In northern Canada, where I'm from, the only trucks that can get the job done in the oil fields are 3500 Ram, GMC/Silverado HD, and Ford Super Duty, usually with diesel power. It's amazing what these trucks are capable of, even in the most extreme conditions, and they are 100% proven.
Nobody even tries to use a Tundra; attempting even 25% of what these trucks can do would probably bend it in half.
Front wheel drive's main purpose is better traction, handling and more interior room.
This has nothing to do with lowering emissions. Back in the early 80's, when GM and Ford began to offer front drive models, many of the engines they used were set up for both configurations, but yet the engines were built the same.
For example, GM:
The durable Olds 307 V8.
The Pontiac 151 inline 4.
The Cadillac HT 4100 (which was a disaster I will admit).
For example, Ford:
The 2.3 inline 4.
The 3.8 V6.
All these engines and more were used in front drive cars, along with rear drive cars, and some of the compact trucks, and each engine still gave off the same amount of emissions, while the gas mileage comparison varied little.
Where I live emissions tests are no longer required, but years back at the shop I worked at, I remember performing the analysis test on the same engines in both forms, and the results were pretty much identical.
And while we're on the subject, check the sales figures on the Chevy Cavalier from its debut in 1982 to its demise in 2005. The sales were pretty strong.
Another reason why you see a "HUGE" amount of clean full-size trucks is because there is still a demand for large body on frame vehicles.
I must have been lucky. Gas was dirt cheap for many years. I started at 32 cents a gallon in the late 60s. Why buy a 4 cylinder? Gas wasn't even a factor for many years. As our income rose dramatically over time, we still drove either higher end models or bigger engines. I actually had more issues with our Mercedes than domestics.
I also agree on 3/4 ton trucks. If you are paying insurance, why buy a compromise? Buy a cheap weekday beater to rack up the odometer to lessen the resale impact. Drive the better truck on weekends for real work.
In regards to FWD cars and emissions, there is a direct correlation and reason the Big Three all went that way at the same time: Fuel economy. And that improved fuel economy also means improved overall emissions, which in the years prior to more advanced onboard ECU and emission equipment was the easiest way to get to those numbers.
I also read a book recently that said that there was also a fairly high retirement rate in the drivetrain departments of these companies, so not only were they having to design FWD drivetrains, but doing so with greener engineers. So there was a lot of teething issues with those first generation cars.
Yes, the Cavalier sold reasonably well, but man those cars were awful. A friend of mine in college had one, and another, its identical twin, the Pontiac Sunfire. Both cars were at the same level of wear at 40-60k as my car was at 150k. Both ate brake pads like nobody's business. The Cavalier had coolant system issues. I'm guessing because it was full of Dexcool, which is awful stuff.
Like I said, they're doing a LOT better now than they were. It took some severe change and difference in doing business, but I think they've gotten themselves back on track. 10 years ago if you'd ask me whether I'd buy a Ford, Chevy, or Chrysler... heck no, there wasn't a thing they made that I either liked or had any trust in as far as reliability. Today? Sure. I'd have no problem buying a Cruze, Focus, Malibu, Volt, Cadillac or any other number of domestically branded cars.
I knew only one girl that had a new Vega in high school. And a lot of us did not ever buy Cavaliers and entry level models.
The Vega had to be sleeved. Going to aluminum blocks is common today. Most all I knew bought V8s and at least a 6. The V8 engine, and I will compliment the 350 V8, were great engines, even during the low period with smog device experimentation and anti pollution crap that was very poor. Add the awful experiments with ugly 5 MPH bumpers on imports and domestics.
I either kept my pre 71 models or bought a nice V8. Gas was dirt cheap. I did own a nice Celica GT and some Datsun Z cars.
After 1980, it was poor going picking something with style that ran well. I bought some Acura Legends; nothing from Toyota appealed to us.
As far as today, you cannot beat the overall styling and performance of domestic cars and trucks. I have been on vacation for a week in Paris. The car offerings in the small showrooms are the imports I recall as being notoriously poor and unreliable. I was in the Mercedes Champs Elysee however; that was a remarkable place.
I like many imports and domestics. Never had a Vega or Cavalier, but had V8 domestics. MPG is actually great on new ones if that's your worry.
To bring up the mid 70s and 80s, it was a bleak time that affected performance, and cars ran poorly due to the federal pollution laws. Took them a while to get it right.
Sorry, but I have to agree with comment 00:11. I myself am a certified tech, and I go by experience and take automotive history books with a grain of salt.
All the domestic engines that were built in the wake of front wheel drive, that came in both forms, got the same emissions and gas mileage in either form.
You are right, all the GM 350 V8s were great including Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Chevy and Buick; they were all unique in their own ways, because they were all built different.
Even though they all lost horsepower in the late 70's thanks to emissions, they were all still very reliable.
The new "Redesigned" 2014 Tundra has only new exterior styling and interior options. The American designers and engineers can only make the changes that the allotted funds from Toyota will allow. If Toyota opened their vault and said "make a better truck than any domestic", I'm sure they could do it. The reason Toyota doesn't do this, I think, is because they are not really interested in providing the best product to the consumer.
Look at the styling on the brand new Ford F Series. It's outstanding. Then take a ride in one and it is almost car like, except for the turning radius. My son has a new one, and I like it even more than my Silverado. Toyota should stick their neck out with a really sharp design, being that their full size figures are so low.