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King of the Hammers
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Finding glory in the chaos at King of the Hammers

Twice over the past 10 days, I ventured out into the desert north of Los Angeles to once again visit King of the Hammers, the off-road rage fest that descends on Johnson Valley OHV Area every February. Now in its 17th year, KoH leans more closely to Burning Man with a healthy dose of Mad Max fever dream thrown in, and growing attendance this year topped out at an estimated six-figure count.

I received invitations from Optima Batteries to check out the Optima Oasis, an unexpected installation of solar and hydrogen-powered electric vehicle chargers built out to encourage EV acceptance among the marauding four-wheeler crowd. And Ford promised a few experiences that I knew I simply couldn’t pass up.

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

But the racing also caught my eye more than ever this year, after I spent the first weeks of last year in Saudi Arabia covering the Dakar Rally and then this past November pre-running much of the Baja 1000 racecourse. King of the Hammers presents a different challenge in every class, from the high-speed trophy trucks to race-prepped side-by-sides, King of the Motos, homebuilt “Every Man Challenge” entrants, and of course, the million-dollar-plus specialty builds known as Ultra4 cars.

But I should be right at home, right? After all, I did drive the course with Ford’s arch nemesis

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Day 1 at KoH

This year, newsworthy Southern California weather forecasts predicted heavy rain, and even some snow, for Johnson Valley over the KoH dates. So, for my first day in the desert, I packed accordingly, cramming all my recovery gear into an Audi Q8 e-Tron that I planned to drive out and charge up at the Optima Oasis. In went the Yankum rope, a pair of soft shackles, six different Maxtrax recover boards that I figured I might be able to test on heavy, mid-size, and lightweight off-road vehicles alike, and, of course, my automatic tire deflators and compressor bag for airing down and back up.

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

I’ll have a more detailed story about Audi’s performance driving 135 miles out to Johnson Valley coming soon here on Acceleramota, but to cut out a bit of nail-biting drama, high winds and thousands of vertical feet of elevation climb left me hypermiling behind semi trucks to save range for much of the drive. So when I pulled into the dirt, I made a bee-line straight to a Level 2 charger and plugged the Audi in for the rest of the day.

The Audi wouldn’t have fit in particularly well among the group of Ford Raptor enthusiasts that I then joined for a quick trail run to catch some more remote viewing spots of the trophy trucks racing. I climbed into a friend’s suspension-swapped Ford F-150, with the Coyote V8 instead of the factory Raptor’s twin-turbo V6. Surrounded by Broncos from the 1970s to the modern era, more brand-spanking-new Raptors and Raptor Rs, plus even an early production Ranger Raptor that Ford reps brought along for some fun, we jetted out into the vast expanse of Johnson Valley.

The modded F-150 ran well, keeping up pace even though the leaders never pushed particularly hard. But the Bronco Raptors and F-150 Raptor Rs on their 37-inch tires clearly rode more smoothly over some of the rougher portions. Catching sight of the classics barrelling through sagebrush and mud pits put a smile on everyone’s faces. After a couple of stops to watch young racer and social media personality, Christopher Polvoorde, blast by in a Mason Motorsports-built “Raptor” trophy truck at an entirely different level of speed, leading twice but in second place occasionally, too, we turned back to Hammertown to catch the finish line.

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle
King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

On the way, the F-150 caught sections of whoops a bit too aggressively, and soon enough, warning lights blared and steam started blistering out of the hood. Turns out the coolant line to the heater core had sheared right off, I figure because the Raptor might get different engine mounts that can handle a more hardcore beating. We fiddled for a bit but decided to get back to home base to scrounge up parts and more antifreeze rather than risk overheating again while crawling back.

And that’s how I ended up catching a ride with Tanner Foust on the way back to watch Polvoorde take first place in his first year driving his own Mason trophy truck. At the finish line, I chatted up the 23-year-old, who I met last year at the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb (and who I beat in a karting race while there, for those keeping score—whenever you beat a pro at anything, it’s always best practice to bring it up at every single opportunity). To my surprise, Polvoorde looked fresh after a hard few hours of racing. Had recent rainstorms smoothed out the course, as I’d experienced in Baja a few months ago? Not so much, apparently.

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

“King of the Hammers definitely threw a challenge at us this year, I mean, way different than Baja,” Polvoorde said. “The course was chewed up, I can tell you it was blowing my mind how rough it got. Even the first lap when we went out, I was like, ‘Holy cow, there’s some big holes.’ And then by the second time we came through, I was like, ‘Okay, let’s calm her down, slow her down.’”

“At Baja, we get a lot more variety,” he remembered. “Here just kind of beats you up for two, three hours and then spits you out… I used that to my advantage, I knew we weren’t getting the best time splits, and then I knew right here at the end it was pretty sandy. So with the four-wheel-drive, I was like, ‘Yeah, we’re just gonna pull up and put enough time on ‘em.’”

After a bit more celebrations that certainly involved zero beverages, we borrowed a hose clamp from Polvoorde’s team truck and headed back out to try and fix the F-150 before the sun went down. Playing mechanic’s helper, I struggled to pull off a stubborn clip—which, of course, popped right off easily in someone else’s hands—then we topped up the coolant, tightened down the borrowed hose clamp, and fired up that Coyote. Just a few drops of pink poured out of the jury-rigged connection at idle, so we slow-cruised back to the Optima Oasis, thinking that was a better bet than leaving a truck unattended all night in the desert. Next, I checked on the Audi, and after averaging 12 miles of range added per hour of charging, felt confident enough to blast home in the dark.

Returning to the desert

Four days later, and this time piloting a 2023 Ford Bronco Raptor, I blasted back out to Johnson Valley and arrived well after 11 PM. The next morning, feeling refreshed as a newborn baby (read: screaming, angry, and starving), I got to experience something much closer to Polvoorde’s job in the trophy truck. That Bronco Raptor simply rips, the perfect vehicle for exploring KoH, able to keep up with side-by-sides thanks to long-travel Fox dampers and all those 418 horsepowers—only with air conditioning, heated seats, and Apple CarPlay for keeping the OnX Offroad app pulled up on the big screen.

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Once again, I brought my Maxtrax and recovery gear, just in case the weather prophets actually turned out correct for once. Guess again, since a bright blue sky and dry breeze graced the entirety of Johnson Valley, as usual. I spent some more time playing around with a Rivian and checking out the Optima Oasis charging setup, then went out to enjoy the Braptor at top speed. Jumping, roaring, sliding sideways, and repeatedly redlining up a sandy hillclimb, I may have pushed a little too hard—not that the Braptor minded, only because the Maxtrax mount popped off at some point.

Pulling a 180, I retraced my steps using OnX and—miracle of miracles—actually found one of the boards sitting at the center of a little brush clearing surrounded by 96,000 acres of godforsaken dirt. The other, it would seem, is lost to the elements (or, more likely, somebody spotted it and took home a souvenir). 

With dry sand and no precipitation looking likely, I never needed to test a recovery board in a truly dire situation, but a helpful Toyota Corolla Cross owner offered to let me try out the new Maxtrax Lite by using the board to dig a little hole, then dipping a tire in until it spun. Sure enough, the lighter plastic held up just fine, and the little hybrid just walked right up and out of the makeshift hole.

A ride in the real deal

On the very opposite end of the spectrum from a Toyota commuter car stuck in some sand. I next ventured out with Ford to catch a ride in a full-blown factory Bronco DR racecar. Baja legend Curt Leduc played wheelman for about 20 minutes of all gas and almost no brakes other than to avoid a few dirt bikers and those damned wayward side-by-sides. 

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Once warmed up, the DR’s Multimatic suspension gobbles up terrain without disrupting chassis balance almost at all. I always find race suspension a little firm, and in this case, that impression arose again at first, but eventually, we settled into a rhythm, and with the unrestricted Coyote V8 absolutely barking, massive tires freewheeling in the air aplenty, Leduc showed me just how different a real racer is compared to a stock Bronco Raptor or suspension-swapped F-150. 

I even got an early ride in that Ranger Raptor on the way out and back to meet Leduc. Lighter, with a longer wheelbase supporting a less radical suspension and tire combo than the Bronco Raptor, the Ranger served perfectly as my glorified desert chauffeur. And Ford’s rep told me the truck actually rolled off the production line, so we can expect real media reviews sometime in the next couple of months… For now, this top-spec Ranger finally arriving in the US later this year might just take over my top slot of potential new trucks to actually buy.

