Odds are pretty good that you've never even heard of a Ssangyon Actyon Sports before today. These Korean pickup trucks weren't ever sold here, but you'll sometimes see them pop up for sale, and they can cause a stir when they do. One just has, and it's not just interesting because it has a Ford V8 and big, silly exhaust stacks. While looking into its background, we finally found out how these forbidden foreign-market trucks reached Americans without getting crushed.
Listed for sale on Facebook Marketplace and a central Kansas for-sale group, this truck was the product of one of Korea's less successful carmakers. Ssangyong went from being its own company to being a subsidiary of the ill-fated Daewoo, then splitting off and falling into Mahindra's hands. This year, it got absorbed into an industrial conglomerate, so the rough ride continues.
Along the way, it produced a line of SUVs and pickups called the Actyon. Built from 2005 to 2018, they were mainly sold in southeast Asia and parts of Europe, but never in the United States. That'll raise red flags among those of you who know about our 25-year import ban, under which violating vehicles can be crushed. But this Ssangyong is fully legal, because it came here under a forgotten EV program.
The backstory of these Ssangyong pickups was shared by veteran auto technician Jim Schmidt, who claims credit for improving the infamous Oldsmobile diesel V8 back in the day. Schmidt told me that 4,000 of these Ssangyongs came to the U.S. in 2008 under the wing of an electrical utility that planned to convert them to EVs. (Side note: there was a company called Phoenix Motorcars that tried this too, though it's unclear if the ventures were related.)
But there was a problem: the trucks' coil springs couldn't bear the added weight of EV batteries, which were even heavier back in 2008 than they are today. It didn't help that batteries were pricier then, too. The program was a wash, and the trucks were liquidated for almost nothing. Schmidt recalled one acquaintance obtaining hundreds of them for just $500—that's total, not apiece.
Schmidt himself picked up six, which he performed various engine swaps on. He installed a General Motors 5.3-liter small-block V8 in one, a diesel four-cylinder in another, and even one of his improved Oldsmobile diesels in one that he still has today. (Find me a weirder truck, and I'll eat my Stetson.) Two got Ford 302 V8s, and one a 289 (4.7 liters), and that's the truck listed for sale today.
This truck was owned by the seller's father and is said to have been rarely driven, with one walkthrough video showing 5,000 miles on the odometer and plastic wrapping still on the seats. It's said to use an unspecified three-speed automatic transmission (maybe a Ford Cruise-O-Matic) that powers the rear wheels, and get around 15 mpg. It's not clear who added the stacks, but they're an endearing addition to what's already a unique truck. Plus, they sound mean.
If you want this obscure, V8-powered novelty and aren't scared of tracking down parts for it, then good news: It's not that expensive. The seller asks just $5,900, and that doesn't exactly buy you a lot of Chevy Silverado or Toyota Tacoma. Not that you could use this Ssangyong in their place, mind you. It's clearly something silly to take to truck meets, drag nights, or maybe even lift for S&Gs. The kits exist, and that's all I'll say.
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