a favorite truck that can't be justified with performance numbers or features alone.
Most truck owners don't need any convincing when it comes to trucks. They go back reliably to the same brands. That's why you won't find too many lists about the all-time best pickup trucks. Year-in and year-out, pickups offer dependability. And while this may make certain model years blend together in terms of performance offerings and design features, it makes the lines themselves the subject of fierce debates.
Here are my picks for the top five pickup truck lines of all-time:
Chevrolet Silverado – Since 1990, more than 12 million Silverados have been sold. Now, some will note that the GMC Sierra is essentially the same vehicle. (For the small differentiating details, you can scour forums like this.) That said, the Sierra has only sold roughly 4 million units in that time.
So what accounts for the difference? Part of it is marketing, but part of it extends beyond that to the design and aesthetic of the vehicle. It's not that Timberland revolutionized the boot, the company simply figured out a way to tap into the rugged nature that its product allows us to bring out. And that's the magic of the Silverado, whatever the reason, people are drawn to it. (Then again, it might be the dedication of its owners or its famous theme song).
Chevrolet El Camino – Okay, so the El Camino isn't exactly a truck. It's more of a weird step on the evolutionary chain of the automobile. Like the dodo, it's notable because it's funny looking and distinct. But, because of that, it has fans who are drawn to its originality and unique appeal. (I think Ted Reed from Yahoo sums it up best when he said: "Either the 1959 El Camino is a gorgeous pickup truck or a marriage made in hell between a car and a truck.")
Still, the El Camino has its avid fans. (Unlike say the Subaru Brat.) Like the Def Leppard faithful that turn out year after year, the El Camino still lives on in dedicated forums and blog posts.
Datsun 1000 – What would this be without a little competition from the our friends to East? While no one is going to say that America didn't invent or perfect the pickup truck, Japanese automakers have made successful inroads, most notably with the popular Nissan Titan and other similar models in recent years, but it's arguable none of this would have been possible without the first attempt. You could almost say if trucks are like baseball, the first Datsun pickups were Masanori "Mashi" Murakami, remembered only by diehard historians, but instrumental to the Ichiros and Yu Darvishes that are star players today.
Admittedly, the first Datsun 1000s weren't impressive. They had one-liter four-cylinder engines and only achieved 40 horsepower. But, their eventual improvement and success in the '60s laid the groundwork for many a great truck to come, and with the rise of these offerings, American engineers were pushed to produce better models.
Dodge Ram – The Dodge Ram is the kind of truck you hear people talk about when they say, "they don't make them like they used to." Climbing to prominence after a redesign in the mid-90s, the Ram has since then proved its staying power, maintaining steady sales numbers of around 400,000 a year before the recent economic downturn.
The most recent generation has been praised by the likes of Edmunds.com for its roomy interior and "un-trucklike ride," due in part to its coil-ring rear suspension. It's also available with a 5.7 liter Hemi V-8, making it excel at what trucks have always done best. That's why it seems no matter how overstated the ads get, the Ram has always had been able to rise above cliches by delivering performance that almost makes them ring true.
Ford F-Series – From the post-war second-generation models to the unibody models of the early '60s, Ford's F-Series is as classically American as McDonalds: And while it may look easy, it's hard to sustain this kind of longevity. Being the best takes hard work and innovation, a tough balancing act only ever achieved by the best in any industry, whether it's movies, sports or music.
In addition to being the best-selling pickup of all-time, the F-150 is often cited as one of the most influential in blog posts by Motor Trend and lists by major news outlets like USA Today. That's why the brand is still around until this day, when so many of its contemporaries have gone the way of the Camino.
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