Just kidding, I’ll never own a new car, but if I ever do, this might be the one.

Absolute chaos at Chocolate Thunder

Now’s as good a time as any to reveal that no matter how much everyone shit-talks side-by-sides, including me, there’s no doubt that nothing on the market can match these purpose-built carts in terms of sheer off-road pace for the money. I wanted to catch another chance to borrow a Can-Am Maverick R or a Polaris Rzr Pro R to test a bit out at KoH, too. But communication once again proved impossible, as seemingly everyone at Johnson Valley arrived with Starlink this year and completely overwhelmed any hope of wi-fi reception through satellites.

As night fell at KoH, I certainly appreciated my Braptor’s enclosed cabin and climate control system. Temps started to drop quickly and the party began to crank up. From Hammertown, everybody kept turning to check out the bright lights and bumping music emanating from the epic obstacle known as Chocolate Thunder. I fueled up on tacos and White Claws, changed into full cold-weather gear, including a face mask, and grimly faced the prospect of my first overnight at King of the Hammers. Time to get the full alt-right Coachella experience.

Drunk teenagers probably named the Hammers back in the day—there’s an easily distinguished theme to Backdoor, Chocolate Thunder, and Her Problem—but now the crowd at KoH varies from teens to full-grown adults addled by days of chugging beers (not Bud Light, I assure you) and the dehydration of spending all day watching desert racing.

But I quickly discovered that nothing compares to the nightlife.

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

At Chocolate Thunder for about four hours, as amateurs drove their insane rock-crawling rigs through a screaming mass of people, I witnessed one fistfight, two cars roll over, and one car driving fully over another. Beverages flowed, the occasional smell of skunk overwhelming the gasoline-powered campfires dotting the hill, and music echoing from various speaker setups varied from early-2000s hip hop to modern pop-country. Handheld fireworks launching amid the scrum lit up the entire valley, when the light pods and bars on every truck didn’t quite reveal every last nook and cranny. Flat tires, dirt bikers being pushed up the hill, and stuck trucks danced on by groups of 10 and 20 revelers—somehow, I saw nobody get flattened. 

The gnarliest moment came when an entire box of fireworks exploded on the ground, spectators diving to the sides to avoid any carnage. Meanwhile, the amateurs showed their amateur status, struggling to climb up Chocolate Thunder as the engine screamed and tires squealed, scrabbling on the rocks, spraying up sand and gravel. No wonder racers at King of the Hammers talk about pre-running being little more than shakedowns for the vehicles rather than sighting lines. The whole desert changes every night in the chaos!

I mentioned to Polvoorde how rowdy KoH gets at night and how many more people stayed out at Hammertown than I remembered from years past. 

“It’s pretty crazy,” he agreed. “Every year, it’s like how much bigger can it get? The lakebed is just filling up more and more, and then you see things like what Optima’s doing, building the Oasis where we have just this massive camp outside of Hammertown. It always blows my mind. But once you come here and experience it, it’s one of those things where you’re like I have to keep coming back ‘cus there’s something different every single day, and it kind of never disappoints.”

A rubberband cart takes on the Ultra4 racers

As if to unwittingly prove my point about side-by-sides, this year, I purposefully decided to make my schedule line up so that I could catch the Ultra4 cars running the rock race in the 4400 class. I caught the start line, then jetted up toward Backdoor in the Braptor just in time to watch the frontrunners pull through, jumping off six-foot shelves easier than I step off the stoop of my apartment. But right up there with the likes of Casey Currie, Loren Healey, and the Gomez Brothers sat Kyle Chaney, a Can-Am driver in a Maverick X3 riding on 37-inch tires.

Apparently, the 4400 class rules changed this year to make 37s the absolute minimum tire size, mostly to prevent budget side-by-sides from running against the world’s most extreme seven-figure off-roading vehicles. Because how embarrassing would it be if some guy in a Can-Am won the top race at King of the Hammers while dealing with both top-speed desert trails and obstacles like torn-up Chocolate Thunder alike?

Yep, you guessed it. Kyle Chaney did just that—or at least, we thought he did since he crossed the finish line first after starting well off the front. But then, on adjusted time, Raul Gomez actually took home the top spot and nudged Chaney down to second. Not bad for a side-by-side, though, and not even one of Can-Am’s top-of-the-line Maverick Rs since that innovative finger-knuckle design limits max tire sizing.

I actually watched Chaney go up Chocolate Thunder, a wild choice of lines always standing out compared to his competition. The morning after, some spectators clearly in recovery, the cheers for every truck ripping through sounded just as strong—to my ringing ears and searing eyeballs anyway. Three full days at King of the Hammers will do that, turns out, and some people stick around for 10 days or more!

King of the Hammers
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

The insane night culture that I caught for the first time this year will never fade from memory, even if I caught very little on camera. Maybe that’s for the best, though, in the vein of plausible deniability. Every year, I wonder whether I’ll take the time to do King of the Hammers again next year. This time around, the answer looks more solidly in the yes column than ever before.

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Hagerty Bull Market BMW E92 M3
Buying GuidesFeatures

Here are my five faves from Hagerty’s 2024 Bull Market that you should buy before it’s too late

Hold up! This won’t be your typical listicle. Because this time, it’s all about my favorite five! Or who knows? They could be yours, too. Each year, at the beginning of December, Hagerty delivers an early Christmas present to the automotive community in the form of the annual Bull Market list. These predictions draw upon the brain trust that helps Hagerty accurately peg collector car valuations, using key statistics that range from insurance quote requests to the age of potential owners and even how many cars leave the country each year—all with the goal of selecting ten vehicles that seem set for a rise in value in the coming 12 months.

A word with Hagerty before we begin…

After perusing the list, I spoke with the Bull Market concept’s progenitor, Hagerty VP of Content Larry Webster, to suss out whether his impressions of the cars matched my own. But first, he cautioned me that nobody should just pick one of the cars at random and expect to make money hand over fist.

“We publish this data just to say we do have a sense that there’s some knowledge and some expertise here,” Webster said. “But you know, this is not to replace your 401(k), it’s just to show how cheap owning and enjoying one of these cars could be. That is the goal, first and foremost, is to really help people feel comfortable about investing a significant amount of money in a classic car.”

2023 Radwood SoCal
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

In total, Webster estimates that over seven years of Bull Market prophecies, about 90% of cars have earned value since appearing on the lists. But as always, the old investing caveat that past success does not guarantee future performance comes into play. Actually, compiling this new list required a bit more effort than over the past handful of iterations since recent boom times (pandemic-related or not) seem to be nearing an end. 

“It’s definitely a buyer’s market at the end of 2023,” Webster said. “The past few years, taking a guess, you were likely to be right that the car would go up in value, especially as you factor in inflation. So now, the hardest part for us is making sure we have a good cross-section of cars. And that means not only price, but also era.”

For collectors and enthusiasts alike, our five faves may one day spike in value. But at the very least, anyone who decides to take a leap of faith can hope to potentially break even over the course of ownership, maybe with a little luck thrown in for good measure.

2023 Radwood SoCal
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

This year’s Bull Market list ran the gamut from boomer backup options to oft-maligned 21st-century masterpieces. Here at Acceleramota, our predilections certainly lean towards the latter, so our favorite five cars mostly hailed from the late ‘90s and early 2000s: the Plymouth Prowler, Jaguar XKR, E92 BMW M3, Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution, and Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler. 

(Editor’s note: The added insight and provided photography wouldn’t be possible without the amazing people behind Hagerty. A million thanks to Larry Webster for chattin’ it up with Michael, and a million more to photographers Cameron Neveu and James Lipman. Don’t worry. We promise we’ll never stop driving.)

1997-2002 Plymouth Prowler

Of course, we need to start with the most controversial and unexpected inclusion on the 2024 roster: that unbelievable bit of retro nostalgia known as the Plymouth Prowler (later sold with Chrysler badging, in purest Chrysler fashion). No matter the nomenclature, though, nobody understood the Prowler when it debuted in 1997. Presumably, a bunch of Chrysler engineers came back from a bender with the goal of reviving hot-rod enthusiasm in Detroit, only to pitch the bean counters who then shot down any hopes of real fun.

The resulting parts-bin special lacked a V8 engine, instead using a 3.5-liter V6 paired with a four-speed automatic. Talk about missing the mark within a tiny, open-wheeled, fender-flared wedge body. A matching trailer even came optional from the factory to compensate for the lack of storage space, an indication that a lame powertrain and creature comforts simply couldn’t live up to what must have been a rip-roaring original concept. 

