Potent Pickup: 1990 Chevrolet C1500 454 SS Pickup

At the end of the day, it was really a tried-and-true system that American manufacturers had been using successfully for years, and if it applied to passenger cars, why couldn’t it also be applied to pickups. Take a (relatively) light vehicle, fit in a (relatively) powerful engine, and the result will be a vehicle that consumers will fall over themselves to buy. That was what Chevrolet offered in 1990 with the C1500 454 SS Pickup, and 13,748 people were happy to hand over their money and drive away in one of these. This particular 454 SS is a tidy looking vehicle, and it’s located in Peru, Illinois. It has been listed for sale here on eBay, and while bidding has now reached $14,050, the reserve hasn’t been met.

The 454 SS was a symphony of evil in its Onyx Black paint, and this was only emphasized by the blacked-out grille, external trim, and front spoiler. It also wasn’t a vehicle renowned for its subtlety, as the huge “454 SS” decals left no-one in any doubt as to what the vehicle was. The styling of the Pickup has held up quite well over the past 29-years, and they still actually have a fresh and fairly modern look about them today. The paint on this Pickup has been treated to a refresh, but the owner openly admits that it still isn’t perfect. The panels look nice and straight, and the owner says that the only rust is some minor surface corrosion in a couple of small spots on the frame.

When I referred to the concept of a powerful engine in a light package, I was doing so in relative terms with the 454 SS. The C1500 was the lightest Pickup in the GMT400 range at the time, and the 454ci V8 produced 230hp. This was sent via a 3-speed Turbo Hydramatic transmission to a limited-slip rear end. While the 230hp figure may not have seemed exciting, it was the 385 ft/lbs of engine torque that really was the vehicle’s greatest strength. It allowed a 454 SS to record a 0-60mph time of 7.7 seconds, and rip through the ¼ mile in 15.9 seconds. That latter figure may not seem to be particularly astounding, but we need to remember that we are talking about a half-ton commercial vehicle here. This particular 454 SS has recently received new brakes, along with a new fuel pump and a rebuilt throttle body. The owner doesn’t indicate how well the vehicle runs and drives, but with a claimed 59,800 original miles on the clock, a bullet-proof vehicle like this should still drive extremely well.

The trim level for the 454 SS was essentially very similar to the Silverado, but with a few changes. In 1990, you could have any interior trim color that you liked…as long as it was Garnet Red. That is what you get here, and apart from the headliner beginning to sag a bit towards the center of the vehicle, the rest of the interior looks to be very clean and original. Of course, if you are going to create a special vehicle, then the interior will also need to be something a bit special. As well as the Garnet Red upholstery, you found yourself in a vehicle with air conditioning, nicely contoured sports bucket seats, a radio and cassette player with a graphic equalizer, a floor console, power windows, cruise control, and a tilt wheel.

The 1990 C1500 454 SS is a surprising vehicle for a few reasons. The first is that it is quite a reasonable performer, and a few suspension changes that were part of the SS package actually made it a fairly competent vehicle when the going got twisty. The second area that the 454 SS springs a surprise is in the realm of value. It is only a matter of 3-years-ago that you could find some pretty tidy examples for sale for around $10,000. Since then, buyers have started to recognize that they offer pretty competent performance and comfortable motoring in a very practical package, and this has pushed values upwards. A Pickup that would have sold for that sort of money back then will now command figures closer to $17,000 today. From there they can push up into the mid-$30,000 territory. I’m not sure what the reserve is on this one, but if it is under $20,000, it would seem to represent a pretty good buy.

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Comments

  1. KKW

    The Lightning smoked it with a 351.

    3
  2. Shawn Fox Firth

    I recall the Chevrolet performance catalog showing that by swapping the TBI for a Holly 780 DP an HEI and tube headers it was good for 440hp .

    2
    • Steve R

      I don’t buy that, maybe with a cam change too.

      Steve R

      5
      • Shawn Fox Firth

        Steve R – they claimed With the cam that was in it .. .

        1
  3. JohnfromSC

    Big motor, loud decals, and no truck was faster going from F to E on the gas gauge. Nothing else much good to say.

    2
  4. Don H

    Potent my ass .My ex wife’s mini van can blow it away.

    1
  5. Troy s

    Like K said, when the Ford Lightning came out it beat these in both acceleration and handling all with a 351W. Nonetheless, these were cool trucks. Just the idea of seeing 454 SS on a new anything was great.
    No, not even close to the old LS6 or LS5 454 Chevelles. So what, really.
    I think they got overdrive automatics the following year.
    I remember Hot Rod magazine testing one of these ’90 SS 454’s and not being overly impressed with it and complained of having only a 3 speed automatic. Had this truck come out five or six years earlier they’d of fell in love with those track numbers and graphics.

  6. CanuckCarGuy

    Nice looking factory cruiser…always had a soft spot for these despite being a Ford truck guy. Is it my eyes or does the lower dash face look to be a brighter red than normal…along with the console?

  7. TimM

    I hate it when they say “454 with 230 hp” it’s disgraceful!! This truck with a 454 should produce at lest 350 horse!!!

  8. Roland Schoenke

    I found this generation of gmc/chev p/u to be the worst example of them, the 454 was bogged down, the fit and finish was very poor.

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