Heavy-Duty Half-Tons are Familiar Territory


Ram created quite a stir at the State Fair of Texas last month when it introduced the Ram Tradesman 1500 HD, essentially a cleverly reskinned three-quarter-ton long-bed heavy-duty pickup truck dressed in the 1500 hood and fascia sheet metal instead of 2500 HD clothing.

Sure, it allows Ram owners to brag about having the biggest 1500 hauling and towing numbers of any half-ton on the market, but it’s not really a half-ton, is it? Further, what’s to stop Ford or GM from putting 1-ton underpinnings on a truck with a half-ton face and upping the ante once again? The truth is, nothing, though that could cut into Ram HD sales.  

The only risk any manufacturer runs when reskinning an existing platform is muddying the waters among the different package offerings, but we’re not sure that matters too much as long as the manufacturer makes sure to stay true to the specific personality of the truck it’s selling. And Ram looks to be doing a pretty good job of that compared with other brands. Packages like the Outdoorsman, the Tradesman and the Express allow a lot of room to play. But reskinning or stretching the name game isn’t new by any means, especially when it comes to HD “half-tons.” 

GM, near the beginning of the four-full-size-door craze almost 20 years ago, realized it didn’t have enough crew-cab models in its half-ton (or compact pickup) lineup, and that seemed to be where all the big market gains were coming from at the time. To bridge that gap temporarily, while the latest version of the half-ton GMT800 crew-cab models were production-constrained, Chevy used a 2500 crew-cab platform and skinned it with the more familiar half-ton sheet metal and called it the Chevy Silverado 1500 HD. This was also the same period when GM introduced the computer-controlled four-wheel steering system called Quadrasteer, which required many 2500 HD parts as well. The 1500 HD survived from 2001 to 2006. 

Ford also experimented with a more work-designed half-ton platform and incorporated some interesting bed solutions as well, like this cool midbox option. The heavy-duty payload package was part of the F-150 choices for several years, and we thought one might even come with an F-150 HD baby PowerStroke as late as 2010, but that never happened. We never heard exactly what happened with that project, but it’s likely our spy shooters where fooled by the tailpipes and SuperCrew configuration. Whether or not a heavy-duty F-150 will come back with a smaller turbo-diesel or maybe a larger EcoBoost engine remains to be seen. 

                        2005 Chevy 1500 HD       2007 Ford F-150     2012 Ram Tradesman HD   

Max. Payload                3,073                             3,050                         3,100 

Max. Towing                 9,000                             11,000                       11,500

Max. GVWR                  8,600                              8,200                         8,585

Max. GCWR                 17,600                            15,800                       17,500


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