Another party trick of the 488 is its ability to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum (LPG) in addition to regular pump gasoline. That’s thanks to the stainless valves and hardened valve seats. A forged crank, rods, pistons, full-length cooling jackets, and cast-iron head and block ensure maximum durability and longevity even in high-stress situations. Just add your choice of intake manifold, carb, and all the regular bolt-ons we talked about earlier, and you’re good to go.
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.
The Chevy El Camino is probably the best-known example in this category but the Ranchero was the first and is a pretty cool car/truck. The Ranchero was introduced in 1957 and was in production until 1979. A total of 508,355 units were produced and while we like the early models, they are all pretty sweet.
The powerplant behind them was the legendary 427 “L88”, a 450-horsepower 7-liter engine found in many other GM cars including the Corvette. But this version had high compression, required race fuel, and made an insane-for-the-time 450 horsepower.
This baby has aluminum heads and pistons, titanium valves, forged rods, and even an aluminum block, for God’s sake. That’s real supercar stuff, but it runs on pump gas. And might I remind you it comes with a warranty. What more do you want?
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 Nite was a good-looking truck that sold well enough to convince Ford that there was indeed a market for performance pickups, leading to the Lightning, a true performance pickup.
While we still like the look of the original Bronco best (see the Baja further down the list), the second generation is more practical for most people, especially if you have toys to tow. This is what a pickup should look like, rugged, tall and bursting with attitude. This truck could handle 35-inch tires without lifting the suspension.