There was a gang of TV shows in the 1950-1990s where a cool pickup was as integral as any character actor, maybe even more so. We miss some of these shows while others, well, they are best left to memory. Still, with an average TV series broadcasting 26 shows a season not counting summer reruns, you had plenty of opportunities to catch a glimpse of the show’s four-wheel star. Here are our picks for the ten best TV trucks of all time.
The Beverly Hillbillies
1921 Oldsmobile Backyard Pickup
Believe it or not this was the number one-rated show for a number of years in the mid-1960s. The opening titles placed this 1921 Oldsmobile truck front and center each week. Though Olds never made a pickup, it was created by none other than customizer George Barris to depict a beat old car turned into a backyard pickup. It came up for auction a few years ago selling for $275,000. That’s a lot of Texas tea for a beat-up old truck.
1958 D-200 Dodge Pickup
Everyone knows Lassie even if some of us were too young to have seen the series. Featured in most episodes from the late-1950s and 1960s was Timmy’s dad Paul’s 1958 D-200 Dodge pickup. It is a memorable TV truck because they are fairly rare and are distinctive with those split-rim wheels. While new when first rolled out for the show it was used for the duration and got a surprising amount of air time.
The Fall Guy
1982 GMC K2500 Pickup
Used in the series by star Lee Majors as a Hollywood stuntman and bounty hunter, the 4 x 4 pickup was thrashed in almost every episode. The brown, lifted GMC could be seen regularly flying over bumps and hills in pursuit, or being pursued. Originally, two modified pickups were used, but they got so damaged from the endless jumps that a third truck was created with a tube chassis and mid-engine placement.
1977 GMC K1500 Stepside
The blue stepside was the daily TV truck for CHIPs lead Officer John Baker for the entire run of the show from 1977-1983. Used for chase scenes and light stunt work, it had to survive as it was the lone truck GMC supplied to the show. Besides the brush guard, roll bar and accessory lights, it featured custom stripes running along the doors and over the top to make it more distinctive.
The Rockford Files
1976 GMC Sierra K1500 Fleetside
Though not a prominent prop, the 1976 GMC pickup was owned by the father of James Garner’s character Jim Rockford, played by veteran actor Noah Beery Jr. Garner was an off-road racer in real life and so one of his racing sponsors Vic Hickey supplied the aftermarket pieces on Rocky’s pickup. The small-block engine was also modified. Besides being used to help identify the Rocky character, it was occasionally used by Garner’s character to chase bad guys or to get away from them.
The Dukes of Hazzard
1973 Ford F-100 Pickup
Variations of character Uncle Jesse’s Ford pickup wound up on many episodes of the show which ran from 1979-1985. As the General Lee Dodge Charger and Daisy’s Road Runner were integral to the show, many scenes used those vehicles, with this truck taking a role in those chase shots. Unfortunately, the producers used whatever looked close to the 1973 F-100 as other year pickups in the same color were substituted from time-to-time with the hope viewers wouldn’t notice. But us truck junkies always did.
Simon & Simon
1979 Dodge Power Wagon
Most of the pickups used on TV shows had distinctive graphics to help the viewer identify the character’s vehicle. One of the most distinctive was a 1979 Power Wagon with the Macho Package used by Gerald McRaney’s character Rick. Rick and brother AJ, played by Jameson Parker, played two detectives in San Diego. The show ran from 1981 to 1989 with the Power Wagon seen in most episodes. Two identically modified Power Wagons were used. That distinctive Macho package was available from Dodge in 1977-1981.
Walker, Texas Ranger
1993 GMC K1500/1994 Dodge Ram 1500
Two pickups were featured prominently in this series running from 1993-2001 featuring Chuck Norris. Only in the first season did Norris’ character Walker drive the GMC. From 1994 to the end of the show he drove the extended cab 4 x 4 Dodge, featured in virtually each episode.
Sanford and Son
1952 Ford F-1 Pickup
Though not seen in many episodes this beat F-1 pickup was seen in every opening of the show. It featured stand-up comedian Redd Foxx as a junk dealer living with his son, played by Demond Wilson. Blueline Classics in North Royalton, Ohio, purchased the actual TV truck a few years ago and got it running and reliable, showing up at car and truck shows looking exactly as it did on the show.
1929 Ford High Boy Roadster Pickup
Roadster pickups were popular in the 1920s, but slowly died in the 1930s as closed cabs were more practical. But hot rodders loved them. This is a 1929 Model A Ford roadster pickup body sitting on 1932 Ford frame rails, which was a typical hot rod conversion back in the 1950s. The TV truck was seen periodically during the run of the Happy Days show including at the end of each week’s opening credits.