And yet, I recently rode in a Prowler and found myself surprised at the engine’s pep, the transmission’s aggressive shifting, and the overall fun of rolling around at axle height of modern SUVs and pickup trucks. Still, with other retro designs that include the Chevy SSR pickup truck, the PT Cruiser, and the HHR, the Prowler stands out as perhaps the boldest—and it could be argued that the retro craze it typified then helped to revive the Camaro, Mustang, Charger, and Challenger for the current modern muscle car era. Webster thinks Chrysler possibly jumped headlong into the historicity a little prematurely, way back when.

“I kind of wonder if that car was 20 years too early,” he mused, “You’re sort of aiming for this boomer audience that grew up with those hot rods… The idea of substitution is happening where, as the interesting cars go up in value, folks start to look around and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got 30 grand, not 60, what can I get and what’s fun and what’s interesting and what’s really uncommon?’ And the Prowler really fits that list.”

Whether enough Boomers decide to give up on their ‘32 Deuce dreams and buy a Prowler in 2024 seems dubious, personally, given the impressive range of current muscle cars on the market today. Then again, for pure entertainment’s sake, I sure hope to see more of these latter-day hot rods hitting the roads, and maybe Hagerty has provided just the nudge they need.

2000-2005 Jaguar XKR

Around the turn of the millennium, Jaguar also leaned into smooth retro-inspired styling to release the XK8 and its top-spec trim, the high-performance XKR. Both came in coupe and convertible form, helping to stoke a fire under Ford’s ownership that had dimmed into embers thanks to a series of bland touring sedans over the previous decades. The marketing push even included silver screen stardom—sort of, anyway—when Tim Allen drove an XK8 in the 1997 rom-com For Richer or Poorer. But the XKR’s powertrain, for the time, was definitely no joke.

Stepping up to the R added a 2.0-liter Eaton supercharger and dual intercoolers to the XK8’s 32-valve V8, bumping output up to 370 horsepower and 387 lb-ft of torque. Later years also included a step up to 4.2 liters and even a new ZF six-speed automatic. In my mind, the XK8’s clean lines always housed a rat’s nest of treacherous electrical gremlins, but Webster disagreed.

“A lot of people bought ’em and parked them, so they didn’t drive ’em,” he said, to the surprise of nobody. “And that was almost over a decade after Ford bought Jaguar, so I know there’s still a lot of jokes, and maybe that XKR is not as reliable as an Accord, but that Jaguar is just a lot of car for the money. You get a powerful, stylish, very comfortable convertible with a top that works. And the coupes are gorgeous.”

Having never even sat in an XK8 or XKR, I wondered whether Jaguar’s boat-like driving dynamics carried over to the new era under Ford. Hagerty’s team each year drives all the Bull Market cars, so I figured Webster might know first-hand. Sure enough.

“The XKR versions are surprisingly sporty,” he explained. “I know what you mean. Just a regular XK was exactly like you’re talking about. But when you went to the R version, they’re crisp, very responsive, and very capable sports cars that nobody thinks of in that way.”

At around $20,000 or so, Jag’s combination of design and power sounds moderately respectable, even if a curb weight of 3,700 pounds makes me doubt any true canyon carving capabilities. But with zero personal knowledge backing up that impression, I can only hope that this Bull Market entry can fly under the radar enough to help the potential purchase price stay low enough for the right buyer.

2008-2013 BMW M3

Probably the least surprising car on the 2024 Bull Market list also sits at the top of the performance spectrum: BMW’s E9X-generation M3. On second thought, though, the fact that anyone might have called the E92 M3 something of a sleeper seems doubly surprising. Doesn’t everyone already know about this car?

For enthusiasts in general and BMW fans in particular, this M3 stands apart from the pack as the only generation with a V8 engine, which received individual throttle bodies helping produce a screaming redline of 8,400 RPM. Sure, the curb weights started creeping up once BMW ditched the naturally aspirated inline-sixes of the E36 and E46 generations—and, critically, before turbochargers entered the conversation—but at least in coupe form, an E92 still weighed between 3,500 and 3,600 pounds.

That high-flying 4.0-liter S65 V8 also put down 414 horsepower. Don’t forget a six-speed stick shift. And, again, talking in strictly coupe form, it is quite possibly the last clean profile in BMW’s illustrious, then incomprehensible design history. But again, everyone knows all this, right?

“I did hear someone say we may have been maybe a year or two late on that E92,” Webster admitted. “A lot of what the Bull Market does, especially with newer cars, it just tracks when the depreciation curve bottoms out.”

High-mileage E9X M3s have long hovered above $30,000. And Hagerty believes excellent condition cars already sit higher than $40,000. I find an M3 trading hands for the same money as a 996 Porsche 911 Turbo completely insane, so the prospect of serious appreciation and profits here seems minimal—but for a driver’s car with the rod bearing job already done, maybe anyone who buys an E92 M3 can manage to at least avoid dropping too much cash throughout their ownership since it will inevitably drip coolant all over the driveway on a regular basis.

1997-1999 Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution

This year’s Bull Market list included one car never sold in America originally, something that Webster and his team typically try to avoid when possible. But nobody can resist the infection that already plagued me years ago, and it’s at this point that I must admit I already own a Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution. So, take everything from here on with a grain of salt, even as I attempt to do my utmost journalistic responsibility and present the greatest car ever made in a fair and balanced light.

The PajEvo, as those of us in the know call it, is obviously the star of the show. It’s also likely the second-rarest on this list, other than the Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary, with a total production run estimated at only around 2,500 units. And the Mitsu’s fender flares entirely outshine the Lambo’s since only one of the two cars can claim legit rally provenance as a true homologation special. Webster’s main reason to perhaps slash the Pajero Evolution from this year’s list came down to availability. 

“Last year, the valuation team had this Nissan Pulsar,” he revealed, “A JDM, really cool hot hatch. And I rejected it because I said, ‘Look, people have to be able to buy these things. If there’s five of ’em in the country, of course, they’re going to be worth more.’ And then when this one came up, I gave ’em the same argument, was very against it. But they convinced me that there were enough around that there actually is a market. You could buy one.”

Knowing a fellow Montero owner on the valuation team, I assured Webster of the relative availability. There’s even a nice one for sale in Downtown LA right now! In fact, once past the 25-year rule, a wave of PajEvos immediately hit auction sites and online listings, so my cohorts and I believe about 60-70 examples have already landed, with more on the way. But values definitely peaked early, then hit a bit of a trough—from which I keep waiting for this Evo to climb out.

As the winningest Paris-Dakar Rally car of all time, with hilarious Batman-meets-Gundam angles, a 3.5-liter MIVEC V6 engine with port injection tuned to “276 horsepower” during the Gentleman’s Agreement years, and a wheelbase about as short as an Escort Cosworth, this Pajero leaves all kinds of third-world truckiness behind. It’s fast! It’s a billy goat off-road! And it’s comfortable, with unique Recaro seats, too.

Of course, finding the boatload of parts unique to the Evo presents a challenge, and I do worry about ripping around on dirt trails—not enough to stop me, though. My main fear driving the PajEvo? That value will climb enough that I simply have to cash in and lock in my potential profits. So yeah, thanks, Hagerty.

1981-1986 Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler

For the most knowledgeable JDM collectors who do covet a Pajero Evolution and who have the money to buy a pristine example, any real off-roading will probably never take place. But anyone who wants a classic 4×4 to wheel with confidence can take a look at another of this year’s Bull Market inclusions, the Jeep CJ-8 Scrambler. Something of a predecessor to the modern Jeep Gladiator pickup, the Scrambler similarly tacked a small truck bed onto the back to mix off-road capability with work duties and daily utility. 

The Scrambler can easily match or eclipse the quintessential Americana of two other classic Detroit icons on Hagerty’s list, the Chevy Impala SS or Chrysler Town & Country (not the boxy minivan, though, which I’d love to see make an appearance someday). Surely, the pandemic-inspired off-roading boom helped Hagerty pick this Jeep, right?

“We’re just seeing so much more interest in vintage SUVs,” Webster said. “And you know, the funny thing is, you could count on your hand the number of off-roading vehicles built in the seventies and eighties. Scouts, CJs, Broncos, the early Blazers, and you’re done.”

