Look out, world: here comes the 1990–93 Chevrolet 454 SS hot rod pickup. It’s been a glowing dot on our radar for months now, buoyed by the interest of younger buyers. The big-block performance pickup has lived its entire life in the shadow of the GMC Syclone and Typhoon --- but three decades after its debut, the 454 is finally getting some marketplace respect.
Average values for the 1990–93 Chevy C1500 454 SS increased 1.3–1.4 percent in the latest Hagerty Price Guide update. If that doesn’t seem like much, consider this: #2 (excellent) condition values have increased 22 percent in the past year, 31–32 percent in three years, and 39–40 percent in five years. Buyers in their mid-50s and younger are mostly responsible for the rise, according to our insurance data.
“Like a lot of ’90s cars and trucks, the 454 SS is fairly popular among younger buyers, which is a good sign for collectability in the long-term,” says Hagerty valuation editor Andrew Newton. “Gen-Xers make up 39.5 percent of insurance quotes for this model, and Millennials make up 24.6 percent. Both figures are well above the market average, which is 32.3 percent for Gen-Xers and 21 percent for Millennials.”
One of the first performance-oriented pickups, the 454 SS featured “the good-old-fashioned brute force of a big-block fitted to the smallest, lightest pickup platform possible, and beefed up accordingly,” Newton says, then adds, “They’re great for burnouts.”
GM already had a winner with its 1988 C/K1500 series pickups, but something seemed to be missing from the domestic auto industry, and that was muscle. So Chevy took a 454-cubic-inch Mark IV big block and put it into a short-bed, regular-cab, half-ton pickup. Although the V-8 produced only 230 horsepower, it had plenty of torque—385 lb-ft—and that kind of force pushed the truck from 0–60 mph in less than 8 seconds. As Newton alluded to, big-block pickups are known for their ability to light up the rear tires, since there isn’t much weight in the back end.
For $18,295 ($36,450 today), the 454 SS performance package included black paint, a heavy-duty radiator, separate coolers for engine oil and transmission fluid, Bilstein shocks, quick-ratio steering, heavy front anti-roll bar, blacked-out grille, and six-slot chrome wheels with 275/60R15 tires. Unsurprisingly, gas mileage was abysmal: 9–11 mpg on average.
Built in limited numbers—about 17,000 or so, with 80 percent of those produced in 1990—the Chevrolet 454 SS pickup arrived before the 1991 GMC Syclone pickup and 1992–93 GMC Typhoon SUV. The compact GMC performance trucks are rarer and faster, however, meaning they’re also more sought after and much more expensive.
A 1991 Chevy 454 SS pickup in #2 condition has an average value of $23,700 in #2 condition. By comparison, a 1991 Syclone in similar condition is valued at $33,100, while a comparable 1992 Typhoon is valued at $28,400. Both GMCs have #1 (concours) values of more than $40,000. Bad (or good, depending on your perspective) news for Blue Oval fans: all three trucks continue to stay ahead of values for 1993–95 Ford Lightnings.
Newton says the Chevy pickup is following a market path similar to that of the Syclone, which nearly doubled in value in a short period in 2016 and is now worth 111 percent more than it was five years ago. If the same thing happens for the 454SS, it might encourage more owners to put more money into restoration and/or preservation. Can you imagine a world where relatively prosaic pickup trucks become the hottest collector vehicles of their time? Look out, indeed!