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Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1990-93 Chevrolet Silverado 454 SS

Jim Brennan September 20, 2013 Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage 20 Comments

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Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a regular feature which aims to expand the notion of what a muscle car is, and to see if a truck can fit the definition of “muscle car.” I featured a Dodge Warlock and Lil Red Express a couple of weeks ago, and the Ford F-150 Lightning before that, so this is the third truck in this series. But how can you argue with a beast that has a 7.4 liter (alright, 454 cubic inches) of pure V8 brawn under the hood of a normal looking, workable truck? Let’s take a closer look at the original SS Sport Truck, the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 454 SS.

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To create the Chevrolet 454 SS, Chevrolet plucked its big-block V-8 from the heavy-duty-truck line, stuffed it into a short-box C1500 pickup, stirred in some special performance goodies, and colored the creation in Onyx Black. Thus emerged a relatively lightweight two-wheel-drive half-ton packing a monster 7.4-liter V-8. Although the V-8 produced only 230 horsepower, its strong suit was torque: 385 lbs/ft of it at a mere 1600 rpm. This kind of grinding force resulted in 0-60 mph in under eight seconds, which was Ford Mustang GT territory at the time.

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The whole package cost $18,295, including Bilstein shocks, quick-ratio steering, heavy front anti-roll bar, and beefy 275/60R15 tires on chrome styled steel wheels. Separate coolers were added for engine oil and transmission fluid, while a heavy-duty radiator kept the V-8 running cool. Silverado trim with Garnet Red cloth reclining high-back bucket seats; standard air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, and lightly tinted glass. Other standard equipment included stereo with equalizer, sliding rear window, power door locks and power windows.

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The only sign that this was no ordinary pickup was the red bowtie emblem, a blackout grille and six-slot chrome wheels. Though its ride was jouncy (as are most pickups from this period), many buff books reported that the SS handled with great agility for a truck. At highway speeds the truck could easily cruise all day at greater than legal velocities.

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For 1991 a “more civilized” 454 SS came out, with four-speed electronic automatic transmission, 25 more horsepower, and even higher torque: 405 lbs/ft at 2400 rpm. The rear-axle ratio was lowered to 4.10:1 for extra jolt off the line. On the dash was a tachometer, oddly omitted from 1990 models.

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These trucks were only produced from 1990 to 1993, and according to one source, the production numbers are quite telling. For the 1990 Model Year, there were 13,750 Produced. However, from then on, it went downhill fast. Only 983 left the factory in 1991, 1,380 in 1992, and only 843 in 1993. So with a total run of close to 17,000 units, they aren’t exactly rare, but when you usually sell at least a million trucks a year, it’s just a drop in the bucket.

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Once again, I brought you a truck to see if the Garage can indeed have a performance truck that acts like a Muscle Car in it. With over 400 lb/ft of torque available, it’s enough to shift the earths axis, but that’s what I think. What do you guys think? Let me know.

Should the 1990-93 Chevrolet Silverado SS even be considered for entry into the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage?

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Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

  • DemonXanth

    I'm split here, on one hand they did basically nail the muscle car formula dead on "big motor in cheap car", on the other hand the 454SS really wasn't that great in execution. The 454 for that year was rather anemic and the Lightning was a much better package. It had a lot of potential and GM could've followed it up with a 502SS using the Vortec 8100, but they never developed that engine for power, just towing.

  • I know it's not the greatest metric in the world, that being aesthetics, but I always really liked the looks of the 454SS Silverado. I'm giving it a yes, because it looked better than the first generation Lightning, even if it was less capable. This was made back when I was a Chevy fanboy, so voting with the heart rather than the head.

  • cruisintime

    Car or Truck,Muscle is Muscle and that truck has it.

  • I had a poster on one on my wall.

    Actually, two or three of them. Each year Chevy would give away folded poster brochures at NYIAS and for a few years in row this, not the Corvette, was the poster child.

  • Displacement measured in cubes, and adorned on the vehicle? Yep, muscle.

    Though I would rather have a Lightning.

  • Corvette_Poncho

    230HP is embarrasing! Yes, it has good torque numbers but high 15s wasn't fast then and it sure isn't fast now. I've ridden in a few of these and they are snooze-fests. Yeah, its got a cool sticker and over all looks nice, but it needed something a bit more to be executed correctly. Perhaps being more than marginaly faster than an equivalent 350 powered truck would be a good start.

  • Xedicon

    Mmm… I dunno about "first" – the Jeep Comanche Eliminator was released two years prior, you should a write up on one for the next truck!

    • Marto

      Next one? I thought these features were rejigs of articles from some other car blog. Now defunct. I can't remember what it was called, but it was an Amazon blog. Whatever that is.

      • BlackIce_GTS

        Old concept, new content. It was at the CarDomain blog, worth a look if you haven't seen them. I like muscle cars, and I like obscure, so I'm happy the concept lives on.

        • Marto

          Oh, I would have sworn it's the same lot of cars. Thanks for seeing me straight. 🙂

  • dukeisduke

    Compared to the Lightning, I thought Chevy phoned it in with the 454SS. Basically a big engine and decal package. The Lightning gave up 104 cubic inches to the SS (351 vs 454), but made almost the same horsepower, was just as fast, and handled better.

  • Tim Francis

    I have an 89 C1500 Silverado that I purchased back in 1995. I’m now in the process of restoring it. I noticed a comment saying these Trucks were produced from 1990 – 1993, so what would be the difference in my 89 to the 90 thru 93 models, is it the 454 Beast Motor or are there other things these Trucks have that my 89 don’t have? I put a GM 355 – 5.8L Crate Motor in it back around 96, couldn’t tell any real difference in it compared to the stock 350 – 5.7L other than the stock motor blew up, lOl

    • Pax Humana

      Nice ride, Tim.

    • Rich

      Yes,its the fact that they have the 454 where as yours has the 350, the 454SS’s also had a beefier front sway bar, Bilstein shocks, quicker steering, 275/65R15 tires on chrome wheels, and bucket seats w/center console

  • Mo Halum

    what are the factory engine details for the 454SS that added the extra 25 horsepower in 1993 verse the regular 454 motor of 1993?

    • Rich

      Dual exhaust and improved air intake system, and it was actually for the ’91-’93 model years

  • Jc

    I have a 1990 454 ss truck I’m selling what is it worth? It’s clean no rust needs paint from fad/peel 7100miles if painted$?

    • eba

      10,000… I’ll trade a subaru impreza 2007?

  • Bob Forbes

    I have a unmolested 1990 454 SS. Man I love this truck ! Only downside is 10 miles to the gallon. A truck that handles like a car with torque that sets you back in the seat and the distinctive https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/aaea07f51befeeeaf8b593ead661c1e6dd0592971e76abfd2b1f692258c2b65c.jpg sound of a big block (gotta love it)

  • Dustin Brunner

    As an owner of a 1990 model I have to say I love mine! Unless you’ve owned or driven one you can’t really appreciate or understand what it’s capable of.