Transformers brings heart-pumping action, death defying stunts, and battles of epic proportion to the big screen, but one of the biggest draws to the Transformers series is the numerous trucks and cars that are featured as the vehicle form of the Autobots and Decepticons. What kind of pickup truck is Ironhide?
Ironhide, the Autobot weapons specialist and long-time friend of Optimus Prime, is a GMC Topkick pickup truck.
It’s no surprise that such a gruff and hardcore Autobot takes the shape of this beauty of a truck throughout the Transformers series. In fact, Ironhide features prominently in the first three movies using this disguise. The rest of this article will discuss the GMC Topkick pickup and Ironhide’s role in the Transformers movies.
The GMC Topkick Pickup Truck
Image credit: topspeed.com
Running from 2003-2009, the Topkick pickup was produced by GMC as a medium-duty vehicle that could handle heavier loads than a standard pickup. Kitted with a 6.6-liter V8 engine, it can tow up to 16,000 pounds. It’s capable of putting out 605 lbs. per ft of torque at 1600 RPM. The engine can crank out 300 hp at 3000 rpm.
The GMC Topkick wasn’t built for speed, only capable of reaching 75 mph max, but that’s perfectly fine since its main job is towing heavy loads. Due to the impressive amount of torque it has, the GMC Topkick can manage a 5000-pound payload and has a towing capacity of over 14,000 pounds, a feat that can’t be matched by other conventional pickups.
This hefty towing capability comes with a price, though. The GMC Topkick retails starting at $55,000 and has an abysmally poor mileage, only hitting 7 miles per gallon. Measuring 8 feet wide, 8 feet tall, and over 20 feet in length, the Topkick is a robust beast on the road, drawing instant attention from other drivers.
On the front, you’ll find a rectangular grille bearing the GMC logo in the center. A set of squared headlights are placed under a thin chromed bar. On either side of the cab, there are foot steps to help facilitate climbing into this giant truck.
If you’re familiar with the Kodiak’s design, you’ll recognize the GMC Topkick’s interior as being almost exactly the same. An angled center stack pairs well with comfortable seats and an ergonomically designed instrument array.
Why Choose the GMC Topkick for Ironhide?
Image credit: prime1studio.com
Starting as a toyline in the ’80s, Transformers has become an incredibly popular franchise, with 6 movies currently released, and a 7th, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts slated to be released in 2023 as a sequel to the 2018 movie Bumblebee.
To capture the personality of these larger than life transforming robots, two things are required: good actors and epic vehicles. Gruff, determined, and steadfastly loyal, Ironhide is the weapons specialist for the Autobots and has a commanding presence (not to mention some pretty slick fighting moves) on the battlefield.
As such, the GMC Topkick is a perfect fit to convey the power, presence, and fierceness of this staunch Autobot ally.
Tough and durable, Ironhide probably had enough spare parts to fill a junkyard, and his years of battling the Decepticons made him the best of the best. Unlike Optimus Prime, Ironhide was more willing to push the Autobot code to get the job done, and just like the GMC Topkick, he’s large and in charge.
How Was the GMC Topkick Modified for the Movies?
Unlike many other vehicles involved in the Transformers series, Ironhide’s car disguise needed little modification to be picture perfect for the big screen. He started out as a GMC C4500 4×4 Crew Cab Topkick before the company doing the modifications got ahold of it.
According to Jeff Mann, vehicle designer for the Transformers movies, Ironhide needed the least modification to get the job done, a testament to how rough and tough the GMC Topkick is.
Two trucks to identical specifications so that the film crews could shoot at two different locations. Having two stunt vehicles is also good practice just in case any damage befell either one of them.
Mann’s goal was to get the medium-duty powerhouse of a truck to look a little more ‘normal,’ so they raised the suspension by a couple inches using spring blocks and re-arched springs.
They accented the character’s design by adding a pair of sidesteps and two big-rig style smoke stacks made from chrome—as if the Topkick didn’t already look hardcore enough.
On the tailgate of these modded Topkicks, you’ll find the Autobot logo, which is the only true indicator that this beast of a truck isn’t quite what it seems.
To made the truck seem more battle-ready, the crew also added some hardened 3/8-inch steel front and rear bumpers. Paired with the menacing grille, Ironhide’s disguised form looks just as menacing as you might imagine.
Underneath, they also fit some massive 40-inch Nitto Mud Grappler tires. Another modification made for the movie to appear like a bigger truck was the addition of some steel rear wheels, different from the standard dual rear wheels in a TopKick.
The wide profile of the GMC Topkick and the midnight black color gave it a serious, yet sincere look.
Ironhide is a popular character in the Transformers series, characterized by his gruff nature and fierce loyalty to the Autobots. To match his strong-willed personality and tough, gritty form, the crew selected the GMC Topkick to represent Ironhide’s choice of disguise when he’s roaming the streets of L.A.
These disguises not only made it easier for the Autobots to get around town faster, but it sure makes for some great action scenes with so many different cars and trucks tearing away on the streets of L.A.
What Kind of Truck Is Optimus Prime?
The first generation of Optimus Prime from the 1984 toy line is a Freightliner FL86 cab over a semi. In the movies, Optimus Prime is a modified version of a Peterbilt 379 with a 48-inch flat top sleeper.
Valik loves tinkering in the garage and is currently restoring a 2000 GMC Sierra 1500 truck. He also writes about the progress on this blog. When not in the garage, Valik is also a web developer and a blogger. I know, strange, a hand in two completely different worlds. And that is the way he likes to keep it.