Some cars, trucks, and SUVs become so popular on the market that they find their way frequently into movies, television shows, and other forms of pop culture. Sometimes the reverse happens, and a vehicle is featured in a television program, a movie, or some form of pop-culture media and manages to cement its legacy in the history of entertainment. That’s what we’re taking a look at here today when it comes to the 7 most awesome classic trucks from popular action films. It might even compel you to check out your local used truck dealership to pick up one of these classic trucks for nostalgia’s sake. So without further ado, let’s get right into it.
7: Cobra (1986) – 1978 Dodge D-100
The 1986 action film from George P. Cosmatos starring Sylvester Stallone in the titular role as the hard-nosed Marion “Cobra” Cobretti was never really a hit with critics (but let’s face it, most classic action films aren’t). Part of the problem is that the movie has a little bit of an identity crisis, being one part detective-thriller, one part action-crime drama, and one part horror-slasher. However, one thing that it absolutely nails perfectly is the action sequences. In particular, two big chase sequences, one involving the iconic custom gunmetal gray 1950 Mercury Monterey and the second involving a black 1978 Dodge D-100.
After the Monterey met its untimely end, the heroes found themselves being pursued by the villains once again late in the film. This results in a big chase sequence leading toward a steel-mill factory. Usually, the hero is driving the vehicle, but this time around, the 1978 Dodge D-100, featuring a conventional two-door cab and a V8 engine, was driven by the deuteragonist played by Brigette Nielsen. Stallone, meanwhile, was hanging out in the bed with a modified MAC-10, complete with a giant laser-sight mounted on the top and a front grip under the barrel. It’s an all-time iconic sequence. In the end, the Dodge D-100’s fate is no different than the Monterey, but it did allow for Stallone’s Cobretti to dispense some much-needed justice against the motorcycle-riding villains, making the truck look like quite the hero vehicle in the process.
6: The Terminator (1984) – 1973 Chevy C-10
One of the most iconic action-thrillers of all time is James Cameron’s 1984 cyberpunk masterpiece, The Terminator. The film helped further establish Arnold Schwarzenegger as a blockbuster star and would go on to spawn various sequels in the Terminator franchise (for better or for worse). But one thing that happened to be a standout in the film was a chase sequence near the end of the film, where a soldier from the future, Reese, attempts to protect Sarah Connor from Arnold’s T-101 series Terminator, who is in pursuit of the couple on his motorcycle.
Reese and Sarah make do with an uber-rugged 1973 Chevy C-10 half-ton pickup. Sporting a two-door cab and chrome bull bars, the C-10 quickly turned into a hero all its own during the end chase sequence, managing to just barely outlast the motorcycle-riding Terminator who was in hot pursuit. The 1973 C-10 model year was outfitted with a couple of different powertrains, with the upper-end trim featuring an impressive 307 cubic-inch V8. The high ride height and functionally symmetrical frame made it quite the standout during the sequence, and it’s easy why it’s considered a classic truck during the cinematic action scene.
5: The Expendables (2010) – 1955 Ford F-100
Critically panned but commercially loved, The Expendables franchise is a love letter to the bygone era known as “ultra-violence.” Many of the stars in the film are a who’s who of the genre from the 80s and 90s, touting big muscles, bigger guns, and equally big bad guys. But the first The Expendables wasn’t just about guns and explosions (though there were plenty); it was also a showcase of classic action chases. Specifically, there’s a mid-movie chase sequence involving a fully restored 1955 Ford F-100, and it’s beastly.
The second-generation F-series truck was brought back up to working order by the incomparable West Coast Customs, featuring a modified 5.0-liter 347 cubic-inch V8 engine. This was necessary so the truck could perform some high-speed feats during a showdown that involved Stallone and Jet Li trying to avoid being mowed down by Dolph Lundren and some evil henchmen. In an ode to Stallone’s 1986 Cobra, Jet Li is the one who hops into the back of the pickup this time around, sporting an MP9 in a sequence not too dissimilar to Stallone’s pickup truck showdown in Cobra. Stallone, however, hopped in the driver’s seat this time around, making the modified F-100 roar down the street in a fairly entertaining sequence, showcasing the F-100 as a durable and formidable speed king on the road.
