Sometimes products become new but not necessarily improved. That holds true for truck engines. While the current crop of pickup truck engines is technologically advanced, they’re at the end of the line. They are the last to be powered by internal combustion and not electricity. With that in mind, let’s look at the real iconic truck engines that have ruled over the last 60-plus years.
1955 to 1998 Chevrolet small block V8
This one is a no-brainer. Efficient, easy to modify, lightweight, powerful for its size, and dependable, it is everything we want and needs in a truck engine, even today. Of course, being carbureted, and based on early 1950s technology, the newer iterations of it are even better. Initially available as a 265 ci engine, it increased to 350 ci with 255 hp by 1969. It would go on to see 400 ci. And it was used in what was basically its 1955 self until the 2000s.
1959 to 1987 Dodge Slant-Six
Not known to be excessively fast (I know, I drive one today), the Chrysler Slant-six was introduced with 170 ci in 1959. In its 225 ci guise, it was indestructible. Though famous for its use in Dodge trucks, it landed in plenty of industrial applications just for this reason. It borrowed cylinder bore dimensions and four main bearings from the infamous Chrysler Hemi engine. For truck engines, you need reliability and lots of torque. There was no other engine on the planet that covered those two better than a Slant-Six. And it also powered plenty of Dodge and Plymouth passenger cars, too.
1991 and up Ford Modular Motor
When Ford wanted to up its game, one way was to replace its legendary small block V8 with the mod motor back in 1991. It is still available in today’s F-150 trucks. There have been a few issues associated with the mod motor from pickup owners. It’s dimensionally a large engine, but that is not a problem packaged into a cavernous truck engine bay.
1989 to 1998 Dodge Cummins B 5.9-liter six
Cummins engines were basically large truck engines. But by the mid-1980s, Ford and Chevrolet dominated truck sales, and Dodge had to do something. That something was the 5.9-liter diesel engine. It was the most powerful engine Cummins could pull off the shelf that fit into a pickup, with 400 lb-ft of torque. That smoked Ford and Chevy, giving it the best payload and towing capacity. It took some reengineering to beef up Dodge’s existing truck, but it was cheaper than tooling up an entirely new one, which didn’t happen until 1993.
2001 to 2006 Duramax 6.6-liter V8
First available in GMC and Chevrolet trucks in 1991, the LB7 6.6-liter V8 was much more sophisticated than either Ford’s or Ram’s diesel engines. With 300 hp and 520 lb-ft of torque, it leaps ahead of the others. It launched the horsepower and torque race in the diesel truck segment. The most desirable would be the 2006 LBZ. By 2007, tighter diesel emissions standards began, turning attention from power to pollution.
1972 to 1978 Dodge 7.2-liter V8
By 1972 the infamous 426 Hemi engine was gone, but it was never offered in any Mopar trucks. But the slightly more conventional 440 ci V8 was, and it was nothing to sneeze at. Rated at 225 hp, it was found in work trucks, and performance trucks too. It found its way into the Dodge Warlock pickups in 1978. And it was another V8 that was heavily supported by the aftermarket, so those 225 hp numbers were only a start. The 440 was the big engine for everything from lightened Dodge Dart drag cars to the giant Chrysler Imperials. But a 440 in a pickup just seemed like the best truck you could buy from Dodge back then.
2011 to 2015 Ford 6.7-liter PowerStroke V8
Initially, Ford got its diesel engines from International Harvester. But these were heavy and somewhat crude. Ford wanted more, so it designed its own Scorpion PowerStroke diesel engine. With reverse-flow heads, a turbocompressor, and 390 hp, that compounded to 738 lb-ft of torque, smog controls, and all. And if that doesn’t impress you, try 440 hp and 860 lb-ft in 2015.