Before the pickup truck market was dominated by today’s generation of heavy-duty pickups—from well-known manufacturers like Ford, Chevy, and Ram—the landscape for the heavy-duty truck market used to look very different. In fact, most of the heavy-duty trucks of yesteryear were actually remarkably similar to their contemporary light-duty counterparts or were relegated to commercial trucking. But there were a few classics from the old days that actually managed to stand out as production-grade consumer pickups that also handled heavy-duty tasks.
This list will take you down a trip through memory lane, covering some of the classic heavy-duty pickups from popular brands and dependable model-year outings that truly made a difference back in the day. You might even be able to find some of these classic used trucks for sale at auctions or on dealer lots, given how revered they were. Nevertheless, let’s dive in and check out seven legendary heavy-duty pickups that people still love today.
No. 7: 1958 Chevrolet Task Force
A couple of years before the popular Chevy C/K line of pickup trucks became a thing, there was the Chevy Task Force. The 1958 model year reinvented the model line-up with three distinct sizes, including a light, medium, and heavy-duty iteration. The Chevy Task Force line of pickups from Chevy Advance Design were quite popular at the time and were more than reliable for the tasks at hand.
The 1958 line of Task Force trucks were designed in three categories: Apache for the light-duty models, Viking for the Medium Duty, and Spartan for the heavy-duty line of trucks. The Spartan iteration of the trucks had a gross vehicle weight rating of up to 21,000 lbs. Even the Apache line of light-duty trucks were pretty heavy for being light-duty trucks, scaling up to 7,400 lbs as its max gross vehicle weight rating. The Task Force line of trucks were quite versatile at the time before being replaced by the C/K line. Even to this day, the Task Force trucks are quite the collector’s item thanks to their looks and unique styling.
No. 6: 1977 Ford F-250 4×4
You won’t find one of these bad boys available in a showroom, for obvious reasons, but you could definitely find one by searching through an online outlet or two. Simply put, the 1977 Ford F-250 is a beautiful, beastly truck. It’s a heavy-duty pickup that embodies everything you could possibly want out of a three-quarter truck and then some. As a 4×4 heavy-duty pickup, it’s also quite the looker.
The three-seater regular cab of the 1977 Ford F-250 in 4×4 format packed a 6.6L V8 engine producing 169 hp. This three-quarter-ton pickup was designed for all the rough-and-tumble workloads you could throw at it during its run on the market. It was as popular as it was because of its dependability; a massive, sturdy, no-holds-barred three-quarter-ton pickup that could haul, tow, and trailer like nobody’s business. It’s also no surprise that not only was this a best-selling truck when it came out but it continues to be a well-sought-after heavy-duty pickup among collectors and those who just want a beautiful and reliable three-quarter-ton pickup.
No. 5: 1978 K20 Fleetside
A small block 400 cu.in. 6.6L V8 powering an absolutely mammoth three-quarter-ton heavy-duty pickup, the 1978 K20 was Chevy’s answer to the F-250 from the previous year. A four-wheel drive, three-speed automatic was paired with the V8, which made 185 hp at 300 lb-ft of torque. It was the heavy-duty alternative to the light-duty C-series, which happened to be the first within the light-duty segment to be a production model truck housing a 5.7L Oldsmobile V8 diesel engine.
The K20, however, was designed to handle the toughest, roughest tasks you could throw at a heavy-duty production model pickup. The 1978 K20 was basically the equivalent of today’s Chevy Silverado 2500 HD. It featured a long fleetside bed and the ability to tow, trailer, and haul like a boss. The four-wheel drive configuration and large V8 made it a great work truck; dependable and powerful, the K20 was built differently to accommodate the heavy-duty tasks of yesteryear—and was quite popular for it. Even to this day, those looking to get their hands on a used truck—either as a collector’s item or to own a truck that can still haul, travel off-road, and engage in occasional mudding—never veer too far away from the C/K line of Chevy pickups, even the ones from the late 1970s, like the K20.
