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"Politically incorrect" in the extreme, Chevy's 454 SS helped introduce the muscle truck with big-block power and looks to match. See more truck pictures.

To create the 1990-1991 Chevrolet 454 SS, Chevrolet plucked its big-block V-8 from the heavy-duty-truck line, stuffed it into a short-box C1500 Sportside pickup, stirred in performance goodies, and colored the creation in mean Onyx Black.

Thus emerged an understated sleeper of a pickup, a relatively lightweight two-whee-drive half-ton packing a monster 7.4-liter V-8 -- that's 454 cubic inches.

Although the V-8 produced only 230 horsepower, its strong suit was torque: 385 lbs/ft of it at a mere 1600 rpm -- the kind of grinding force that resulted in 0-60 mph in under eight seconds, which was Ford Mustang GT territory at the time.

Remarkably, the whole package cost only $18,295, including Bilstein shocks, quick-ratio steering, heavy front anti-roll bar, and beefy 275/60R15 tires on styled chrome wheels. Separate coolers were added for engine oil and transmission fluid, while a heavy-duty radiator kept the V-8 comfortable.

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Luxury abounded, too: Silverado trim with Garnet Red cloth reclining high-back bucket seats; standard air, tilt, cruise, and tint; cassette stereo with equalizer; sliding rear window; power locks and windows.

Though rear beds warned the unwary to "beware the red bowtie," the beast looked quite ordinary otherwise. Only a blackout grille and six-slot chrome wheels suggested high performance.

Though its ride was jouncy, the SS handled with great agility for a truck. At highway speeds it was a screamer.

For 1991 a "more civilized" 454 SS came out, with four-speed electronic automatic transmission, 25 more horsepower, and even higher torque: 405 lbs/ft at 2400 rpm.

The rear-axle ratio was lowered to 4.10:1 for extra jolt off the line. On the dash was a tachometer, oddly omitted from 1990 models.

Collectible Pluses of the 1990-1991 Chevrolet 454 SS
  • A raw, invigorating big block that harkened back to the muscle car age
  • Superb performance
  • Agile handling
  • Luxurious interior
Collectible Minuses of the 1990-1991 Chevrolet 454 SS
  • Very thirsty: EPA rated 10 mpg city, 11 mpg highway
  • Small payload, barely half a ton maximum
  • 1990 model must have aftermarket tachometer installed
  • Values never took off

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