This is the beginning of the pickup truck era for Ford, and while not the most exciting choice on our cool old ford trucks list, it was one of the first mass-produced trucks out there and helped build the foundation of the truck market we know today.
That’s right, in the GM Performance Catalog of crate engines an 8-liter V8 is considered “small”. With max revs set at just 4500rpm, the Vortec 488 is a mill designed not to power the car you’re racing, but the truck you’re hauling it with. With 375 horsepower and 475 lb-feet of torque on tap at only 3200rpm, the 488 can tow that high-dollar enclosed trailer without breaking a sweat. Or it could pull your boat, your cattle, your neighbor’s house, or the grandstands at your local dragstrip. You get the idea.
Yes, you can buy a GM crate engine directly from the factory, one capable of 1200 horsepower, and put it in anything you want. Providing you have enough spare change in your pocket to buy a used Tesla Model S. Oh, and GM is smart enough to not offer a warranty on this one. Sorry Doug Demuro.
The Highboy was available with a 360 V-8 or the less powerful six-cylinder. A C6 automatic transmission was a common choice on the Highboy. Its tough look makes these trucks pretty collectible so they can be hard to find and sort of pricey for a fully restored version but if you have the budget, it’s a great choice if you are looking for a cool old ford truck.
Stoppe’s shop could further customize a Baja with a large selection of optional parts. Roll cages, winches, and off-road lights were popular, as were suspension upgrades. The Baja cost almost $2,000 more than the standard Bronco, which was big cash back in the day; its high price limited sales. While not a huge seller (only 650 were produced) this is one of the coolest old Ford trucks on our list.
The beauty of a crate engine is that it can go into any vehicle you want. The engine gave out in your truck? Maybe it’s time for an upgrade. Want to make a V8 Pinto? Go right ahead.
The modern equivalent of that engine is GM’s ZZ427 crate motor. It stays true to the cast-iron block of its forefather, but runs pump-gas-friendly 10.0:1 compression, sports aluminum heads and an all-forged rotating assembly.
The Ranchero was a big hit with both consumers and automotive critics but is not as popular with collectors as the El Camino, so it is still possible to find a fairly affordable project car. The Nite was Ford’s first attempt at putting a performance special edition pickup out on the streets and while it wasn’t a huge success, it led them to create the Lightning (we talked about this one earlier) a few years later.