Scouts and Broncos have already hit the moon, with the K5 Blazer well past low Earth orbit, too. But then I mentioned that I’m currently shopping for a Mitsubishi Mighty Max to haul around motorcycles—yes, I am aware that nobody can help me—and maybe a Scrambler might be a  perfect option, too. Webster laughed.

“You’re too young for this, but that truck had a really cool ad campaign, which I think does a lot for its value later on,” he recalled. “They had the Jeep Scrambler, the pickup version, with a couple of dirt bikes in the back, and that was the photo in their print ads. So my generation gets to that age where they have some disposable income, they’re going to look for something like that.”

In comparison to the Pajero Evo, finding parts and registering a Scrambler both sound much more reasonable. And much lower values currently for funky examples make a project truck turn into an overlander, a whole different can of worms, too. But if a Gladiator sounds too passé, maybe a CJ-8 Scrambler can more squarely nail the combination of classic style, four-wheeling fun, and daily driver, all with the hopes that dropping a chunk of change into a Jeep pickup won’t result in the same kind of immediate depreciation as buying a new truck. And that’s the whole point of Hagerty’s Bull Market list, after all. So jump in headlong while you can.

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2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger
Features

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger: Everything we know about Ram’s epic new electric truck

These EV startups aren’t the only ones to have fun with the idea of an electric truck. Ram announced its electric pickup, the Ram 1500 REV, for release in late 2024, but the automaker had another trick up its sleeve. Using its new STLA body-on-frame electric platform, Ram employs a parts-bin 3.6-liter V6 engine only as a range extender, with the gas unit never delivering power to the wheels. The result is a truck with 663 horsepower and 615 pound-feet of torque that provides 14,000 pounds of towing and a range of almost 700 miles. Get that, nearly 700 miles from an EV! Though complex, the setup may be a smart move for Ram, as consumers aren’t warming to EVs as quickly as automakers and the government had hoped. 

The truck also brings advanced driver assistance systems not seen in Ram vehicles to date. It gets a Level 2-plus autonomous driver assist function that offers hands-off driving on highways and other approved roadways. It provides predictive speed control and driver monitoring and assists with autonomous parallel and perpendicular parking functions. Fairly standard affairs for a brand-new vehicle these days.

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger release date and details

The Ram 1500 Ramcharger’s late 2024 release date means we don’t have pricing or trim level details yet! So there’s not much we can say, but we can take guesses based on Ram’s existing pickup line. As with the current gas trucks, we’ll see lower-level, work-ready Tradesman trims, followed by more luxurious and feature-rich mid-level Big Horn or Laramie trims. At the top end, the Limited variant will bring upscale leathers, genuine wood trim, and other features that make the truck a legitimate luxury ride. Ram trucks have long offered interiors that far outshine the competition, even from the most expensive Ford F-150 models, which bodes well for the Ramcharger’s accommodations.

Price:TBA: $70,000 to $100,000 est.
Engine:3.6-liter V6 range extender
Electric motors:250 kW front, 238 kW rear
Battery capacity:92 kWh (gross capacity), 70.8 kWh (usable capacity)
Electric range:145 miles (EV only), 690 miles (w/ range extender)
Drivetrain:dual-motor AWD
Power:663 horsepower
Torque:615 pound-feet
Weight:TBA; >6,400 pounds
Towing:14,000 pound
Payload:2,625 pounds
Zero-to-60 mph:TBA; 4.4 seconds est.
Fuel Capacity: TBA; approx. 26 gallons
2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger
Image credit: Ram

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger interior and tech

The Ramcharger will feature a premium interior focusing on textures, colors, and materials quality. Ram said it would use carbon fiber, metal, and leather to create a luxurious cabin with great space and tech. A 12-inch screen comes standard, and a 14.5-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster are available, which run Ram’s excellent Uconnect 5 infotainment system. The interface offers side-by-side app functionality, simple menu structures, and responsive navigation that make it less distracting to use while driving. 

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger
Image credit: Ram

A 10.25-inch passenger screen, digital rearview mirror, a head-up display, and a Klipsch Reference Premiere audio system are available. Ram also redesigned the gear shifter with a new e-shifter unit, and the Ramcharger offers selectable regenerative braking settings. 

A new range-topping Tungsten trim brings unique interior colors like Indigo and Sea Salt. It gets a suede headliner, heated and ventilated seats with quilted leather, massaging front seats, and more. The center console features a Tungsten badge with the truck’s VIN, and the upgraded Klipsch stereo comes standard. It also brings a new dual-device wireless charging pad and metal pedals.

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger interior
Image credit: Ram

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger electric range and charging times

Ram promises a range of up to 690 miles from a liquid-cooled 92-kWh battery, a 130-kW onboard generator, and a 3.6-liter V6 engine whose only purpose in life is to charge the battery and extend the range. Think Fisker Karma, Chevrolet Volt, or BMW i3 Range Extender, but adapted to a big ol’ hunk of American utilitarianism. The driver can choose to charge the battery or preserve battery life, and there is no mechanical path from the engine to the wheels. That said, the truck still needs to be charged and can add up to 50 miles of range in ten minutes using a 400V DC fast charger with speeds of up to 145 kW. 

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger engine and performance

Though the Ram’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 does nothing to drive the wheels like it does to pretty much every other Stellantis vehicle, its electric drivetrain components are plenty. The 250kW front motor and 238kW rear unit, the latter of which can be paired with an optional locking rear differential, combine for a whopping 663 horsepower and 615 pound-feet of torque. That’s good for a 4.4-second 0-60 mph time, a 14,000-pound tow rating, and a payload rating of 2,625 pounds.

Not a Rivian, no. But that’s plenty fast enough and sure to put the pressure on some Charger and Challenger fanatics. The Ramcharger can also free-wheel its front axles under certain conditions to further enhance efficiency and range.

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger
Image credit: Ram

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger design

Ram’s initial electric concept trucks featured wild, futuristic styling, but the automaker backed off the funkiness with the production models. That applies to both the Ram 1500 Ramcharger and the Ram 1500 REV, as both bear striking resemblances to the brand’s current gas trucks. A crew cab body, short bed, and clean front-end styling define the Ramcharger, and it features novel lighting elements with an illuminated Ram logo in the closed grille. The charging port is located on the driver’s side front fender, and Ram smoothed the exterior body lines for better aerodynamics. Ram also fits unique taillights for the Ramcharger with an LED lightbar across the tailgate. 

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger
Image credit: Ram

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger review to come

Ram trucks offer fantastic ride quality, solid capability, and modern styling. With Ram claiming standard multi-link rear suspension and four-corner air suspension, we expect much of the same dynamics and comfort from the new Ramcharger, albeit with the heft of a powerful electric drivetrain. The range-extender concept is one employed by BMW with the i3 years ago, but it’s not yet been a mainstream feature in electric vehicles, with many automakers committing to either full EVs or more conventional hybrids or plug-ins. Ram created an exceedingly complex system to charge the batteries with a gas engine, so it will be interesting to see how the components work together and if the gas engine adds any meaningful amount of noise to the driving experience. 

When it arrives, the Ramcharger will be the only electrified truck on sale with such a setup. The upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV and GMC Sierra EV are pure electrics, like the Ford F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T. While all those trucks offer impressive range estimates and great tech features, their specs fall short of the Ram’s range and capability. Price may be the great equalizer here, as it’s hard to imagine the Ramcharger coming cheap. 

2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger rear quarter
Image credit: Ram

Additional FAQs

How much will the new Ramcharger cost?

We don’t have solid figures yet, but a reasonable guess would be between $70,000 and $100,000 with available add-ons and options. That should place it within the same ballpark as the F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T.

Does the Ramcharger use gas?

Yes, the Ramcharger uses gas to power a V6 range-extender engine, contributing to its incredible range. That said, the engine doesn’t drive the wheels, so fuel usage will be interesting to observe. 

Does towing impact EV range?

Yes, to a great degree. Towing a heavy load with an electric pickup can cut the range by 50 percent or more, depending on the temperature, road conditions, and driving style. It’s important to plan adequate charging stops if you’re looking at a longer towing trip.