4: Invasion USA (1985) – 1978 GMC K-1500
Chuck Norris starred in Cannon’s low-budget and highly popular Invasion USA in 1985. The film is as classic 80s as classic 80s gets, including Norris having an unlikely sidekick throughout the film. And no, it wasn’t an older partner just two days out from retiring, an attractive femme fatale, or a rookie cop learning the ropes. Norris’ sidekick throughout most of the film is actually an absolutely menacing-looking 1978 GMC K-1500 High Sierra.
Featuring a matte black finish, large all-terrain tires, four-wheel drive, and a powerful V8, the 1978 GMC K-1500 High Sierra looked every bit the part of a hero throughout the film. The added bed bars in the rear and bull bars in the front and rear made it just as formidable as Chuck Norris. In fact, it not only saved Chuck Norris’ character from incurring the wrath of bullets on various occasions but it was used frequently in the film by Norris to dispense of the villains and their transportation. It’s rare for a vehicle to have received as much of a heroic spotlight as the GMC K-1500 did in Invasion USA, but we’re all grateful for it.
3: Twister (1995) – 1995 Ram
When we talk about hero vehicles, it’s hard to think of a more prominent showcase of a pickup truck than the 1995 Ram in the action blockbuster film Twister. Within the film’s universe, it was supposed to be an 8.0-liter V10 Ram 2500, but occasionally a Ram 1500 was used for certain shots, so it was kind of a showcase for the variations of the half-ton and three-quarter-ton trucks. But who sweats the details? The main hook was that the Ram looked like an unstoppable champ taking on all manner of twisters and tornadoes in the 1995 film.
The red-colored Ram outlasted most of the other vehicles that met their demise throughout the blockbuster flick, but its resilience and durability during the action sequences resonated very strongly with audiences. In fact, during the film’s big finale, it was the Ram 2500 that helped get the data the team needed when the truck faced off against an F5 tornado while the two leads attempted to seek safety from the natural disaster. The indomitable heroism of the Ram helped bolster sales in 1996 by a significant degree and cemented it into the annals of cinematic history as a foe that isn’t afraid of anything more nature can throw at it.
2: Lone Wolf McQuade – 1983 Dodge Ramcharger
It’s not quite a traditional pickup truck, is it? But who cares? It’s still one of the most iconic, manly action sequences involving a Ram, a supercharger, and the resuscitating nectar called beer. The 1982 Chuck Norris film, Lone Wolf McQuade, is an icon among icons, and it’s mostly for the scene involving a 1983 Dodge Ramcharger. The setup is as over the top as you can imagine, but that’s what makes it all work.
Chuck Norris, as the eponymous McQuade, has been beaten up and captured by the bad guys, led by the late David Carradine. Instead of killing him outright, they decide to bury him alive…inside his 1983 Dodge Ramcharger. Absurd? Of course. Practical? No way. Villainous? Absolutely.
Exhausted, near death, and on the verge of suffocating inside the Dodge, McQuade washes the fatigue away with a can of beer before taking a swig. He then starts up the Ramcharger, activating the supercharger and unleashing a masculine yell as the vehicle plows through the dirt mound, perfectly taking out a bad guy along the way. This scene alone has been hailed as one of the very best comeback action sequences in movies, and it involves a V8-powered Ramcharger, no less!
1: The Driver (1978) – 1974 Chevy C-10
Walter Hill’s 1978 classic vehicular crime thriller, The Driver, is one for the ages. Not to be confused with Nicolas Refn Winding’s 2009 crime thriller with a similar name, Hill’s film is not about lingering shots on the protagonist as if he’s a visual muse. Instead, Hill puts a lot of the weight of the film on the shoulders of the vehicles driven by the lead, played by a stoically charming Ryan O’Neal. The climax of the film is a huge showdown between a couple of villains in a souped-up 1976 Pontiac Firebird and a hot cherry-red 1974 Chevy C-10 454 cubic-inch V8 half-ton pickup truck driven by O’Neal’s character.
Even though it’s just one model year after the pickup featured in The Terminator, the C-10 here is no average pickup. It grumbles when it idles and needs well over 100 feet of straight space in order to come to a complete halt after nearing its top speed. In many ways, it was showcased as a performance pickup with race-car qualities, nearly outdoing the Firebird at nearly every instance. This was something we didn’t usually see from movie trucks at the time. But as outlined by other films on this list, pickups would go on to become quite the heroes in future action film fare for decades to come. It’s no wonder they’re such popular vehicles at used truck dealerships.