A Ssangyong pickup with a Ford V8, exhaust stacks and a weird story

Odds are so good that you’ve never heard of a Ssangyon Actyon Sports car before today. These Korean pickup trucks have never been sold here, but you’ll occasionally see them for sale, and they can cause a stir when they do. We just got one, and it’s not just interesting because it has a Ford V8 engine and ridiculously large exhaust stacks. While looking into their background, we finally discovered how these trucks banned from foreign markets got to Americans without being crushed.

This truck was listed for sale on Facebook Marketplace and a central for sale group in Kansas, and was the product of one of Korea’s less successful automakers. SsangYong went from being its own company to becoming a subsidiary of the ill-fated Daewoo, then spun off and fell into the hands of Mahindra. This year, it has been absorbed into an industrial conglomerate, so the difficult journey continues.

Along the way, it produced a line of SUVs and pickup trucks called the Actyon. It was manufactured from 2005 to 2018, and was sold mainly in Southeast Asia and parts of Europe, but never in the United States. This will raise red flags among those who know about our 25-year import ban, under which offending vehicles could be crushed. But this Ssangyong is completely legal, because it came here under a forgotten electric car program.

2008 Ssangyong Actyon Sport Pickup Truck with Ford 289 V8. Christy Zutz Newman via Facebook Marketplace

The backstory of these Ssangyong trucks was shared by veteran auto technician Jim Schmidt, who claims credit for improving the infamous Oldsmobile diesel V8 of the day. Schmidt told me that 4,000 of these SsangYong cars came to the United States in 2008 under the wing of an electric company that planned to convert them to electric cars. (Side note: There was a company called Phoenix Motorcars that tried this as well, though it’s unclear if the projects are related.)

But there was a problem: The trucks’ coil springs couldn’t handle the extra weight of electric car batteries, which were heavier in 2008 than they are today. It didn’t help that batteries were expensive at the time either. The program was a wash, and the trucks were liquidated for next to nothing. Schmidt recalls an acquaintance getting hundreds of them for just $500 the totalnot one piece.

Schmidt himself picked up six, and performed various engine swaps on them. He installed a GM 5.3-liter small-block V8 in one, a four-cylinder diesel in another, and even one of the facelifted Oldsmobile diesels in one he still owns today. (Find me a weirder truck, and I’ll eat my Stetson.) Two got Ford 302 V8s, one a 289 (4.7L), and this is the truck for sale today.

This truck was owned by the seller’s father and is said to have been rarely driven, with a video showing 5,000 miles on the odometer and the plastic wrap still on the seats. It reportedly uses an unspecified three-speed automatic transmission (possibly Ford Cruise-O-Matic) that powers the rear wheels, and gets about 15 mpg. It’s not clear who added the stacks, but they are a lovely addition to the already unique truck. Plus it’s intact He means.

If you want this obscure V8-powered novelty and aren’t afraid to track down parts, good news: it’s not that expensive. The seller is asking just $5,900, which doesn’t buy you a lot of Chevy Silverado or Toyota Tacoma. Doesn’t mean you can use Ssangyong in their place, mind you. It’s obviously a silly thing to take to truck meets, drag nights, or maybe even lift for S&Gs. The equipment is there, that’s all I’ll say.

Got a tip or question for the author? You can reach them here: james@thedrive.com

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