- Silverado SS 454 *Image Courtesy Jalopnik & GM Corp. Chevy Trucks

A Many Gallon Hat

More stones under the hood than you'll actually haul. This may or may not be a complement.....

3y ago

As trucks both classic and new experience a wave of momentum nearly two decades into this millennium, let's look at a level of Silverado that planted a seed of cool. Up to 1990, trucks were clunky, rattling, huffing, and puffing pieces of utility equipment that did everything in any climate. They were rusted, dented, often stripped down automobiles. Few dates were won with the family workhorse outside of grass roots America, but a good tool never goes unrecognized.

In a move quite taboo for the era, GM fast acting on campaigns of thunder, excitement, and heartbeat, put the word "Sport" next to "Truck". Traditional crowds would have had many long feverish nights struggling to accept this pairing of polarizing words. To win them over, Chevrolet put the big motor, an instantly identified 454 cubic inch plant up front. Drinking with an EFI system, these 7.4 liters promised unrivaled punch. Upon its 1990 release the big block made.....wait for it.....230 net horsepower. That's the same as the 5.7 liter (350 ci) Tuned Port Injection from '88 and forward in Camaro. 104 fewer inches making equal power all because of the injection method. Silverado SS 454 got TBI instead of TPI, a federal offense in horsepower hall.

The truck really focused on sport aspects because this was a two-wheel drive regular cab short bed. It's just big enough to bully an S10, but no where near a heavy-duty monster. Buying this truck meant someone wanted a predatory profile and dirt was not in the equation. Where the horsepower floundered, torque pulled through at 385 pound feet at a basement low 1600 rpm. Thank that twist for such respected 0-60 pulls in under 8 seconds. Territory like that is what saps some giddy-up from Mustangs and even ushers grumbles from distant Camaro cousins.

Second year SS454s gained a twenty-five horse bump and now churned out 405 foot pounds at a slightly higher 2400 rpm mark. The TH400 auto was out and a new 4L80E took equally dependable duty in keeping bow and stern connected. So with electronic fuel injection and transmission control, was this efficient? Hell no. This drive-train puts out pre-smog mpg ratings at 10 city and a whopping 11 for highway cruises. It's not like gas mileage is something that sells someone on a truck, but we'll keep extra quiet in case Al Gore is listening.

1991 was also the year GMC, basically Chevy with red badges, put out the Syclone, an S15 with all wheel drive and a turbocharged V6. It was also black and stood as the fastest accelerating vehicle sold much to the displeasure of Ferrari circles. In one year anything the SS454 wanted to accomplish had been obliterated by a smaller truck with a smaller engine. Then the impracticality glared. Sport trucks like the SS Silverado in their infancy were good for maybe three bags of feathers before being overloaded, more a novelty than serious muscle machine. But without this concrete cowboy, performance in trucks like the Raptor wouldn't have a model to work from.

Dead in 1993, the SS454 passed on its concept to Ford who introduced the SVT Lightning. The Ford could actually do work like base F150s, a stronger sell than Chevrolet. Then from the Lightning, Dodge created a delightfully absurd successor in the SRT-10, a Ram with 500 horsepower Viper V10 venom and a six-speed manual. A Six-speed was only available in short box as quad cab trucks made use of a four speed auto. The 505 cubic inch behemoth looks like an aero engine stuffed between the fenders.

From there Ford re-cocked and fired with their Raptor, a truck equally impressive on mud, rock, and sand while also being quick before the masses. It didn't win the horsepower war even with a new for 2010 6.2 liter V8 producing 411 hp and a complementing 434 lb ft of torque. This was the first inkling that new sport trucks needed to be rounded vehicles appropriate for any stage rather than just striking fear with graphics and paint. Now the Raptor ditched V8s for a twin turbocharged 3.5 liter V6, but it still pumps 450 horses even if you think it sounds like a Hoover.

All that we praise in trucks today goes back to the day of Terminator 2, Desert Shield, and that new sound called grunge. The SS454 hunkered down with steel in an image never before envisioned around trucks. A truck could be clean and mean, making enough thunder sitting still than it could on the hunt for hapless sports cars. Your farm truck didn't need to be a grocery getter because you kept this clean black coat tucked neatly in the barn. Members of higher classes somehow sprouted a respect for your truck although your collar was blatantly blue. The Bison is cool GM. Maybe take a chance on a cool all purpose muscle truck in the Silverado again.

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Comments (2)

  • Since GM was using Multi-Port Fuel injection, even while using all 7.4L of displacement, you still aren't gonna get much power out of that engine.

      3 years ago
  • Interesting time for trucks. Dodge had done the Dakota Shelby in 1989. Ford would produce the first Lightning and GMC did both the Typhoon and the Syclone. I remember seeing a few of the Chevy's and every now and then a Ford, but the Dodge and the two Jimmys I don't think I have ever come across any of them.

      3 years ago