15 Fun Ford F-Series Facts07/17/2019
Now that more than a century has passed since Ford offered its first real truck, and more than 70 years with the venerable best-selling F-Series, let’s load your arsenal of pub trivia on the topic.
The original F-1 trucks, also advertised as the “Bonus Built Line,” marked Ford’s first truly all-new post-war vehicle design. Find out how a 1949 Ford F-1 compares to a modern 2019 Ford F-150 here.
First-gen trucks were assembled in nine U.S. assembly plants (Chester, Pennsylvania; Dearborn, Michigan; Edison, New Jersey; Long Beach, California; Norfolk, Virginia; St. Paul, Minnesota; St. Louis, Missouri; Hapeville, Georgia; Highland Park, Michigan), most of which also built sedans. By the later 1950s, trucks started being built in plants of their own and today’s 13th-gen F-150 is built in just two locations—Kansas City, Missouri, and Dearborn, Michigan.
The Mercury brand was particularly popular in Canada, so much so that many rural communities had a Mercury (or Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor) dealer but no Ford dealer. So to ensure that its trucks could penetrate the entire Great White North, Ford sold Mercury M-Series pickups there with minor trim variations through 1968.
If you wanted four-wheel drive on an early F-series, your truck was upfitted by Indianapolis-based Marmon-Herrington Company, which added its own two-speed transfer case and live front axle. The company had been converting trucks for the military since the 1930s. Ford began installing its own four-wheel drive in 1959.
In time for Ford’s Golden Jubilee in 1953, the redesigned second-gen “Economy Truck Line” appeared, renamed F-100, F-200, and so on. (Some say the name was inspired by the F-100 Super Sabre fighter jet.) The ancient flathead V-8 soldiered on through 1953—it’s 21st year. This gen also brought the first automatic transmission option.
For 1957, the third-gen F-Series adopted the smooth-side look all pickups enjoy today, though a more traditional narrow box with “Flareside” external fenders became optional. Two bed lengths were also offered: 6.5-foot and 8-foot.
One Bumper Fits All
A slightly redesigned front bumper arrived for 1959—chromed or painted—that would carry over on successive F-Series generations for 20 years. That ranks as the longest-running unchanged part on an F-Series.
In an effort to greatly simplify the body assembly and paint processes, the cab and box were unitized for light-duty F-100 variants of the fourth-gen truck in 1961. Bad idea. Loaded beds occasionally caused a cab door to spring open and/or be impossible to shut. By 1962 and ’63, F-100s could be ordered with a separate bed (Flareside or Styleside), and the unitized option was dropped for 1964.
For 1965, Ford trumped all rivals on the ride and handling front by replacing the leaf-sprung solid front axle with a pair of forged swing arms on coil springs—a solution that was deemed far more rugged than carlike control arms. A Twin Traction-Beam 4WD variation would appear on the seventh-gen truck in 1980.
Also appearing in 1965 was the Ranger name, which Edsel was no longer using on its base trim-level sedans. In F-100 duty, it signified the fanciest trim level, making it the King Ranch or Platinum site-foreman’s truck of its day.
Factory Crew Cabs
1965 also marked the start of crew-cab production on the assembly line for F-250 and F-350 models. The body style had been available before, with production farmed out to coachbuilders.
It was during the fifth gen (’67-’72) that the pickup line started broadening to meet demands for increased creature comfort, with a new bare-bones Custom model on the lower end for 1972 and a new Explorer trim package added at the top end.
Big in Brazil
The fifth-gen Ford F-Series went on sale in Brazil in 1971 and continued through 1992, undergoing multiple face-lifts along the way.
The sixth gen (’73-’79) brought a 22-inch cab extension for improved storage or passenger hauling in a pinch (in two side-mounted seats). Dodge had introduced the concept in 1973.
To keep some of its trucks from having to meet the EPA’s new emissions standards for cars and trucks with less than 6,000 pounds of gross-vehicle weight rating, Ford introduced a model that was supposed to be a half-step between F-100 and F-250. This “heavy-half-ton” 6,000-pound GVWR model was dubbed F-150—a name that has been a perennial best-seller for decades.
Get the story behind the 1949 Ford F-1/2019 Ford F-150 photos here.
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