The 2021 Ram 1500 TRX Family History: Ranking Every Dodge High Performance Pickup Trucks
The Ram 1500 TRX truck has done a cannonball into the off-road performance pool with its supercharged engine and ultra-aggressive styling. It's the latest entry in a long family tree of Dodge and Ram pickups that have dared to step out of line and provide a dollop of high speed fun to go with their practicality.
Dodge, and now Ram, have long been willing to take a chance on trucks that were just as much aimed at having a good time as they were at earning their keep. Check out our ranking of each and every high performance pickup ever built by Dodge, and see if you agree with our choices.
1. Ram 1500 TRX
There's little reason not to crown the Ram 1500 TRX the king of all Mopar performance pickups. Borrowing the supercharged 6.2-liter V8 from the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, the TRX boasts 702 hp and whopping 650 lb-ft of torque, which is more than enough to satisfy even the most demanding muscle truck enthusiast.
The upcoming Ram also features a suspension package designed to take on the dune-bashing Ford F-150 Raptor, which means it will have straight-line guts for the street (running the quarter mile in under 13 seconds and hitting 60-mph from a standing start in 4.5 seconds) to match its off-road toughness.
2. Dodge Ram SRT-10
The Dodge Ram SRT-10 was just as over-the-top as the current Ram TRX when it debuted for the 2004 model year. Featuring an 8.3-liter V10 engine lifted from the Dodge Viper, the Ram SRT-10 boasted 500 horsepower and 525 lb-ft of torque. This was unheard of from a pickup truck in that era, and the Ram's six-speed manual gearbox was like gasoline on the hooligan fire for anyone seeking to incinerate their yearly tire budget in the space of just a few hours.
An extended cab model (complete with a four-speed automatic transmission) would also eventually be added to the line-up. While it had an impact on the Ram's raw performance, it gave an extra dimension to the SRT-10's line-up that let the vehicle be appreciated by those who wanted the shock-and-awe of the V10 combined with a more civilized daily drive / towing experience.
3. Dodge Ram Lil' Red Express / Midnite Express
The mid to late 1970s were dark time for fans of domestic muscle cars, with smog-choked motors and energy crisis-induced long lines at the fuel pump sucking most of the fun, and all of the wow-factor, out of performance vehicles.
One of the few bright points of the era came from Mopar in the form of the Lil' Red Express. Offered in 1978, it took the standard D-Series pickup platform, outfitted it with a wood-accented stepside box, and grafted massive 18-wheeler-style hater pipes just behind the cab to create the most unique-looking pickup of its time. The Lil' Red Express also took advantage of a keen reading of truck-related pollution control regulations to delete catalytic converters from the equation and free up 225 horsepower from its 5.9-liter V8—strong stuff in a period where Mustangs and Camaros were struggling to reach the 200 horsepower mark. It was said that the pickup could best the Chevrolet Corvette in a drag race thanks to its more aggressive gear and deeper breathing engine.
Produced at the same time, but in much smaller numbers, was the 1978 Dodge Ram Midnite Express. Converted from the D Series Warlock trim level (another member of the 'Adult Toys' line-up that included each of these pickups), it looked identical to the Lil' Red Express, only in black, and it swapped in a 440 cubic inch V8 on some models (although any Dodge engine could be specified at ordering time).
Offered for a single year, the Lil' Red Express was followed by the Lil' Red Truck the year after—an almost carbon copy, with the addition of cats after federal regulators intervened.
4. Dodge Dakota R/T
At the end of the 1990s Dodge went all-in on the mid-size muscle truck concept with the Dakota R/T. Whereas the Ford Ranger and Chevrolet S-10 were stuck with four and six-cylinder engines, the R/T boasted a 5.9-liter V8 as an upgrade over the already class-leading 5.2-liter unit found in the standard Dakota.
The R/T's 250 horsepower and 345 lb-ft of torque were enough to topple the Mustang GT of the day, and with a lowered chassis, thicker swaybars, and larger brakes, the Dodge pickup was a decent handler, too. Throw in an aggressive striping package and a limited-slip rear differential, and the Dakota R/T was a drag truck that you could tow and haul with when you weren't winning the stoplight grand prix.
5. Dodge D100 Special Performance Package
If you've ever wanted a big block classic truck, the Dodge D100 with the Special Performance Package is perhaps the most overlooked model on the market.
Offered for a very short period in the mid-1960s, a handful of D100s received a 426 cubic inch Street Wedge engine along with a tachometer, a stiffer suspension system, and a dual exhaust. With 365 horsepower, the Special Performance Package was no joke, but it was seriously expensive compared to the base truck. At a time when pickups were more often used as workhorses rather than commuters, less than 50 buyers took the plunge.
6. Dodge Shelby Dakota
The Dakota's first kick at the performance truck can came in 1989. Carroll Shelby's design team added a 5.2-liter V8 to the Dodge mid-size pickup and gave it a sticker package, unique wheels, and its own badging to create modest sizzle out on the streets.
Featuring 175 horsepower under the hood (a five horsepower boost over the regular 5.2-liter option that would debut a year later), the Shelby Dakota wasn't all that impressive from a speed perspective, but it was the first eight-cylinder small truck to be sold in America, and it helped demonstrate to Dodge that there was a market for low-volume pickups with a high fun factor.
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