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2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
FeaturesNew Car Reviews

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison: Chevy’s mini Raptor can haul serious ass on the King of the Hammers course

Welcome to Johnson Valley, home of rocks, rattlesnakes, and the legendary King of the Hammers off-road racecourse. Last year, Johnson Valley also played host to the gnarliest dynamic vehicle launch of my automotive career, when Ford brought media out for a day of technical rock crawling, high-speed whoop running, lakebed autocross, and straight-up jumping (on purpose) in the absolutely manic Bronco Raptor. And today, it’s the perfect setting for Chevrolet to pull out the stops in a bit of one-upmanship by debuting the new Colorado ZR2 Bison, the Chevy Colorado’s most hardcore off-roading package. In fact, Chevy unveiled an entirely new “Bison Family” at Johnson Valley including the Silverado’s Light Duty and Heavy Duty variants. But for a real King of the Hammers experience, a Colorado jam-packed with goodies from American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) definitely takes the cake.

I showed up to Johnson Valley with plenty of experience driving a “base” Colorado ZR2 on the Vegas to Reno off-road racecourse earlier this year. Over that three-day adventure,  I somehow planted enough seeds of confidence among Chevy’s PR and engineering teams that they planned a one-on-one afternoon for me and GM’s Engineering Group Manager Tim Demetrio to take a Bison even further off the beaten path and hopefully find some Raptor-style ripping and rock crawling to fully reveal the new truck’s impressive off-roading capabilities.

(Editor’s Note: Updated 3/1/2024 with pricing and fuel economy information.)

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2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Price and Specs

Price is currently unknown as this is an especially new, fresh-off-the-drawing-board model that we’ve had the privilege of reviewing. However, do expect it to sticker at a healthy increase over the non-Bison ZR2’s $48,295, further detailed in our pricing breakdown. In the interim, please enjoy the specs we were given, juiced up with extra off-road-centric figures for your sand-kicking pleasure. 

Base price:$60,995 ($48,395 for ZR2, $11,700 for Bison pack, $445 for necessary Safety Pack)
As-test price:Approx. $65,000
Engine:High-Output 2.7-liter turbocharged inline-four
Transmission:8-speed automatic
Drivetrain:RWD/4Hi/4Lo with electronically locking front and rear differentials
Power:310 horsepower
Torque:430 pound-feet
Weight:5,265 pounds
Tow rating:5,500 pounds
Max payload:1,050 pounds
Tires:LT315/70R17 Mud-Terrains (35” OD)
Approach angle:38.2°
Departure angle:26.0°
Breakover angle:26.9°
MPG:16 city, 16 highway, 16 combined
Fuel Capacity:21 gallons

ZR2 Bison Exterior Design

The Colorado received a ground-up redesign for the third generation, seemingly taking plenty of styling and engineering cues from the Toyota Tacoma. Boxy, angular headlights up front transition to a square body with subtle fender flares on lower-spec trucks and more aggressive details on the ZR2 and Bison. The entire lineup comes only in the most popular crew cab with a short bed configuration, which unfortunately renders long beds and extra cabs extinct.

Spotting a Bison from afar, versus a base ZR2, requires 20:20 vision. Up close, the steel bumpers and 17-inch wheels from AEV stand out as slightly more off-road-focused. An additional 1.5 inches of ride height over the ZR2’s 3.0-inch lift contributes to a bolder stance that the 35-inch mud-terrain tires only enhance.

What’s hot?– Sublime Multimatic suspension with new hydraulic jounce control bumpers
– Improved tech with trick four-wheeling drive modes
– Ventilated seats!

ZR2 Bison Pricing Breakdown

The full Bison package adds a set of Multimatic’s hydraulic jounce control bumpers (more on those later) to complement the spectacular Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve (DSSV) dampers that already make the ZR2 an impressively specced pickup from the factory. AEV then contributes the steel bumpers, hot-stamped boron-steel skid plates, and rock sliders to protect the truck from the toughest trails. Those 35-inch tires are Goodyear Wrangler Territory Mud-Terrains mounted on beadlock-capable wheels that measure a half-inch wider than the ZR2’s.

Chevrolet plans to announce pricing for the Bison closer to the start of production, but we know that the 2023 ZR2 stickered for an impressive $48,395, and adding the Bison package to the Silverado ZR2 ran about $8,000. However, the Colorado’s full spec sheet tacks on more than the Silverado received, mostly in the form of tires and those hydraulic jouncers, so expect the Colorado Bison to slot in just shy of $60,000 — critically, a step below Ford’s pricing for the F-150 and Bronco Raptors that start in the high-$60,000 range, and in line with the Ranger Raptor that starts at a smidge above $55,000. Avoiding that level of sticker shock clearly fits into the plan, since nearly half of Colorado ZR2 buyers count as conquest customers switching to Chevrolet for the first time.

Update! Surprise, surprise. We were right on the money at $60,000, as ticking the Bison option box on your spec sheet adds an extra $11,700 on top of the base ZR2’s price tag.

ZR2 Bison Interior and Tech

Redesigning the Colorado for a third generation included a desperately needed step up for the trucks’ interior and technology. For the first time, an 11.3-inch touchscreen crowning the dash includes Google Built-In as well as Wireless Apple CarPlay, while the four-wheel-drive controls move to piano keys and knobs located close to the gear shifter and, therefore, the driver’s right hand. 

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

The Colorado’s front seats can fit taller drivers with ease, though the rear bench feels tight even with the front seats scooted fairly far forward. Four-legged friends will no doubt enjoy the rear ergonomics, but the relative lack of real liveable space makes the decision to skip an extra cab and long bed configuration all the more confusing. But most importantly, the Bison package includes ventilated seats, which all desert rats know as the greatest piece of automotive engineering ever and what the standard ZR2 surprisingly lacked.

The most hardcore Colorado possible

A race-ready powerhouse

Significant updates to the exterior, interior, and tech should help the entire Colorado lineup stand up to competition from Toyota’s Tacoma and Ford’s Ranger. But really, the whole point of hitting Johnson Valley in a Bison was to show off what’s going on beneath the skin (some of which is easily visible, to be fair). The off-roading goodies arrive hot off years of testing by Chevrolet’s factory efforts with Chad Hall Racing at the full calendar of events including King of the Hammers, but also the Mint 400, Vegas to Reno, and more. 

Chasing Chad Hall himself across Nevada from behind the wheel of a base ZR2 showed off the difference (other than race tires) between the ZR2 and Bison, but now the time has arrived for Demetrio to take me out in Johnson Valley and prove it. We left the rest of the group behind a bit surreptitiously, but once out of view behind a small hill, Demetrio gave me the go-ahead and I tipped deep into throttle. The High-Output version of Chevy’s new-ish 2.7-liter inline-four takes a minute to build turbo boost before unleashing all 430 lb-ft of torque. But really, when it comes to off-road in the slippery stuff, instantaneous response may only lead to wheelspin, anyway.

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Once up into the powerband, though, I trusted the Bison with a loose hand on the reins and my faith in that magical suspension setup and its revised mounting points. Sure enough, after charging over whoops and blasting up rutted washes, this version of the Colorado takes comfort and confidence to a new level despite me doing my darnedest to slide around and apply plenty of countersteer. Catching air under the front and rear axles never bottomed out the DSSV dampers. Not once. Or at least, as Demetrio explained, it never felt that way. 

A proper chassis for a proper performance vehicle

The hydraulic jounce bumpers create that illusion by absorbing and dissipating impacts that more traditional rubber bump stops would absorb and then rebound back into the chassis. Of course, the 35s serve as the first and most important part of the entire suspension system, but the Multimatics help to control any perceived weight and balance concerns that bigger tires and more lift might otherwise create.

The resulting combination of trophy truck speed and nimble handling at the limits of traction also helps explain why Chevy ditched the diesel engine option for the new Colorado. The new gas four-banger puts out more torque, but in the desert, the diesel’s cast-iron block would have messed up the ZR2 and Bison’s front-to-rear weight balance. Instead, I can now click into two-wheel drive and lock the rear diff, which most manufacturers won’t allow, to produce some real hooning fun.

Fishtailing around as fast as possible never matches the sheer pace possible in 4-Auto or 4-Hi, though, and Demetrio and I only had so much time out on our own. After showing off the Colorado’s high-speed abilities, he also wanted to take me on some more hardcore rock crawling that the Bison’s additional armoring and bigger tires make possible. We ended up entirely over a far ridge, searching for the best route home while hopping over rocks and clambering up bouldered trails that, to my eye, looked more suitable for side-by-sides. And yet, once again the Bison just kept chugging along even as I truly tested the rock sliders and skid plates with some bangs and scrapes. 

