To celebrate yet another candle on our birthday-cake pyre, 63-year-old Trailer Life sent out party invitations. They read “Bring a half-ton, about 140-inch wheelbase, 2WD, with the biggest engine, shortest gears and towing package. We’ll supply the trailer.” Chevrolet RSVPed with a Silverado LT Extended Cab with Quadrasteer, Ford delivered a SuperCrew Lariat, Nissan dropped off a Titan SE Crew Cab and Toyota loaned us a Tundra Double Cab Limited.
Given that this is the single most popular class of vehicle in North America, the number of permutations of some models can be staggering. Ford offers five trim levels on the new F-150 in three cab styles and three bed lengths, whereas the new-kid-on-the-block Titan has three trim levels, two cabs and two beds; the Chevy and the Toyota fall in between.
Any of these pickups would fit a standard 20-foot long garage and go under most doors. Only five inches separated the wheelbases, but even those few inches can be a significant factor relative to expansion joints or irregular roads in any given locale.
We matched these trucks in both objective and subjective testing, including towing a 28-foot Fleetwood Prowler Regal that carried 890 pounds on the hitch and 6,535 pounds total.
This is not in accordance with our standard protocol of matching truck tow capacity and trailer gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr), but the trailer was chosen because it was very close to the maximum tow capacity of the truck with the lowest tow rating. All testing, and the numbers given, apply to an unloaded, dry trailer with just a battery added to keep things legal.
None of the trucks ever failed in any respect to get the job done though, when loaded, each one would need a full turn or more on the headlight vertical-adjustment screw to avoid irritating oncoming traffic. We do know if you have a Blue Oval belt buckle, Bow Tie, Z-car or Camry, we may be preaching to the choir, but you may find some notable differences to help pick your next half-ton.
Pick up the August 2004 issue of Trailer Life for full test impressions and details on the Half-Ton Shootout — then subscribe to Trailer Life, so you can stay informed on the latest tests, previews, tow vehicles, and technical and RV-lifestyle information.