Collector Car Corner / Cars We Remember; Top 10 favorite pickup trucks

Collector Car Corner / Cars We Remember; Top 10 favorite pickup trucksThe C-Line pickups by International Harvester were popular farm trucks right on through the 1960s and 1970s. Shown is the 1962 version in two-door format. (Navistar)

As we wind down our top 10 Muscle Cars of All-Time, I’ve received several letters from fans about my favorite pickup trucks and a “top trucks” feature. So, as I get ready to feature the 8th, 9th, and 10th inductees in the muscle cars series, we’ll take this week to revisit an updated pickup truck feature that left an impression on me while growing up.

Further, this column is timely as of all classes of vehicles that take part in this awesome hobby / business of collector cars and trucks, it seems like pickup trucks are becoming more popular at both area car shows and TV auctions like Mecum and Barrett-Jackson.   

Collector Car Corner / Cars We Remember; Top 10 favorite pickup trucks

Of all the trucks ever produced, none has come close to the worldwide popularity of the F-Series pickup trucks, which debuted back in 1948. This advertisement is for the all-new 1953 Ford Trucks, including heavy-duty offerings. (Ford)

Further, it may not be a surprise to most readers that sales of pickup trucks in all shapes and sizes continue to deliver major profits for manufacturers in America and Canada. Included are perennial full-size bestseller Ford F-Series, followed by Chevy Silverado, (Dodge) Ram, Toyota Tundra, and Nissan Titan. All make tough built pickups and most these days are four-door crew cabs that double as family movers. Although fully electric trucks have yet to catch on in big numbers, many auto experts feel that the gas- and diesel-powered big trucks will be around for a long time, myself included.

Please don’t read this statement that I’m against electric vehicles as I am not. However, forcing electric cars and trucks ala government mandates will not work, especially if you live in a state like North Dakota where infrastructure (recharge stations) isn’t ready. Seems the “cart before the horse” ideology is still rearing its ugly head now and then, but this time it’s costing manufacturers like Ford and General Motors built in losses on every all-electric vehicle it sells. That’s why I like hybrid / electric vehicles that are a union of internal combustion and batteries; the best of both worlds, especially in larger SUVs and pickup trucks of all sizes.

Okay, enough of that for this week. Let’s move on to the trucks that impacted yours truly while growing up.

Collector Car Corner / Cars We Remember; Top 10 favorite pickup trucks

Although far from a heavy-duty pickup truck, the Ford Ranchero was a blend of half car and half truck and became popular with consumers who desired light duty capabilities. Additionally, the Ranchero debuted in 1957, ahead of Chevrolet’s El Camino. (Ford)

Initially, the 1940s through the 1970s pickups were mostly called “work trucks” or “farm trucks,” as few offered modern day amenities or extended cabs. Further, these farm and work trucks are gaining in collector popularity as the years go by.

Drum roll please: Here’s my “Top 10” list of pickups that made an impact on me along the way.

1. Ford F Series: The very first F Series truck built by Ford arrived in 1948 to much fanfare. This F-Series has been around for 75 years, and it’s still the world’s most popular and best-selling pickup. Nostalgic Favorite: 1953 Ford F Series. 

2. Dodge Pickups: It was 1921 when the Dodge Brothers started building pickups in a co-op with the Graham Brothers, but the first Chrysler owned Dodge pickup appeared in ’29. It’s always been a big success, and even with the name change to Ram in 1981, Dodge/Ram is a solid choice. Nostalgic Favorite: 1972 Dodge Club Cab.

3. Studebaker E-Series: Growing up in the 1950s, a day never went by without seeing a Studebaker pickup stop at my grandfather’s economy and food store in Ranshaw, Pa. Built from 1955 to 1960, these pickups were priced fairly and offered excellent return-on-investment advantages over the more expensive brands. Nostalgic Favorite: 1956 Studebaker Transtar.

4. Chevrolet Silverado:  Starting in 1930 with its bevy of popular pickup trucks, it took until 1999 for the first Silverado to make an appearance. The name “Silverado” was originally utilized as a trim name on Chevy C/K pickups, Suburbans, and Tahoes from 1975 through 1999. But then in 1999 the first stand-alone Chevy Silverado arrived, and it’s never looked back. Nostalgic Favorite: 2003-06 Silverado SS. (Chevy SSR receives a nod here, too, built from 2004 to 2006 in hardtop / convertible pickup design.)

Collector Car Corner / Cars We Remember; Top 10 favorite pickup trucks

The GMC pickups date to 1902, and to this day specializes in trucks of all shapes and sizes. Pictured in this advertisement is a 1958 GMC, the first year with dual front headlights. (GMC)

5. GMC C/K: The GMC dates to 1902 thanks to the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company in Pontiac, Michigan. When General Motors purchased Rapid Motor in 1909, it became GMC and to this day specializes in trucks of all shapes and sizes. Thanks to the necessity of then Buick – Olds – Pontiac – Cadillac dealers to offer a truck, the GMC filled the void. By 1920, GMC began sharing platform time with sibling Chevy and it’s been that way ever since. Nostalgic Favorite: 1957 (single headlight) 1958 (dual headlight) GMC pickup.

6. International Harvester (IH): From 1902 to 1986, IH was a successful firm specializing in farm tractors, farm equipment and trucks. By the 1960s, the trucks were very popular and featured many light and heavy-duty versions. In 1986, International Harvester changed its name to Navistar International Corporation, and focused on its truck and engine divisions. Navistar is still in operation today, producing commercial trucks, buses, and military vehicles. Nostalgic Favorite: 1956 C-Line two or four-door pickup. 

Collector Car Corner / Cars We Remember; Top 10 favorite pickup trucks

The 1980 Jeep full size pickup was promoted as “the performance truck.” Thanks to the popularity of its military style Wrangler, many families had two Jeeps parked in their driveway. (Jeep)

7. Jeep Pickups: Known mostly for its Wrangler, early station wagons and then Cherokee style models, Jeep Pickups were very popular over the years until they stopped producing them. The good news is that Jeep brought back a full-size platform pickup in late 2019 called the Gladiator. The last Wrangler based pickup dates to the 1986 Scrambler, while its compact pickup Comanche stopped production in 1992. Nostalgic Favorite: 1980 Jeep 1/2 Ton Pickup.

8. Willys Overland: Although Willys had a full line of Jeeps, cars and wagons that date back to 1903, they also impacted the pickup truck market in a big way through the 1930s with a line of solid-built light and heavy-duty pickups. By the 1950s, the Willys 4×4 pickup was billed as the “Go anywhere truck” and became a popular workhorse. Nostalgic Favorite: 1952 Willys 4×4 Pickup.

9. Ford Ranchero: Although half car and half truck, Ford receives a “pat on the back” for introducing the 1957 Ranchero a full two years before Chevy’s ElCamino. Rancheros were loaded with car amenities and not up to towing or heavy load capacities, but still deserve a mention. Nostalgic Favorite: 1958 Ranchero.

10. Dodge Little Red Truck: In 1978 and 1979, Dodge introduced the Lil Red Express high-performance truck, complete with a powerful 360-inch V8 and lots of special goodies that the youth market loved. It deserves a spot on my Top 10 for sure. Nostalgic Favorite: Any 1978 or 1979 Lil Red Express trucks.

(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist. He writes weekly features and welcomes reader input and questions on collector cars, auto nostalgia and auto racing at Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pa. 18840 or at

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