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Supreme confidence down Chocolate Thunder

Fear no boulders

Eventually, we wound up at the top of a KoH segment known as Chocolate Thunder (children, these off-roaders, I swear) and Demetrio explained how the Colorado’s new Terrain drive mode makes the most of an electronically assisted brake booster to create ideal one-pedal driving. Playing friendly, I switched over into Terrain mode and inched down the technical trail, occasionally using the front camera to help with visibility over the Colorado’s square hood (which might just be my least favorite part of the trucks, actually).

At points where I expected a wheel (or two) to lift off or lose traction after my experience with a ZR2, the Bison simply stayed put. That kind of articulation in a truck with independent front suspension and a leaf spring solid rear axle simply boggles the mind. Once again, the third gen’s revised suspension mounting points prove their worth. I still prefer two-foot driving while rock crawling, and can admit to leaving a bit more boron on the rocks of Chocolate Thunder. But once we got underway, I never felt anything near the kind of trepidation that crept in looking down from the top of the trail.

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Baja Blastin’

Time to rejoin the group. Lost in our fun, we might even be running late. No problem. Pop out of Terrain mode and back into Baja, and it’s time to find the fastest way back to home base. Demetrio keeps telling me to push harder and stop slowing down for those whoops, how once during testing he saw the underside of a truck’s front diff while chasing another development engineer across the desert. Now we’re both laughing, the off-road children ourselves, amazed at how much punishment the Bison can take—without dishing it out on the driver or passenger. This truck rollicks like a bucking Bronco. Wait, no, a bucking Mustang. Dammit, like something that’s not a Ford product name!

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Almost back to the group, I pepper Demetrio with a few questions of my own. Why no disconnecting sway bars, as on the Bronco or Jeep’s Gladiator and Wrangler? Well, other than added cost, the ZR2 and Bison both get locking front diffs that make a bigger difference while rock-crawling with a leaf spring rear axle than a sway-bar disconnect might. And how about some paddle shifters to keep that 2.7L in the power band? A grimace and not-so-subtle “no comment” in response, so I blame the bean counters here, though at least Demetrio’s team recalibrated Baja mode after my incessant complaining about weird shifting throughout the Vegas to Reno ZR2 drive. Should I truly take credit? Who knows, but it’s always nice to think someone, anyone, maybe in a blue moon, ever listens to us journalists.

What’s not?– Only available as a crew cab w/ short bed
– Competitive pricing is still expected to be fairly steep
– Not the prettiest tool in Chevy’s shed, even if it is the sharpest

Off-road god mode without sacrificing on-road dynamics

Throughout our time at top speed or rock crawling, Demetrio never flinches. He believes in the Bison, and I’d like to think he even enjoyed some time watching me wheel around Johnson Valley somewhere near the absolute limit. But, perhaps as impressive as the off-roading capability the ZR2 delivers and the Bison package only enhances, somehow the most hardcore of Colorados still sacrifice little for on-road dynamics.

Sure, adding 35-inch tires without regearing the final drive ratio cuts a bit into even the High-Output engine’s low-end grunt. But out on the asphalt, those 430 pound-feet make for plenty of pep while daily driving. The glory of the Multimatics is how well the spool valves can fine-tune fluid flow for stability on the road as much as off, resulting in noticeably less body roll and chassis flex than the taller Bronco Raptor on its 37-inch tires.

2024 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

And where the Braptor’s proportions peak in absurdity, with the rear hatch opened to reveal a tiny little cargo compartment, the Bison still comes with a truck bed (albeit a relatively small one). So buyers looking for a truck to daily drive, rip around the desert, or serve as the base for an overlanding build should be satisfied. What the new Tacoma TRD Pro or Ranger Raptor might have to say next year remains a mystery and exact pricing is obviously a big question mark. But, for now, the ZR2 Bison charges into uncharted territory in a class and segment all to its own.

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Silverado ZR2 Quarter View
FeaturesHot Takes

Hot Take: You really don’t need that oversized pickup truck

Let us preface our inaugural Hot Take by exclaiming we love pickup trucks! The commanding driving position and rugged finger-tingle driving a big truck make owning one a no-brainer, not to mention the obvious advantages in off-road shenanigans or IKEA hauls. Whether you need one or not, trucks are cool. Say it. Trucks. Are. Cool. There’s a reason almost everyone in the great Red-White-And-Blue owns one. We built our world around them. But, and it’s a fair “but,” there needs to be some sort of change on the horizon.

Pickup trucks aren’t going anywhere, and attempting to demonize them is counterintuitive. However, the dramatic increase in pedestrian fatalities warrants a conversation about these oversized pickups. The environmental impact and worsening traffic congestion necessitate it. The problems are real and need practical solutions. There is also a larger conversation around transport infrastructure and personal responsibility.

2024 Ford Lightning Platinum Black American flag/lightning bolt tailgate badge
Image source: Gabe Carey (Acceleramota)

The Chicken Tax

Well, wait. Why is this even an issue? Don’t we have small trucks? Or at least we used to, right? So where did the small truck go? Look decades into the past to the age of Vietnam on national news and Ken Miles tearing up circuits behind the wheel of a Ford.

It’s 1960, and European Farmers have a problem. U.S. farmers have mastered the art of breeding chickens and are now exporting their surplus to Europe. European countries need to protect their farmers. So, West Germany and France implemented tariffs, preventing American chicken from being priced lower than their chicken. 

Subaru BRAT
Image: Wikimedia Commons, Jacob Frey

Negotiations between the two parties failed, and in 1964, U.S. President at the time, Lyndon Johnson, placed a 25% “Chicken Tax” tariff on certain imported goods in response to European tariffs on American poultry, including foreign pickup trucks. This tax does three things:

  • Gives American truck companies a pseudo-monopoly on the pickup truck market.
  • Priced small Japanese trucks out of the market.
  • Classifies American pickup trucks as “light trucks,” exempting them from safety standards

This essentially killed any market for import trucks save for the minuscule, not-so-truckish trucks, like the Subaru BRAT, meant to dodge the tax by being classified as “passenger vehicles” instead of light trucks.

Americans killed the small pickup truck.

Car manufacturers live and die by consumer demand. In 2018, Ford announced it would stop production of all its cars except the Mustang in favor of better-selling SUVs and pickup trucks.

It isn’t an “American problem,” either. The Chinese auto market is in a similar phase to the American market in the 1980s. Most vehicles sold in China are Long-Wheelbase luxury vehicles or SUVs. The modern Chinese car buyer craves to be seen as successful. The modern American seeks utility, ruggedness, and, most importantly, road presence, which a small pickup truck can rarely, if ever, provide.

The Pedestrian Safety Crisis

That brings us to the next point. The Chicken tax meant that American car manufacturers were free to make whatever trucks they desired, and with it came a rise in pedestrian fatalities.

From 2009 to 2019, fatalities increased by 50%. If you find that number alarming, congratulations. You’re not a psychopath. Still, there was a further 18% rise in pedestrian fatalities from 2019 to 2023. Mind you, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) decreased by around 430.2 billion miles in 2020. 

The rise in pickup truck sales is a contributing factor to the increase in pandemic pedestrian fatalities. It is not the sole cause. The NHTSA found that many drivers who remained on the roads during the pandemic drove riskier than normal. 

Crash compatibility

In 2003, Senator John McCain called a hearing to discuss SUV and pickup truck safety. Vehicle safety advocates, Joan Claybrook and Dr. Jeffery Runge, found that if a car collided head-on with a pickup truck, the car occupants were over six times more likely to die. Side impact fatalities are even deadlier at 26 times more.

Even with those facts, another item in this hearing would be the focus: rollovers. In 2011, new legislation would mean manufacturers would need to fit all new pickup trucks with electronic stability control (ESC). This would be to prevent rollovers caused by the higher center of gravity. No new crash compatibility regulations would be implemented.

Nobody wants to be in a car accident. Still, around 40,000 Americans will lose their lives this next year in this way. To reduce this number, manufacturers have to meet certain safety standards. It sounds obvious, right? Safety features absent from pickup trucks include:

  • Crumple zones
  • Pedestrian collision protection
  • Frame force dissipation

Now, I’m no physics professor, but the idea behind crash protection is to prevent damage to vehicle occupants. Forgoing these features increases the risk of serious injury or death… Not that we need more of that nowadays.

