• 7.4-L GM V8
  • Automatic transmission
  • First production year
  • Original black paint and decals
  • Less than 50 miles on the odometer
  • Original wheels
  • Original window sticker
  • Original red interior

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1990 Chevrolet 454 SS Pickup
Years Produced:1990–93
Number Produced:16,953
Original List Price:$18,295
SCM Valuation:$22,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Chassis Number Location:Lower driver’s side of windshield
Engine Number Location:Front passenger’s side of engine block
Alternatives:1993–95 Ford Lightning, 1991–93 GMC Typhoon, 1992–93 GMC Syclone
Investment Grade:C

This truck, Lot 259, sold for $39,600, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Palm Beach Online Only auction held March 20–28, 2020.

The 454 SS was the sport truck of the sport-truck era and is highly desirable among collectors. But $39,600 seems like it’s not the right price for this kind of truck — or is it?

The original

Back in the late 1980s, the sport-truck scene started to take root. Building a truck and making it cool was the name of the game, and with the introduction of the new Silverados in 1988, Chevy was ahead of the pack. They had the truck to own back then, particularly if you wanted to tweak and tune it to your own desires. That, and the aftermarket was packed with parts for these rigs.

And so when they introduced the first 454 SS in 1990, it was a big deal. Here was this super-powerful truck with a big-block V8 purpose-built to smoke the tires. It only came in one color combo that first year — black with red interior — but later there were white and red variants that were also popular. They were also so rare that they became a valued commodity. Sport-truck fans craved the 454 SS, so much so that Chevy even spawned mini-truck versions with the Syclone and Typhoon, and both of those sold like crazy, too.

Today, the 454 SS is a legendary truck; frequently the one that collectors and customizers alike want to own, and rarely do they make that dream come true. It’s no surprise, as there were just under 17,000 of them built in three years. So when one comes across the auction block, you can be sure that somebody is going to snatch it up.

Of course, the question is, for how much?

Factory fresh

This particular truck is quite the standout in its field, and that starts with the number on the odometer: Just 44 original miles. It makes you wonder if the purchaser bought the truck, did a few burnouts and then parked it for 30 years. The only thing that isn’t in excellent condition on the vehicle is the rubber strip on the top of the bumper, and that’s only slightly faded. So ultimately, if you’re looking for the perfect representation of a bone-stock 454 SS like it came off the showroom floor — complete with the window sticker — this is your huckleberry.

Then there’s the price, which is a bit of a puzzler. In 2019, a 1990 454 SS with 3,700 original miles sold for a tick more at $40,700. What’s the difference? Well the paint was in excellent shape, and the mileage was obviously super low as well. But that truck was mildly customized with period-correct wheels, a GMC grille and a slightly lowered suspension. This truck — the one with under 50 miles on it — does seem to be in more original condition, and yet the custom one pulled out ahead in the final tally.

And still, a 454 SS in the high-$30k range is an outlier. These trucks sell in the $20ks all day long. In fact, you have to go back to 2005 to find one that sold in the low $30ks, which is definitely saying something. The obvious difference is the extremely low mileage, but is there anything else we can learn from this sale? And why is the price so high compared to the sales history of the model?

The OBS market is hot

Back when Internet forums were all the rage, each generation of Chevy truck was separated into categories. And since the 1999–2006 trucks were current at the time, they were categorized as the New Body Style, or NBS trucks. OBS or Old Body Style, therefore, were the previous generation of trucks, the 1988–98s, of which this 454 SS is a member.

OBS trucks are particularly hot right now. Why? They’re cheaper, for one. The 1967–72s have been pricey for well over a decade. Their squarebody brethren 1973–87 models are coming up in price and the 1988–98s are just sitting there waiting for their turn.

Of those trucks, the 454 SS is the most desirable. It’s super rare, and it’s one of those vehicles that’s emblematic of the times. If you were a kid or young adult in 1990, it was your dream truck. You might have even had a poster of one in your bedroom. And as such, the nostalgia is real, and you’re probably willing to pay extra money for one, particularly if it has so few miles that a dealership could probably sell it today as-new.

The competition? Not much

But what if you can’t get one of these trucks? Well, if you’re a Chevy fan, then you have to look at the GMC Syclone and its SUV counterpart, the GMC Typhoon. But both of those are S-platform trucks, so they’re not quite as desirable. If you’re willing to wade over into Blue Oval territory, then you could look at a 1993 Ford Lightning. Historically, those have sold for under $10k, so they’re a comparable steal — but that’s pretty much it for that era. Your only other option is a Dodge Ram SRT-10, but those are ones from the current millennium, and that might not fit your needs.

Basically, these trucks are a rare breed — the kind that GM isn’t making anymore. Today, your high-performance Chevy and GMC trucks have some variant of an LS engine, and that’s great. But there’s something about having a truck that gets less than 10 miles to the gallon and can barely keep the rear end planted that’s a lot of fun. And hey, if it’s a little more expensive as a result, that’s just the price you’ve got to pay for all that tire smoke.

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s)

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