The 9 best TV pickup trucks of all time
If you grew up glued to the tube in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, you know Hollywood was car crazy. While your television screen was full of Italian exotics and big, bad American muscle cars from the General Lee to KITT, there were plenty of prime time pickup trucks, as well.
Many of the most popular television shows of the era that were famous for their star cars—The Rockford Files, CHiPs, and The Dukes of Hazzard, to name a few—also featured star trucks. Some hit shows, like The Fall Guy, were all about the pickup.
Here are our picks for the nine best TV pickup trucks of all time. Let us know if we missed any.
1982 GMC K25, The Fall Guy
This big brown 4×4 appeared in all 112 episodes of The Fall Guy from 1981–86. Starring Lee Majors and Heather Thomas, the action series was about a Hollywood stuntman who moonlighted as a bounty hunter. Produced by Glen A. Larson, who also had success with star car shows like Magnum P.I. and Knight Rider, The Fall Guy was full of stunts, and the full-size pickup was famous for flying high. GMC originally supplied two trucks for the production, both modified with parts from Dick Cepek, but the stunts and jumps took their toll. After replacing numerous front axles on the first two, a third stunt truck was built with a tube chassis and a mid-engine configuration.
1977 GMC K15 Fenderside, CHiPs
A GMC square body was also part of the appeal of CHiPs, which ran on NBC from 1977–83. The blue four-wheel-drive K1500 Fenderside didn’t appear in all 139 episodes, but it was often seen and would occasionally perform some light stunts. GMC only supplied a single truck to the production, and it was driven by one of the two main characters, Officer John Baker, so it had to last. Like the truck used in The Fall Guy, it was modified with parts from Dick Cepek, including a roll bar, push bar, and lights. However, unlike the The Fall Guy truck, the CHiPs truck wasn’t lifted, and it received a custom paint job with stripes on its doors and front fenders.
1976 GMC Sierra K15 Wideside, The Rockford Files
GMC’s product placement folks were busy in the late 1970s and also supplied a single truck to the production of The Rockford Files, starring James Garner. Although the show began in 1974, the truck didn’t join the series until 1977, when it began appearing as the ride of Rockford’s father, Rocky. This truck, a Sierra Classic, also received many modifications, but the parts used were from Vic Hickey, who had a relationship with Garner’s off-road race team. Unlike the CHiPs truck, this square body also got a boost in horsepower with a “warmed over” 400-cubic-inch V-8. Other mods included a 52-gallon fuel tank in the bed, custom pinstriping, and a CB radio.
1973 Ford F-100, The Dukes of Hazzard
Uncle Jesse’s grungy white Ford certainly wasn’t the star of this series. In fact, the two-wheel-drive pickup played third fiddle (fourth?) behind Bo and Luke’s orange 1969 Dodge Charger, Daisy’s Road Runner, and later, Daisy’s Dixie Jeep CJ. However, like the General Lee, the F-100 was a vehicular staple of the series, which ran from 1979–85, and it was often part of the action sequences and car chases. It was even jumped on occasion. Dozens of like pickups were used throughout the show’s six seasons and they weren’t always the same model. Sometimes earlier and later trucks were used, and occasionally Jesse was driving a long-bed F-250. We just weren’t supposed to notice.
1979 Dodge Power Wagon, Simon & Simon
This series about two private detective brothers in San Diego ran from 1981–89. The preppy brother, A.J., drove a 1957 Chevy convertible and later a modified third-gen Chevy Camaro Z28. The other, Rick, had one of the TV’s coolest pickups, a 1979 Dodge Power Wagon long-bed with the Macho Package and a battering ram wrecker front bumper. The faded red 4×4 also featured a roll bar, auxiliary lights, a lift kit, and black wheels wrapped in oversized knobbies. According to some reports, two trucks were used, a 1979 and a slightly different 1980 model. Dodge only offered the Macho Package with its vertical Power Wagon graphics on the trucks bedsides from 1977–81. Ram reintroduced the look just a few years ago.
1993 GMC K1500 Stepside, Walker, Texas Ranger
This series, starring Chuck Norris, was fashioned after Norris’ hit 1983 movie Lone Wolf McQuade. The show was also a hit and ran from 1993–2001. In the first season, Norris drove a new GMC extended cab stepside with a few modifications, including a mild lift kit, wheels, a push bar, and a roll bar with KC lights. The truck was part of a product placement deal with General Motors, so several were used and there were other GM vehicles featured on the show.
1994 Dodge Ram 1500, Walker, Texas Ranger
In season two of Walker, the GMC was replaced with a newly restyled Dodge Ram. This was really righting a wrong, as Norris’ character in Lone Wolf McQuade drove a Dodge Ramcharger, so he belonged in a Mopar. Like the GMC, Walker’s new pickup was four-wheel drive and an extended cab. It was also dark silver and modified with a push bar, roll bar, and lights. Norris would continue to drive the Ram for the remaining eight seasons of the show, and it would become one of the most well-known TV pickup trucks ever.
1951 Ford F1, Sanford and Son
This one’s interesting because Sanford and Son, which ran on NBC from 1972–78, is the only 30-minute situational comedy on this list. Starring legendary comedian Redd Foxx, the show was about a junk dealer in Los Angeles who lived with his son, Lemont, played by Demond Wilson. For car lovers, the star of the show was Fred’s 1951 Ford F1. It didn’t appear in many episodes, but the weathered red pickup was prominently featured in the show’s introduction, with Wilson behind the wheel and its famous Quincy Jones musical theme providing the soundtrack. In 2014, the owners of Blueline Classics in North Royalton, Ohio, bought the truck used in the series. Big fans of the show, they spruced it up but left the truck’s natural patina and displayed the Ford at the Hot Rod Power Tour a year later. It still looks exactly as it did on your TV screen over 40 years ago.
1969 Ford F100, Starsky & Hutch
This cop drama, which ran on ABC from 1975–79, is best known for its 1975 Ford Gran Torino, the red one with the big white strip and staggered slot mags. But in the fifth episode of season four, the two city cops traded the Torino for a long-bed Ford pickup and headed for the country, leaving Huggy Bear and the littered alleys of downtown Los Angeles behind. Posing as country boys, they went undercover in search of bootleggers selling a lethal brew. They even wore cowboy hats. The episode is called “Moonshine,” and it aired on October 17, 1978, three months before The Dukes of Hazzard would debut on rival network CBS. Although two-wheel drive, the red pickup was raked like Starsky’s Torino and wore staggered turbine-style wheels, which were all the rage in the late 1970s. It was also a manual.