“The purpose of crumple zones is to minimize bounce by dissipating kinetic energy to thermal energy and to reduce collision force by extending the distance over which that dissipation work is done,” says Lawrence Davis, Associate Professor of Science at Umpqua Community College, in his book, Body Physics 2.0. “Rigid frames bounce more than crumple zones, which further increases the force on occupants.”

As much as pickup trucks are a bane to pedestrian safety, they are also anti-people in a way. If you’re more likely to die as a driver or passenger of a pickup, an occupant of another vehicle, or as a pedestrian, then the truck exists to protect itself.

Poor Visibility and Maneuverability

Ford F-150 Lightning XLT Towing
Image: Ford

Nobody enjoys mowing down their kids in the driveway on the way to work. Turns out, that might be what you get with your Ford Maverick. Pickup trucks have much poorer visibility than cars. At this point, you’re riding a small tank around. A modern pickup truck is bigger than a WW2 British Sherman tank. 

It is possible you don’t have kids and like driving a tank through downtown New York. We’re not judging! But one thing we know you don’t like is lawsuits. Technologies like Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) will help prevent a parking lot accident, but they will not prevent collisions at medium-to-high speeds. In fact, if you read the fine print in the advertising for AEB or any ADAS feature, you’ll find this:

“Driver assistants are not a substitute for driver focus.”

This is one of the first things you learn when taking the written driver’s test: defensive driving. You’re supposed to drive to foresee, avoid potential obstacles, and always be aware of your environment. Again, pickup trucks go against a fundamental principle of driving. You should not be on the road if you can’t perceive your environment or make it difficult for others to judge theirs.

Pickup trucks’ correlation to climate concerns

The consensus is that we must tackle climate change with consumer and corporate changes. Driving a 4,000-pound truck takes a toll on your wallet and the environment.

Where you would get 53 mpg in a Toyota Corolla Hybrid, you get 43 mpg in a Ford Maverick Hybrid. The utility of a truck bed makes it worth sacrificing ten mpg and the better deal. However, the Ford Maverick lacks one climate-saving feature: resource efficiency.

Ford Maverick
Image: Ford

In a perfect world, they make your truck, you drive it around, and then, when it is no longer useful, its components are recycled. A circular economy. For a hybrid vehicle, energy comes from electricity and petrol. You need to use some of the fuel to get to your destination. If you’re hitting 43 mpg to carry only yourself, that’s an inefficient use of resources.

America alone uses 369 million gallons per day. 166 million pickup trucks are registered, and the average commuting distance is 41 miles. Assuming the perfect conditions (every pickup on the road every day hitting the Maverick’s golden 43 mpg), pickup trucks would make up around 45% of that fuel usage. Increasing access to public transport by even 5% would make a significant dent in fossil fuel use and carbon emissions.

Pickup trucks are not the enemy

I know you expected a grand waffling about how great public transport is, and after all the effort to point out every flaw in pickup trucks. But nope. Once more, we iterate that trucks are cool and trucks are useful. They’re just flawed. And that’s not necessarily all to blame on the products alone.

Pickup trucks are symptoms of a larger problem. 

Most people don’t buy products solely on efficiency or merit. Personal preference and marketing play a huge role. “Big truck strong.” It’s simple. Currently, there is no active deterrent to purchasing or manufacturing pickup trucks. Road infrastructure is car-centric. Pickup trucks are exempt from safety standards, which saves manufacturing costs.

Our country is built for cars and not people.

Now that we’ve established the problem, how can we find its solution? Is it even worth building a people-centric country? 

Reduction in pedestrian fatalities

This is the most obvious one. Low-density roads can become walking areas and green zones. Reducing the number of lanes in medium-density areas can make way for cycle lanes, trees, and larger sidewalks. Most pedestrian fatalities are disabled, older people, children, or otherwise impaired folks. Allow for zones where larger vehicles, like pickup trucks, are not allowed.

Quality of life improvements

Of course, there will be a natural reduction in carbon emissions with fewer vehicles on the road. The real kicker will be a major noise, air pollution, and smog reduction. Californian cities rank among the highest for poor air quality, exacerbating health issues like asthma. Taking the eight to ten-lane highways away and reducing road traffic will improve the quality of life for millions of Americans (and also open the roadways for the casual enthusiast’s Sunday cruise).

Lead fuels were once thought to be irreplaceable. Robust legislation in the 1970s meant that by the 1990s, leaded fuel was gone. People-centric American cities could be a reality.

People-centric pickup trucks

Yes, it is possible, and it starts by further bolstering the mid-size pickup. Check out these pickups that aren’t sold in the U.S.:

  • Nissan NP200
  • Chevrolet Ute
  • Toyota Hilux
  • Isuzu D-Max
  • Mitsubishi Triton
  • Mazda BT-50
  • Volkswagen Amarok

Bringing these vehicles to the U.S. is not a pipe dream either. In 2019, Ford brought back the Ranger pickup, which was pulled from the U.S. market in 2011. The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon have entered new generations too, and don’t forget the Honda Ridgeline! All were positively received for bringing car-like dynamics and comfort to the world of utility vehicles. We’re not hurting for Hiluxes either, as the ye ol’ Toyota Tacoma never left us. Although these vehicles are still large compared to cars, they offer much better visibility and efficiency.

Pickup trucks and E-Fuels

The European Union will ban the production of new gasoline vehicles in 2035, but there is space in this legislation for synthetic fuels. Synthetic fuels or E-fuels are made from carbon captured in the atmosphere and are produced with renewable energy. In fact, Porsche aims to become a leading producer of these carbon-neutral e-fuels, having begun development and implementing them in their race cars.

We love trucks and don’t want the gasoline engine to die. Hearing a big pickup go brrrr or a Porsche 911 RSR whizz by gives you a feeling that electric vehicles just don’t, as much as we admire the technology. There’s a charm to these big, burly bricks that E-fuels will allow us to keep the way the gods intended. 

The enjoyment of driving is people-centric.

Work trucks for the working folk

Chevrolet Silverado EV work site
Image: Chevrolet

Of course, we must insert that we don’t necessarily wish to abolish all trucks from roadways. After all, there is a glaringly obvious demographic for half-tons and heavy-duty leviathans. What, you thought a Maverick Hybrid would yank that stump from the ground or move that RV toy hauler across the Mojave? Sheesh, we’re not that sadistic.

A Hot Take like this must also be followed up with the statement that it’s perfectly fine for fleets and tradesmen to have their goliaths. They literally cannot work without them. It’s simply a matter of not having excess vehicle wasting space on our roads when your usual haul is a hundred pounds of mulch, or your work site is the sixth-floor office.

The electric pickup truck will not save the pickup truck

Bird's eye view of a 2025 Fisker Alaska electric pickup truck
Image: Fisker

Unfortunately, another scenario is very plausible. Synthetic fuels fail, and all gasoline vehicles are banned in a panic. You are forced to buy an electric pickup truck because corporate lobbying meant that people-centric infrastructure never came to fruition.

The truth is we are at a crossroads. If we choose the path of a pickup-truck-centric world, we may experience a dystopian reality not imaginable today. If we choose a people-centric world, we may avert this crisis and be able to enjoy our world for centuries to come.

A huge thank you to Myles Russell (@FreckleEars) for the great conversation and the truck visibility graphic. And to Derek Bradley (@Dellboy) for international info on taxes and pickup trucks and for being an amazing source of ideas.

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2024 Ford Lightning Platinum Black with headlights on
Features

The Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum Black is everything wrong with EV pricing

Earlier this week, Ford invited Acceleramota down to Brooklyn for an early look at a blacked-out special edition of the Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum trim. Naturally, it’s called the 2024 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum Black, and it offers little more over the regular Platinum model than a few edgier styling choices, including a matte black wrap, standard 22-inch black wheels, black badges, 10 black Bang & Olufsen speakers – you get the idea.

When deliveries start in early 2024, the Lightning Platinum Black will be first production truck with a matte black wrap in Ford’s history. Special edition ‘Blacked-out’ trims of existing models are nothing new for car companies, or even trucks for that matter. Stellantis sells a ‘Night Edition’ Ram 1500, GM has ‘Midnight’ versions of both the Chevy Silverado and the GMC Sierra Denali, and there’s even a ‘Midnight Edition’ Nissan Frontier.

