Hooniverse Asks- When it Comes to Pickups, Stepside or Flareside?

junkyard of pickups

When it comes to pickup trucks, the world is filled with divisions- Ford vs. Chevy, foreign vs. domestic, full-sized vs. compact. Today I want to add to the discordant discourse by finding out which on side of the divide you all stand when it comes to one more aspect of pickup truck preference, that being fenders out or fenders in.

At the dawn of the automotive age, there was no such choice, all trucks – and all cars for that matter had fenders that were separate from their bodies. It was the quest for speed that began in the 1930s that gave aerodynamics a more important role in automotive design, making mono-bodies the norm. For trucks it took almost two decades to catch up, the fiberglass fendered Chevy Cameo Carrier and wagon winged Dodge Sweptside models arriving in the late fifties.

For the next decade and a half the smooth paneled Flareside – or Fleetside, or Styleside if that’s how you roll – seemed to dominate the market. It wasn’t until the mid seventies that pickup boxes without encroaching wheel arches once again seemed to find favor. Today, you’re more likely to see the more aero-shaped smooth sides on new trucks, but plenty of each type are available on the used and abused market. For today’s Hooniverse Asks, I want to know which style is your preference? 

Image: WelcomeToMyYardShow

77 Comments

  1. For actual usage, smooth sides. For cool factor, Flareside! Would love to have a 92 F-150 Flareside "Nite" edition and build it up with a worked 5.8.

  2. I would imagine that a flareside carriers more crap in the bed, but I think the stepside looks cooler.
    Can I vote yes?

  3. Well, the initial question is like asking Ford vs Chevy, because Flareside is Ford's equivalent of what Chevy calls Stepside. Fleetside is what I've known as smooth, no steps, but I think that might just be a Chevy term.
    I would take a stepside on the older trucks (pre-1988 for Chevy, I don't konw when exactly the others switch to a more modern body style). The step side on new trucks just looks goofy though, so I'll stick with a fleetside for a newer truck.

    1. I’m glad that I refreshed before posting pretty much the exact same things. Both the correction on the term Flareside, and the GMT400 being the cutoff for which trucks should have which bed.
      I’m with you on the general old versus new style cutoff, but I’d add at least one exception. The second-gen Lightning just wouldn’t have looked right with straight bed sides.

      1. Yep, I'll third that. Every time I see a stepside Tundra – which isn't often – I giggle a little bit to myself.

        1. I drove by a tacoma yesterday that was flaresided and thought to myself that thats even funnier looking than the tundra version. Their couldnt have been alot of flairside tacos built as the last time I remember seeing one was three years ago.

          1. That must have been aftermarket – I'm not aware of there ever being a factory stepside Tacoma.

    2. Dodge's term for the smooth side bed was Sweptline, and Utiline for the step beds. And yes, Fleetside is Chevy (and maybe GMC).

    3. Even stranger looking is a stepside truck with a camper top. I used to see the quite a bid on GMT400 trucks. The top would flare out to meet the side of the cab.

      1. Yeah, they do look weird. And they're pointless, too- the idea behind steps is obviously easier access into the bed. When you put a topper on, you can't really get into the bed from the sides (except for the few toppers that have opening side windows). And you've got the smaller bed, so you've lost out on storage space, too.

      2. I had an '89 K1500 Stepside with a really nice paint-matched A.R.E. topper. Yeah, it had the weird "flares" to meet the cab.
        It wasn't the greatest in the looks department, but the "flares" made for really nice shelves when camping.
        I didn't buy the topper, but the receipt was in the glove box. $1200 in 1990. Steep!

    1. I worked three summers as a summer camp maintenance guy when I was in college, and one year my work truck was a donated 70s Ford flatbed, with a 300ci straight 6, a 4-speed with a granny gear that redlined at 3 mph, and a 1990s F450 rear end.
      That damned truck was awesome. Had tool boxes under the bed, in front and behind the wheels, so when I wasn't hauling firewood or building materials, the 8' x 11" bed was huge and empty. Felt like you could play football on it.
      I liked that a lot. Might like it enough to buy another in the future.

  4. Wait, I was under the impression that Flareside and Styleside were names for stepsides…
    In any case, I'll take smoothside, you can get more in the bed, and I think stepsides look ugly.

    1. Ahh, I was beaten to the laughing-at-the-Tundra comment. Yeah, I could live with the step and the haunches, but the taillights are just silly, like the baroque American noses on '70s Datsuns. The rest of the first-gen Tundra is clean (although the facelift chrome grille has one bar too many), but that stepside bed… dang.

      1. Fill in the step and mold in some slimmer taillights and I think they would look so much better.

        1. Agreed… that, to me, is the perfect modern pickup truck.
          You know what they say: if it ain't baroque, don't fix it.

