Unlike many other car and truck models that have come and gone, the Ford F series has proven to have serious staying power.The crown jewel of the lineup, the Ford F-150, is hands down one of the best all-around pickups within the industry. With versatile options and a powerful engine, it has remained the bestselling pickup truck for close to two decades.
In the Beginning
The introduction of the Ford F-150 can be traced all the way back to the 1940s. In 1948, Ford rolled out what was dubbed the "F" series of pickup trucks. The trucks were the first post-war vehicle release for the company and included integrated headlights,streamlined body types, large cabs, and a single windshield. The basis for the future Ford F-150 was the F-1 with a half-ton body and two engine options: a V6 with 95 horsepower and a V8 with 100 horsepower. The truck was designed for mass appeal as a potential opportunity to sell the pickups to both consumers and the working class alike.
In 1951, modifications were made to the original Ford F-1 design to improve the overall safety and appearance of the pickup truck. A larger rear window was added to the truck design to improve driver visibility while backing up. A waterproof ignition
made the 1950s version of the pickup a much safer vehicle. Grille inserts were also modified as well as the rear fenders. During this year, cab options offered to customers included the Five Star Cab and Five Star Extra Cab. The Five Star Extra Cab offered
upgrades such as extra-cushioned seats, metallic trim pieces around the windows, soundproofing, and dome lights.
The Golden Anniversary
As Ford reached the company's 50th year of production, they aimed to release an upgrade to the previous generation of the F series of pickup trucks. The light-duty version was renamed the F-100 and was marketed to the middle-class driver. The 1953 release was the first time that an automatic transmission was available in the F series. The redesign was sleeker than the previous version with the hood no longer separated from the grille and fenders.
The next year, Ford would remove the flathead V-8 engines from the trucks and replace them with the Y-Block engine. The new engines boasted 15 percent more horsepower while still measuring the same 239 cubic inches as the previous version. Luxury options available in the trucks up to mid-1950s included sun visors, cigar lighters, and a new hood badge.
Third and Fourth Generation Ford Trucks
During the mid-1950s up until 1961, the design of the Ford F series trucks underwent a major overhaul. A more cohesive body style was offered with the front fenders mounted flush on the truck. The trucks became boxier with wider cabs and fuller hoods.Bed lengths ranged from 6.5 feet to 8 feet. For the next generation, this trend would continue with the pickups getting wider but the body getting lower to the ground. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the grille went through many style changes. The unibody of the early-1960s was extremely unpopular with consumers and Ford decided to revert back to a separate cab and truck in 1964 to win back customer approval.
For the trucks, 1959 was the most significant year for the third generation. This year would be when Ford began producing fourwheel drive versions of the pick-ups. This was notable since previously truck drivers needed to hire a company who would be able to offer 4 x 4 conversion.
The Official Debut of the Ford F-150
The previous generations of the F Series trucks all contributed to the premiere of the Ford F-150 in 1975. The Ford F-150 was meant to be a heavier duty version of the F-100. Although initially offered only with heavier springs and a way to bypass stricter emissions laws, the Ford F-150 would go on to become the base model of the lineup, replacing the F-100, and become the bestselling pickup of all time.
The Reinvention During the 1980s
The Ford F-150 would receive a ground-up redesign as the United Stated entered the Reagan era. Everything was created to give the truck a more aerodynamic appearance with smoother sides, rear-slanted hoods, and simpler grille styles. Additional trim options included two-tone paint jobs, aluminum tailgates, and wooden dashes. There were also models available that came standard with power door locks and windows. Engine options for the early 1980s included the 7.5 liter V8 with 245 horsepower.A diesel version was also made available with 170 horsepower. The additional torque in the diesel version allowed for towing capabilities. In 1987, the engines would receive fuel injections to give them even greater horsepower.
Mechanical and safety features became a priority in the late 1980s for the Ford F-150. Fuse boxes became easier to access and gauges were redesigned to improve legibility. Ford was the first company to make anti-lock rear brakes come standard on all of their trucks. Adding automatic locking hubs to the 1989 version of the Ford F-150 also enhanced four-wheel drive for the truck.
More Innovation in the 1990s
Ford is always in tune with the needs and desires of truck drivers. They continued with this trend in the 1990s by adding plusher seats, smaller headlights, and a very sporty, aerodynamic design for the F-150. The Lightning trim package sold in 1993 included a front spoiler, sport suspension, blackout trim, and alloy 17-inch wheels. In the late 1990s, the design received a lighter chassis and a new Supercab version with dual rear doors.
Numerous safety upgrades would come to pass in the mid-1990s including the installation of a driver's side airbag and third brake light. The Eddie Bauer edition of the Ford F-150 was released as a luxury version of the bestselling pickup. Upgrades included two-tone paint, extra cupholders, air conditioning, power windows and doors, and a stereo with built-in cassette player.A NASCAR version of the F-150 was another special edition that became available in 1998 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the F series of trucks and boasted dual exhausts.
The Ford F-150 received special recognition for the many innovative upgrades incorporated during the 1990s. The truck was voted "North American Truck of the Year" and Motor Trend's "Truck of the Year" in 1999.
The 2000s and Beyond
Technology upgrades became the focus as we entered the new millennium. Multiple CD changers were added in 2003 along with special edition trucks including Pioneer brand radio systems. A powered rear window was also an option for certain trim levels of the F-150. All versions of the F-150s in 2003 included four doors with standard models offering behind the seat storage. In 2009, the F-150 went back to the original two-door design for the base model. Newer, more fuel efficient engines were installed in the Ford F-150s to give better fuel economy. One example would be the twin turbocharged 3.5 liter V6 engine called EcoBoost
Since 2015, Ford has made the F-150 lighter by replacing many of the steel body parts with aluminum sections. Radar sensors have been added to the trucks as a way for cruise control to adapt to driving conditions. Current options for the 2016 F-150 are remote start, fog lamps, keypad entry, folding rear seating, privacy glass, heated seats, GPS, rear backup camera, and Bluetooth integration.
For a 32-year streak, the F series trucks have remained the bestselling automobile in the United States. Since their conception, it is estimated that Ford has sold a jaw-dropping 35 million pickup trucks. Truck enthusiasts are sure to be pleased as Ford
continues to surpass expectations with each new release of the F-150.