This 1993 Chevy 454SS Truck Boosts The Horsepower Curve Exponentially

For those who can remember the early ‘90s, it was a time of unbridled optimism so far as horsepower was concerned. Sure, we had to deal with Furbys, Beanie Babies, and the like, but all the new “chat rooms” for car guys were abuzz about the horsepower increases that kept showing up on dealers’ showrooms on an almost daily basis. One of those heavy hitters that could haul in more ways than one was the Chevy 454SS truck.

Starting at the very beginning of the decade, the lifespan of this then-ridiculous powerhouse was short and sweet. The 454SS option was only offered for four years and ended in 1993, the year of this eye-searing red version you see here.

When these trucks hit the streets in 1990, they were serious performers for their day. That big-block 454 engine put out 230 horsepower and a whopping 385 lb-ft of torque. Keep in mind, the automotive world was just coming out of a time where American cars’ average horsepower slowly crept up to only 120 ponies by 1989. The turbocharged Buick Grand National (1982-1987), the highest-performing of all American cars in the ‘80s, was putting out only 235 horsepower. By the time the ‘90s rolled around, these naturally-aspirated Chevy 454SS trucks were nipping on the shoes of each of the Grand National’s additional five horses, and interestingly, were only available in a similar shade of black.

Those 454SS badges on the flanks of the bed let everyone know this truck had the torquey 454 engine under the hood. Wade's big-block has a few extra parts atop that Mark IV engine, but otherwise, it is all stock.

The very next year, these full-size sport trucks succeeded in consuming the GN’s additional ponies – and then some. Starting in 1991, Chevy 454SS trucks got a bump in performance with 255 horsepower and 405 lb-ft of torque. The very next year, Chevy rectified the “black-only” issue, when the color palette was increased to include Summit White and Victory Red hues. Even so, the vast majority of 454SS trucks are found wearing black paint.

Wade Skoglund’s 1993 454SS Truck

Wade Skoglund remembers the ‘90s well. As an impressionable 12-year-old, Wade fell in love with Chevy’s 454SS truck at the 1990 Minneapolis, Minnesota Auto Show. He still has the free posters and brochure that were handed out at the event. Ever since then, Wade kept his eyes peeled for a burly, big-block sport truck that he could call his own.

When Wade first saw this Victory Red 1993 Chevy 454SS truck approximately four years ago, he almost didn’t give it a second look – but he’s sure glad he did! He found the truck on Facebook Marketplace but almost decided to not go look at it because it had chrome bumpers and the wrong grille. Wearing those non-454SS components, he figured it was a clone. But he did go look at it, finding out that the truck was indeed a real Chevy 454SS truck, but had its bumper and grille swapped for shinier bits, and was missing the front valance and fog lights it came with it in true 454SS trim.

The interior of Wade's truck has been well-preserved over the years. Power windows give a touch of luxury back in the early '90s.

Wade quickly rectified those missing items and began making his Chevy 454SS truck more to his liking. He wanted to make sure that the world knew it was a real 454SS, but he also wanted to enjoy driving it. That second task was completed with just a few additions and substitutions.

Wade wanted a little more legroom and didn’t need those high-back bucket seats that came with the truck. Whenever he would stretch out a bit, those high seat backs would rub against the rear glass. Wade installed a set of low-back, OEM bucket seats that give him all the room he needs without the bump from behind his head.

It’s really fun to drive, but those little 15-inch tires don’t stand a chance when I mat the throttle. – Wade Skoglund, Owner

Wade also added an upgraded steering box by Redhead Steering Gears and fastened it securely to that factory steering column thanks to a Borgeson telescopic steering shaft and universal joints.

Without a doubt, the biggest change to Wade’s truck now centers around the way the 454-cubic-inch Mark IV big block breathes. The addition of a Whipple Supercharger definitely boosts both the horsepower and torque of Wade’s red ride. Wade hasn’t dyno’d the truck but feels confident that at around six pounds of boost, the supercharger adds about 70 more horses and about 55 more lb-ft of torque to the truck’s output.

Wade reports, “It’s really fun to drive, but those little 15-inch tires don’t stand a chance when I mat the throttle.” Between those smoking rear tires is the 14-bolt GM rear that originally came with 4:11 gears in ’91 through ’93 Chevy 454SS trucks, but Wade’s truck was converted to the more street-friendly 3.73 gears that were used in the first year of 454SS production.

The reason for the gear change was due to the use of a TH400 transmission in 1990, whereas the later trucks switched to the 4L80E overdrive transmission. A 4L80E transmission does the shifting duties in Wade’s truck, and a complete 2.5-inch Flowmaster exhaust was added, because more air in equals more air out. Besides, it just sounds better, too!

Those long Minnesota winters keep the mileage low on Wade's 454SS. Even though he drives his truck as much as possible, the odometer only shows 56,000 miles on the clock.

Wade’s truck looks great, thanks to a fresh, new coat of that racy, red paint, applied by the talented folks at Bodyworks, in Elko, Minnesota. While spraying that Victory Red paint, the Bodyworks team paint-matched the bumpers and the aftermarket Goodmark Industries hood which features the iconic cowl induction bump. Other than these few changes from how this Chevy 454SS truck originally left the factory, Wade is quite content with his pickup from the era of flannel shirts and grudge-band music.

While Wade’s truck may be exactly how he dreamed it would be since he was 12, he admits that it’s never really finished. What’s in store for this boosted blast from the past pickup? At this point, even Wade won’t say, but there is one thing for sure: he’ll be putting some miles on his big-block brawler until he figures it out. Just like engineering performance in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it takes a little time to figure out perfection.


About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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