Friday, July 3, 2015

9k: Practically UseleSS: 1991 Chevrolet 454SS

Sometimes you can just look at a vehicle and think, "I bet that driver owns a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt." And while most trucks don't make good cars, the rare performance-special 454SS doesn't make much of a truck either. For $34,000 (in 2015), you got 2wd, a regular cab, regular bed, two seats, a 1,000-lb payload, and 10 mpg on the highway. Gas was cheaper then. In a way, it's like a Corvette with a fuel leak and blown struts, but more room for empty beer cans in the back. That's good enough for some people. Find this 1991 Chevrolet 454SS for sale in Yakima, WA for $9,000 via craigslist.

Before the SS, the SSR, or the HHR, there was the 454SS. Chevy built 16,953 of these trucks in its first year, 1990, and just 3,205 from 1991-1993. All had the big throttle-body injected 454 engine, Bilstein gas-filled shock obsorbers, a bigger front sway bar, fast-ratio steering gear assembly, and other special bits. but the later years are the ones to get. 1990 models had 230 horsepower and 385 lb-ft of torque, while subsequent years were blessed with 255 and 405, respectively. The three-speed TH400 was replaced with a four-speed auto for more relaxed highway driving. A tachometer was also added. Despite the lopsided production figures and technological inferiority, undriven 1990s frequently list for $25,000 on eBay. I don't understand cars sometimes.

Non-1990 models have held their value too, however, as evidenced by this car's 165,000 odometer reading and $9,000 price tag. It's largely original, down to the Garnet Red cloth interior and badges. The exhaust has shrunk up into an aftermarket bumper like it just stepped into a cold pool. Inside, an additional set of speakers have prolapsed from the door panels.

Motor Trend tested these at 15.8 seconds in the quarter mile, with a 0-60 time in the mid 7s, about the same as a 225-horsepower 1991 Mustang GT. They handled well for a truck - even better than their full-sized, 454-packing muscle-car forefathers (which isn't an accolade to be proud of). They may never appreciate the way the GMC Typhoon/Syclone surely will, but the torque rush from the big-block V8 is special in its own way. Special, like a barbed-wire tattoo. 

See another rare performance truck with more performance? Email us at

PhiLOL actually likes the tuna here, but abhors structural rust. Save the manuals.


  1. These could have been a lot cooler with a 4 speed manual and twice the power. If are going to the trouble of putting in a stick and warming-over an engine, might as well do it to a vehicle that isn't otherwise designed to transport material.

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  3. The last ones also had nicer interiors.

    The powertrain engineering on this was very simple - someone drove a forklift over to the 3/4-ton parts rack, picked up a pallet of L19 motors and TH400 (and later 4L80E) transmissions, drove it back to the 1/2-ton truck line, and said "Okay, bolt these in."

    Yeah, the L19 was better suited to industrial-generator use than any sort of vehicle application, Strong enough bottom end (at least the ones I've seen had four-bolt mains) but the remarkable 'peanut port' heads good for 7.6:1 compression and port sizes about the same as the E7 small-block Ford heads.

    You could back-date them to the earlier oval-port heads, or update them with the later L29 Vortec heads both of which were good for another point and a half of compression and valve and port sizes more appropriate to 7 liters of displacement, but you'd have to do something about the TBI at that point too.

    Unlike the Syclone it could do pretty much all the things a regular 1500 could do, but it wasn't all that special in any other way either, the Ford Lightnings that followed were more serious efforts.

    1. The SRT-10 Dodge Pickup is the one I like. Useless, unless you count destroying tires.

    2. Yeah, the 8+ liter Viper motor is about right.

  4. Im sure this could pull a stump

  5. Obligatory mention of Joe Dirt's mullet

  6. Obligatory mention of Joe Dirt's mullet


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