5 Special Edition Trucks We Can't Believe Actually Got The Green Light

There's no question that trucks have become a huge phenomenon in the United States. So much so that pickups like the Ford F-Series, Chevy Silverado, and Ram accounted for three of the five bestselling vehicles in 2022. Pickups now come equipped with creature comforts that put the luxury cars of yesteryear to shame. Not to mention a myriad of uber-horsepower engine options and off-road packages. 

But once upon a time, pickup trucks were seen as little more than utilitarian workhorses with the sole purpose of hauling tools and materials for construction workers, farmers, and other blue collar pursuits. As the market matured, buyers started using trucks for personal transportation and even as status symbols, leading to increased demand for extra features, performance, and a sense of style commonly found only in passenger cars. 

In response, manufacturers started building special edition trucks offering custom appearance packages, engine upgrades, or other unique options not typically found in normal trucks. Here are just a few that represent an interesting cross section of specialty or novelty trucks that paved the way for the modern pickup truck revolution. 

2013 Ford F-150 Tonka Edition

In 2002, Ford shocked the automotive world by unveiling a hurt-your-eyes yellow F-350 Super Duty concept truck at the Detroit Auto Show. Passersby couldn't help but notice the Tonka emblems everywhere, a fitting throwback to the tough, metal toy trucks that so many of us grew up with. According to J Mays, then vice president of design at Ford, "We've had fun bringing to life a full-size pickup that reminds kids of all ages of the trucks they used to loved to punish in their sandboxes." The concept truck starred in a country music video but was never made available to the public.

Over a decade later, Ford executives revived the Tonka truck as a production model. After securing licensing from Hasbro toy company, Ford partnered with Tuscany Motor Company, a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier, to convert new F-150s into the over-the-top brodozer shown above. The first step was a 6-inch suspension lift, necessary to fit a set of massive 35-inch tall tires. Next, the body received beefy rocker panels, fender flares, a matching hard tonneau cover, and a custom hood with functional scoops. And of course, the requisite Tonka badges are omnipresent.

The F-150 Tonka also has the go to back up its show. An optional performance package from Shelby America, including a supercharger, boosted the 5.0 liter V8's output to approximately 700 horsepower. Tuscany Motor Company confirmed that they no longer build the F-150 Tonka, but beyond that, production details are murky. Our research points to a probable production run of approximately 200 to 300 trucks each year between 2013 and 2016.

1978 Dodge Jean Machine

Dodge had so many special editions of its half-ton pickup truck in the late-1970s that you could pretty much write this entire article without featuring any other brands. Beside the Warlock, Lil' Red Express, and others, meet the lesser-known 1978 "Jean Machine" D100. Only available as a regular cab, short bed truck, this automotive version of the Canadian tuxedo is resplendent with blue paint and orange stitching graphics on the hood, sides, and tailgate, along with matching "Jean Machine" emblems. Rounding out the exterior are unique two-tone white and blue road wheels.

The interior is adorned with faux denim (what else?) cloth upholstery with orange piping. Unlike some of the other Dodge special editions of the era which featured enhanced performance, the Jean Machine was equipped with unremarkable powertrains such as Dodge's 318 cubic inch V8 and 3-speed automatic transmission. Believe it or not, the Jean Machine wasn't the only denim-themed vehicle at the time. AMC also offered a Levi's interior trim package in its Gremlin, Hornet, and Pacer.

2006 Chevrolet Silverado Intimidator SS

To honor the death of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Sr., nicknamed "The Intimidator," Chevrolet introduced several special edition vehicles with an "Intimidator" theme, one of which was a Silverado Intimidator SS pickup truck in 2006. It wasn't radically different from a regular well-equipped Silverado SS, but it did have a few unique details. Only available in Black Onyx, the exterior had a proprietary rear tailgate spoiler, chrome grills, and custom badges. Inside, the cloth or available leather seating had "Intimidator" embroidered on the headrests.

Under the hood, the Intimidator Silverado was powered by a 345-horsepower 6.0-liter Vortec V8, which was also available in the standard Silverado SS. Unlike the standard SS, the Intimidator edition featured a lowered, performance-tuned suspension with Tenneco shocks and a stiffer front stabilizer bar. Oddly, although 1,033 trucks were planned, only 933 were actually produced. The remaining 100 units were revamped as regular Silverado SS trucks and sold the following model year. If you're wondering what's up with the 933 and 1,033 production numbers, this was meant to symbolize Dale's car number, 3.

1961 to 1964 Chevrolet Corvair 95 Rampside

The Corvair 95 trucks, so named for their 95-inch wheelbase (shorter than the passenger cars' 108-inch wheelbase), have the unique distinction of being the only rear-engine pickups on this list. Though to be fair, Volkswagen was also marketing a rear-engined pickup at the time. The Corvair version had an air-cooled 80-horsepower flat-6 engine powering the rear wheels through a two-speed automatic or four-speed manual transaxle. Even though the horsepower rating was the same as the Corvair passenger cars, the engine was specially tuned for cargo hauling with unique exhaust valves, lower compression ratio, and larger carburetors.

The Loadside version had a conventional tailgate at the rear of the cargo bed, but the Rampside featured a unique concept. A section of the passenger side of the truck was hinged at the bottom and could be lowered to form a ramp into the cargo bed. In both trucks, the engine occupied a large portion of the cargo area and after the initial novelty wore off with buyers, sales were poor. Although technically not a special edition, less than 21,000 Corvair 95 trucks were sold across all production years, the bulk of which were Rampsides.

2004 to 2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10

In July 2004, the Dodge Ram SRT-10 set a Guinness World Record for the fastest production truck. With NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan behind the wheel, the SRT-10 reached a top speed of 154 mph, all with the aerodynamics of a split-level ranch house. It could accelerate, too. Zero to 60 mph happened in just 4.9 seconds and an elapsed quarter-mile was covered in 13.6 seconds. Nowadays, there are several full-size trucks such as Ford's F-150 Raptor R and Ram's own TRX that could beat the SRT-10 in a drag race, but 20 years ago, it was something remarkable.

Designed by DaimlerChrysler's Performance Vehicle Operations division, the heart of the SRT-10 was an 8.3-liter V10 engine, which was basically a slightly detuned version of the engine powering Dodge's Viper sports car. In the truck, it produced 500 horsepower and 525 lb-ft of torque, backed by a four-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. Besides a Godzilla motor, the SRT-10 had a custom-tuned suspension setup with Bilstein shock absorbers and a lowered ride height. The exterior of the SRT-10 was distinguished with a unique hood scoop, huge (for then) 22-inch diameter wheels, and a hard tonneau cover with an integrated spoiler.