Pickup trucks are, first and foremost, workhorses incredibly popular in the North American market. Their prior qualities are practicality and functionality rather than visual appeal and design. The Indy Auto Man used truck dealer claims buyers never place the main focus on beauty when choosing a pickup in Indianapolis. Experts agree with this approach, but sometimes you can’t help but notice the ugly shape of vehicles. Sometimes they have no excuses! Let’s look at these pickups without taking the Cybertruck into account because, as they say, picking the low-hanging fruit is pretty boring.
For the 2002 model year, GM introduced the Chevrolet Avalanche, which is remembered for its controversial design, despite being nominated for the North American Pickup Truck of the Year award in 2003. It seemed to mix elements of a Suburban SUV and a Silverado pickup, resulting in an appearance that lacked cohesion and completeness. Its bulky design has drawn criticism for its awkward proportions. Despite its practicality and functionality, including a removable partition between the cabin and cargo bed, the Avalanche’s unconventional design certainly made it stand out, but not in the way that GM’s managers would like. The identity crisis led to a complete change in design already in the second and final generation of the SUT (Sport Utility Truck), as the manufacturer called it. The same applied to sister Cadillac, which produced an equally depressing Escalade EXT pickup.
In the 1960s, Ford released a van based on the Ford Falcon, followed by the Econoline pickup truck for the 1961 model year, which had a very ugly appearance, somewhat reminiscent of the Volkswagen Type 2 pickup truck. Its seats were located directly above the front axle, and the radiator grille was borrowed from a Ford Thames 400E van. Thanks to the low engine bay, spacious cabin, and 7-foot-long cargo bed, its weight was concentrated in the front, and the teardrop-shaped headlights seemed a dubious choice. Ford initially thought the Econoline pickup would outsell the van, but the opposite happened: the van outsold the pickup nine to one. This uniquely styled Econoline was produced for only one generation and was discontinued after 1967.
Older compact pickups like the Subaru Brat tend to be unlovable and quickly forgotten, but you’ll never forget the 1982 Dodge Rampage. It was Chrysler’s answer to the Volkswagen Rabbit Sporttruck and similar cars. Its platform was based on Chrysler’s FWD L-body, typical for sports coupes such as the Dodge Charger. It even appealed to Carroll Shelby, who was seriously considering plans to create a super-powerful Rampage. By the way, a 2.2-liter four-cylinder OHV engine was under its hood. It’s a shame Dodge spent so little effort on the exterior. The grille, headlights, and bumper resembled a vacuum cleaner, and the asymmetrical hood only made it worse. The back was vague and unmemorable. In 2006, Dodge tried to revive the Rampage as a large pickup truck with swing doors, but it wasn’t much prettier than the original.
Toyota Tundra Stepside
The 2003 Tundra Stepside looks like an ordinary pickup truck from the front, but its rear end was probably based on a Chrysler PT Cruiser, which isn’t the best thing to imitate. A practical truck with a ground clearance of 11 inches and a body length of about 6 feet could cover any terrain with much cargo on board but failed to reach the hearts and minds of potential buyers, making their eyes bulge at it in Toyota showrooms. And then there was that awkward step on the rear fender! At the same time, the mechanics of the Tundra pickup were impeccable. The Stepside model was introduced with a variety of engines and an excellent all-wheel drive system. There was plenty of space in the cab. Overall, it was an outstanding pickup truck, but, unfortunately, only on the inside.
The Subaru Baja, produced from the 2003 to 2006 model years, played in a league of its own. It was intended as a spiritual successor to the Subaru BRAT but was essentially a crossover based on the Subaru Outback, turned into a pickup truck. This made it a four-door truck with all-wheel drive and a 2.5-liter Boxer. The idea was cool and, perhaps, even ahead of its time (given the popularity of the Hyundai Santa Cruz and Ford Maverick today), but the concept of a crossover with a body hanging off the back looked awkward. Subaru’s goal was to sell 24 thousand cars a year, but, in total, they only managed to sell 30 thousand. Many are suggesting that Subaru revive the Baja, and if that ever happens, enthusiasts hope the new version looks better than the original.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so one might think some of these trucks look stunning, and experts won’t argue. In such ratings, there is always an element of taste and personal preference.