2024 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum vs Lightning Platinum Black

Feature2024 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum (w/ no additional options)2024 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum Black
Exterior paintOxford WhiteMatte Black
Wheels20-inch polished aluminum22-inch polished aluminum
BadgingPlatinumPlatinum Black
InteriorLight Slate Gray leatherBlack Onyx leather
Other featuresPanoramic sunroof, Bang & Olufsen 8-speaker audio system, 360-degree camera system, Panoramic sunroof, Bang & Olufsen audio system, 360-degree camera systemExclusive Platinum Black interior accents, Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker audio system w/ subwoofer
2024 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum vs 2024 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum Black

The overlap between well-to-do pickup truck drivers and goths, I imagine, is pretty small. Still, Ford believes enough exist to make 2,000 of ’em at $99,990 apiece – nearly six grand more than the Lightning Platinum without the brooding blackout accouterments. Not counting the base “Pro” model, which is “currently unavailable” on the Ford website and has been since before I launched Acceleramota. The average MSRP of an F-150 Lightning across trim levels is $79, 243 – nearly $30K more than that of the mid-size Ford Ranger pickup; the Lightning is $12,000 more than the gas-powered F-150 as well.

As our own Nathan Meyer reported in his must-read coverage of the 2024 Cadillac Lyriq, the average price of a new electric vehicle (roughly $67K) is much closer to that of a luxury car ($74K) than new vehicles overall ($48K). For The American Prospect last month, columnist Harold Meyerson argued, that the reason Ford’s bleeding money on EVs is not because Americans aren’t interested, but because car companies have strategically positioned EVs as a “premium” option.

“The big problem for EVs from a price standpoint is that the whole industry has decided that the only way to cater to American tastes is to make their EV fleet out of trucks and SUVs, eliminating the economical sedans that might be affordable.”

Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect

Unlike the Lightning, the base model internal combustion engine (ICE) F-150 XL starts at $33,835. Not only will Ford dot com tell you where you can get one, but you can order your truck piecemeal, allowing you to choose your creature comforts – and forego the features you don’t need. In the case of the F-150, up until 2023, the base model was about as barebones as you could get: seat adjustments, locks, and even windows all lacked electronic power inputs. (Yes, manual windows were only discontinued this year!) While it does have an infotainment system, the display was less prominent than that of higher trims.

Sure, I imagine most Americans want a vehicle with power windows and locks. But, believe me when I say that some don’t. My grandfather, for example, literally lives on his farm. Where he lives, in the rural sprawl of the Eastern Shore, Maryland, you have to drive about half a mile down the street to make a phone call. Ostensibly, he is the target audience for a new pickup. Even the Lightning, which Ford describes as a “true, purpose-built work truck.”

Yet, rather than shell out for inessential frills, my grandfather owns a current-generation base model F-150 with rear-wheel drive (RWD), and I think that’s great! In fact, most workers you see on farms today are still rocking old Chevy C/Ks, F-150s, and Toyota Pickups from the 90s and early 2000s, back when they were small! While Ford’s marketing will have you convinced the F-150 Lightning is built for the American working class, the real starting price tells a different story, and the new, even more prohibitively expensive Platinum Black raises the ceiling without lowering the floor. Putting aside for a moment Ford is a corporation that values high margins over affordability, this fun little side project is a waste of resources when lower-cost trims are still hard to find. Not to mention it makes Forcd seem out of touch with its intended base.

2024 Ford Lightning Platinum Black silhouette facing large 'F-150 Lightning' text logo
Image source: Gabe Carey (Acceleramota)

Naturally, the choice to luxury-wash EVs only intensifies the air of skepticism felt by half the U.S. population. Of course, as emission regulations tighten and states like California – if it were a country, the fifth largest economy in the world – pledge to ban gas-powered cars by 2035, affordable EVs aren’t a matter of if but when. In the meantime, color-swapping an EV version of America’s favorite truck that costs damn-near-$100K isn’t the flex Ford thinks it is. If anything, publicity stunts like the Platinum Black (let’s be honest, that’s what this is) further sour the blue-collar ethos it claims to uphold.

Ford isn’t the only, or even the worst, offender when it comes to the “luxification” of EVs. As with many trends in this segment, Tesla started it with the Model S and everyone else followed suit. But, knowing I could buy a slightly used Ferrari California for around the same price as the F-150 Lightning Platinum Black, I have two words of advice for the Ford executive looking down at this blog from their ivory tower: crank windows.

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2025 Fisker Alaska from the front
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The 2025 Fisker Alaska will be built in the U.S. – here’s everything we know

The U.S. electric pickup truck market is the latest automotive gold rush, and Fisker – whose Ocean SUV has only reached 22 customers so far – wants in. But even with a sharp focus on sustainability (similar to the Polestar 4), practical power, and the world’s biggest cupholder, the Fisker Alaska EV pickup has its work cut out for it.

Seriously, the competition is fierce. The 2024 Chevy Silverado EV is around the corner and the Ford F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T are just waiting for another unworthy rival to overshadow. Then again, judging by its exterior styling in the high-quality renderings Fisker provided to Acceleramota, the Fisker Alaska wants to be more Huracan Sterrato than Silverado.

Don’t be fooled by its exotic appearance, though. The Fisker Alaska is being manufactured from the in the U.S. of A. There’s still a chance to beat Tesla to the punch. After all, the Fisker Alaska has reached the same number of customers as the long-delayed Cybertruck.

What’s even better than all that though? Everything about it was built in the U.S. of A. The Fisker Alaska will be built right in the country of its namesake. Fisker is also committed to producing this one at scale, so you won’t have to wait three years to buy it, allegedly.

2025 Fisker Alaska price and specs

Pricing for the 2025 Fisker Alaska starts at $45,400 before tax incentives. The real kicker here is that you get large pickup storage in a mid-size truck.

  • Price: $45,400
  • Battery capacity: 75 kWh and 113 kWh
  • Electric range: 230 to 340 miles
  • 0-60 speed: 3.9–7.2 seconds (depending on trim)
  • HP: horsepower and other performance metrics TBA

2025 Fisker Alaska interior and tech

The Fisker Alaska appears to be full of character, inside and out. Suede inserts with noir leather give it hunting-trip-with-dad vibes. A big cowboy hat holder on the roof in the rear is stunning and brave, and the flat rear glass not only improves rear visibility, but it also helps the cabin feel roomier. This cozy lounge feel carries over to the front with wood inserts, a giant center screen, and soft-touch surfaces.

The longest bed in its class

Bird's eye rendering of the 2025 Fisker Alaska
Image credit: Fisker

What would you do with a 9.2-foot truck bed? That’s what you’ll get when the powered liftgate is down on the 2025 Fisker Alaska. The rear wall and window come down in what Fisker calls the “Houdini door,” allowing the whole rear cabin space to be used for larger items. If you’re a camper, this means more sleeping space, and for surfers, a lot more room for your buds and boards.

The world’s biggest cupholder

2025 Fisker Alaska interior
Image credit: Fisker

Americans like BIG things. BIG Gulps, BIG trucks, and even BIGGER hospital bills. So a massive cup holder is a no-brainer. The largest Mcdonald’s cup is 32 ounces. Venturing even further into soft drink heaven, the Team Gulp from 7-Eleven is 128 oz. Henrik Fisker drank from what looked to be a 128-ounce water bottle. That said, this mega cupholder can be removed if you want to use smaller cups, like a chud.

Practical storage

Fisker looks to be taking a page out of the Rivian handbook when it comes to cargo space. The Alaska has cockpit storage for work gloves, a large center armrest for flashlights and pens, and a passenger tray with a tablet holder. If the mega cupholder is any indication, plenty of optional accessories and Fisker-themed doo-dads will be sold alongside the Alaska.

2025 Fisker Alaska range and charging

2025 Fisker Alaska from the front
Image credit: Fisker

Data on the charging capabilities of the Fisker Alaska has yet to be announced. For some reference, you can look at our EV explainer to get an idea of what you can realistically expect based on present standards.

Fisker is currently partnering with CATL to supply its Ocean SUV batteries. We expect similar usage of the NMC cells for the lower spec Alaska and the LiFePO4 cells for the top trim. CATL are world-leaders in EV battery tech and works with most of the top EV makers.

The Fisker Alaska will be manufactured in the U.S.

Details are scarce, but Fisker says it will manufacture U.S. models of the Alaska domestically in its home country. Magna Steyr will partner with Fisker to produce Euro-spec models. The Alaska is being produced alongside the Pear, its other electric SUV, at its refurbished Lordstown, Ohio plant.

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