No. 4: 1975 W200 Power Wagon
A three-quarter-ton pickup that helped bridge the gap between workhorse and comfort, the 1975 W200 Power Wagon was the precursor for what we now know as the Ram 2500 series. This heavy-duty pickup was and still is quite popular. In fact, the Power Wagon moniker was so popular that it was even revived for more recent iterations of the Ram’s heavy-duty models.
The 1975 W200 Power Wagon was designed to accommodate those who wanted a lifted truck, and the Adventure Sport model gave you a long bed with a two-door cab that sat three. Large side mirrors and the ability to tow and haul with no problem, the W200 Power Wagon was a hefty pickup, clocking in at a gross vehicle weight rating of 8,000 lbs. It was quite the monster back in the day, and no surprise that even today there are those who would want one of these when searching for a used truck. But good luck finding one in its original design because a lot of people love to beef up the horsepower and lift the suspension, given that it’s one of those trucks that just begs to be pushed beyond its limits.
No. 3: 2000 Chevy Silverado 3500 “Big Dooley”
Chevy went big in 2000 as part of the move over from the C/K line of pickups toward the now-popular Silverado models. One of the truck models that really stood out at the time was the Chevy Silverado 3500 “Big Dooley.” Paired with the available Duramax 6600 V8 or the Big Block Vortec 8100 V8, the Silverado 3500 “Big Dooley” was a muscled-up workhorse of a truck.
An Allison 1000-series transmission and four-wheel ABS disc brakes meant that you had a lot of control over the truck on the road. Given the absolute mammoth size of the dual-rear-wheel configuration of the Silverado, with the long box and extended cab, it was aptly known as the “Big Dooley.” At the time, you could expect a maximum trailer rating of 15,800 lbs. While numbers for the 3500 series of pickup trucks have more than doubled since then for the Silverado, at the time it was pushing some big fifth-wheel hitch figures that would still be impressive for trucks today.
No. 2: 1994 Dodge Ram 3500
The 1994 Dodge Ram 3500 was the first one-ton model year of the second generation of the Dodge Ram pickup. The three-quarter-ton 2500 was quite the monster, being a larger, heavier version than the Ram 1500 series that was available at that time, while the Ram 3500 was an even bigger version of the Ram 2500. Sales for the truck were startling, putting the Ram at the forefront of the consumer consciousness when it came to marketing and sales.
However, the real highlight of the Ram 3500 was that it had access to the highly coveted 8.0L V10 Dodge Magnum engine. That’s right—a V10. This was the engine that really put the Ram above the competition and offered something that no other trucks within the segment offered. The 3500, in particular, could not only be outfitted with a V10 Magnum engine but it could also be configured as a dually, with dual-rear-wheel drive. This turned the Ram 3500 into a beast of a truck, the likes of which few could rival at the time.
No. 1: 1986 Ford F-350 4×4
It’s almost more monster truck than typical 4×4, but that’s part of the appeal of the 1986 Ford F-350 4×4. Popular with mudding, off-roading, towing, hauling, trailering, and upfitting, the 1986 Ford F-350 is the one-ton pickup of choice for those who want an absolutely rugged vehicle for all sorts of rugged tasks. Whether shopping for new or used trucks for sale, there’s no denying that anyone who has an opportunity to get their hands on an ’86 F-350 will likely take it.
The highlight of this truck is that it came after some major retooling was done by Ford to make their trucks sleeker, more efficient, more reliable, and better when it came to gas mileage. As a result, it ensured that the truck was better designed but also retained the availability of the massive 460 cu.in. eight-cylinder V8 at 245 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque. The F-350 is a huge truck from that era, and it’s not uncommon to see it lifted, just as well it’s also not uncommon to see it as a dually. It’s a serious-sized truck for serious truck drivers, and it has definitely earned its place among the pantheon of great heavy-duty trucks.