1990: Back in Black
Chevrolet introduced the 1990 Silverado 454 SS in late 1989. RPO code B4U was available exclusively as a regular cab, short bed truck. You could get the Silverado 454 SS in any color you wanted as long as it was Onyx Black. The Silverado 454 SS also featured blackout exterior trim, chrome 15-inch wheels, and P275/60R-15 blackwall tires. The package also included halogen composite headlamps, front air dam, and fog lamps.
Under the hood lies the namesake of the Silverado 454 SS. The 7.4-liter 454-cubic inch behemoth produced 230 horsepower with 385 lb.-ft of torque. This power was put to the pavement through a three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. Maximum torque was realized early in the power spectrum at only 1,900 rpm.
Performance goodies include a locking rear differential with 3.73 axle ratio, performance handling package, and Bilstein gas shocks. The Silverado 454 SS also got a heavy-duty radiator, quick-ratio steering, and front anti-roll bar. Why Chevrolet would create this beast with only a single exhaust system has us scratching our heads.
Inside, drivers were treated to a Garnet Red interior with cloth high-back bucket seats, center console, AM/FM stereo with cassette player and graphic equalizer, and tilt steering wheel. Amenities also include cruise control, air conditioning, and a sliding rear window.
MotorWeek put the Silverado 454 SS to the test and got a 0 to 60 time of 7.7 seconds and a quarter mile time of 15.9 seconds at 87 mph. MotorWeek praised the Silverado 454 SS for its acceleration, handling, and cornering abilities. However, MotorWeek was not as impressed with the Silverado 454 SS’s payload, fuel economy, and lack of seat bolsters.
Chevrolet produced roughly 13,748 Silverado 454 SS trucks for the 1990 model year with a base price of $18,295.
1991: Are You Ready For This Much Truck?
1991 saw Chevrolet make several performance enhancements to the Silverado 454 SS. The 454 V8 gained 25 more horsepower and 20 more lb.-ft. of torque over the 1990 model. A 4L80E four-speed automatic transmission also replaced the previous year’s three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic. In addition, the 454 SS received a new 4.10 rear, dual exhaust, and a tachometer in the gauge cluster for 1991.
Performance on the street and strip improved as well. The 1991 Silverado 454 SS was capable of 0 to 60 times of 7.2 seconds and a quarter mile ETA of 15.7 seconds. Unfortunately, gas mileage was still pretty dismal with the Silverado 454 SS getting an EPA rating of 12 mpg highway and 9 mpg city.
Even with all the performance improvements over the previous model year, only 983 Silverado 454 SS trucks rolled off the assembly line in 1991.
1992: If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
The Silverado 454 SS carried over with few changes for the 1992 model year. The dark knight was still available in Onyx Black, but Summit White and Victory Red were added as color options. Base price also increased to $20,585, which was almost $1,000 over the base price of the 1991 model. Production also increased to 1,379 for 1992.
1993: Not the Only Game in Town
After being the only full-size sport truck around for a few years, the Silverado 454 SS finally gained a competitor. Ford wasn’t content with the 454 SS getting all the attention and introduced the F-150 SVT Lightning. And just like the 454 SS, the Lightning was only available as a regular cab with a monochromatic paint job. The SVT Lightning featured a 5.8-liter V8 under the hood with a four-speed overdrive automatic transmission. This combination produced 240 horsepower and 340 lb.-ft. of torque.
Motor Trend pitted these two brutes mano a mano in a shootout for their June 1993 issue. Both the 454 SS and SVT Lightning sprinted from 0 to 60 neck and neck in 7.2 seconds. In a quarter mile clash, the SVT Lightning was slightly faster with a 15.6 second time over the Silverado 454 SS’s time of 15.8 seconds.
Base price also rose to $21,240 for its final year of production. 1993 also saw the fewest 454 SSs built with only 843 trucks built at GM’s Fort Wayne, Indiana plant.
The 1990s was a decade that saw performance start to make a true comeback. The Chevrolet Silverado 454 SS ushered in the new decade and gave drivers who needed pickup truck utility an alternative to the Camaro. Due to low production numbers, the Silverado 454 SS became an instant classic and still delights drivers 30 years after its introduction. The 1990s may be known as the decade of grunge, but the Silverado 454 SS was pure rock and roll.