  5. Flaresides offer more utility. Trucks are utility vehicles. By the power of the transitive property, flaresides.

    1. At one point, the F150 Flairside bed capacity was less than a Ranger fleetside.
      Yea.

  6. I have a pretty strong opinion on this. Stepside generally speaking has looked awful on nearly everything from the mid eighties onwards because of the odd drop in behind the bed. It throws off the whole damn thing – S10 stepsides are a particularly annoying example.
    The round 90s F150 almost pulls it off, but the GM offerings have been too square to really "fit" the stepside body. It also certainly drastically reduces the cargo carrying capacity- an expected feature of a "truck".

  7. I regularly fill my truck to capacity. That's what trucks are for.
    That capacity would be smaller if it were a stepside.

  8. I got a close look at one of the Ram Box beds on the full size Doges. It gives you the bed capacity of a step side with the look of a fleetside, with the little locking storage boxes.
    <img src="http://www.dirtdirectory.com/ART/products/27039_09Dodge-QTwRamBoxOpen.jpg"width=500&gt;
    This seems to offer the worst of both worlds.
    Put my vote down for Fleetside, preferably with an 8' foot bed. I did sacrifice and get a 6.5' bed on my extended cab Silverado, but that was due to cost and parking concerns if the wife drives it. I at least got a bed extender, which I have used several times now.

    1. I think the Rambox is outstandingly practical! The intrusion of the wheel wells into a flairside bed always makes fitting things into it problematic. Anything too big to lift has to be narrow enough to roll in between the wheel wells, and you end up having to cram smaller stuff into the awkward spaced in front and behind them. The Ramboxes offer space approximately equal to those odd corners, but offer security and weather protection par with to a hard tonneau for all those little (easily pilfered) items, without losing the functionality of a an open bed for the big stuff. I think it's genius.

      1. You probably like Avalanches too. When they first came out I thought they were great. Then I got to see and attempt to use my in-law's Avalanche up close. It combines the worst feature of a SUV with the worst features of a full size truck and hardly any benefits. I couldn't even load a queen size mattress in it. All the little stuff that would go in the Ram Box can just as easily go in the cab, under, on, or behind the seats.

          1. I'm not sure about Ford and Chrysler, they probably have something similar, but I know the GM has some crazy rebates on full size trucks right now. They had similar rebates when I bought my truck in Feb. 2011. I just refinanced it to a lower interest rate this week. The loan value is still more than I paid for the truck 2-1/2 years ago!

      2. Should read "…awkward spaces in front and behind…" and "…protection on par with a hard…"
        I was up until 2:30 AM painting basement walls, so I'm a bit stupid today.

    2. I don't see that as significantly reduced capacity. The storage space is still there (less the thickness of the wall between the bed and the Ram Box), it's just in a different format: lockable and weather-resistant. That isn't a bad thing for a pickup to have.
      Many truck owners accomplish much the same thing by installing a tool box across the front of the bed, but that creates even more unusable pockets of dead space.

    3. Don't they charge some ridiculous price for the Rambox option? My Tacoma has tons of storage in two lidded compartments under the rear seat.

      1. $1295 and apparently only available on the 5'7" crew cab bed in 2013. At least that's the only way it shows up on the website.

    1. Agreed. I've always preferred the regular cab/long bed set up. Much more truck like than these 'four-door-short-bed-practically-SUVs' trucks that are rolling up and down the highway now. I'd love to get a second gen long bed Dakota and convert it to 4×4; which wasn't an option for the long bed configuration.

  9. I love both, for different reasons. I in general prefer stepsides aesthetically, and being able to hop up and throw something over the side easily is nice too. But having that couple extra feet of width is always nice too, and it's not like most full boxes are that much worse looking than stepsides. So it all comes down to the truck in question. And my fickle mood of the day.

  10. Much like Rob Thomas and Santana, I like things smooth. So fleetside it is.
    Stepside does make sense if you have a truck from the '70s or '80s that is modified for off road use and you're possibly chasing down drug smugglers in the desert.

    1. Has anybody ever put a rampside door into a Greenbrier? Because that would be an awesome dog hauler for older dogs.

  11. I've owned a couple of pick-em-ups, both work trucks, and Sweptside for the win.
    The 'pockets' in front of and behind the wheel wells allow for much more volume of stuff, even if it's semi-rigid, and the wheel wells are the same width as a stepside.
    I really like the idea of Dodge's lockable outside storage, though. I had only regular-cab trucks, and storing stuff inside was a definite challenge.

  12. If there's a sweptline/styleside/fleetside/etc. version, that's what I want. I have no interest in a stepside built after the date a smooth-sided box was first available on that particular make/model. The only exception I'll make is the Gen 2 Ford Lightning.

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