Ford F-Series: A Brief History

© Ford Motor CompanyFord F-Series: A Brief History
The Ford F-Series has been the best-selling truck in the U.S. for 38 consecutive years, as well as the top-selling vehicle overall for a total of 32 years — amazing winning streaks in any arena. In 1977 it became the best-selling truck in America, and in 1982 F-Series was so popular with buyers it was the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. — car or truck. Ford Motor Company continually improves and upgrades the iconic pickup to meet customer demands and competitor challenges. Now in its 13th generation, the F-Series has evolved into a high-tech machine that spans the spectrum from work truck to luxury transportation.

© Ford Motor CompanyEarly Ford Trucks
The third vehicle Henry Ford built was a truck, prior to founding the Ford Motor Company in 1903. The true roots of Ford light trucks extend back to commercial use of the Ford Model T car chassis, before Ford introduced the Model T One-Ton truck chassis in July 1917 (three years after the start of World War I). The Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body debuted in 1925 as the first factory-assembled pickup. It sold for $281. In 1928 Ford introduced pickups based on the Model A and Model AA chassis, and continued to build trucks until World War II when all Ford production switched over to support the military effort.

© Ford Motor CompanyFirst Generation: 1948–1952
The Ford F-Series first debuted as a 1948 model — the first all-new postwar vehicle line for Ford, with a redesigned cab and a new front end. The new trucks were advertised as “Bonus Built” and offered three new engines, a more comfortable seat and a one-piece windshield. The F-Series was offered in a wide range of cab and chassis configurations, from the half-ton F-1 through the 3-ton F-8.

© Ford Motor CompanyFirst Generation: 1948–1952
For the Fabulous Fifties, the 1951 F-Series received a new front end design with new grille, front fenders and hood, and a larger rear window for better visibility. For 1952 Ford introduced a new 215-cubic inch overhead valve inline 6-cylinder engine to replace the previous flathead six.

© Ford Motor CompanySecond Generation: 1953–1956
Ford celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1953 and also introduced a redesigned F-Series. The F-100 replaced the F-1, and the F-250 replaced the F-2 and F-3 for 1953. The Blue Oval offered an automatic transmission in the F-Series as an option, and 1953 was the last year for the Ford flathead V8 engine first introduced in 1932.

© Ford Motor CompanyThird Generation: 1957–1960
The 1957 F-Series features a square, more modern design with flush front fenders and the option of either Flareside rear fenders with a narrow bed and traditional fenders or a Styleside design with flush-mounted straight fenders.

© Ford Motor CompanyThird Generation: 1957–1960
For 1959 Ford offered 4-wheel drive as an option on both the F-100 and the F-250 model lines. Although aftermarket conversions had been previously available, it was the first time that 4WD was optional on Ford’s light-duty trucks. The company added the feature due to increased public interest in recreational off-roading, when the American pickup was in transition from work truck to more personal, everyday use.

© Ford Motor CompanyFourth Generation: 1961–1966
The F-Series was redesigned for 1961 with a new cab and front sheet metal. The F-Series Styleside has an integrated cab and box design, but a more traditional Flareside continued to be offered. For 1962, 4-wheel-drive models with the Styleside design offered a separate box and cab, and by mid-year the separate box was available on 2-wheel-drive models as well. The integrated Styleside design was dropped after the 1963 model year.

© Ford Motor CompanyFourth Generation: 1961–1966
Ford introduced the Twin I-Beam front suspension with coil springs in 1965 for 2-wheel-drive versions of the F-100 and F-250. The new suspension offered a softer ride and better handling, and Ford advertised the Twin I-Beam as allowing the F-Series to “drive like a car — work like a truck.” Ford estimated that two-thirds of pickup owners used their trucks for recreational and personal use, so it introduced the Camper Special package for F-100 and F-250. In 1965 Ford also offered a factory-built 4-door crew cab F-250 for the first time.

© Ford Motor CompanyFifth Generation: 1967–1972
Redesigned for 1967 with an increased focus on interior comfort and luxury, the F-Series added a padded dash, padded sun visors and shoulder-mounted belts. For 1968 federal regulations required side marker lights or reflectors for the front and rear fenders, and two new V8 engines were offered with displacement of either 360 or 390 cubic inches. The Ranger XLT joined the 1970 F-Series lineup as the top trim level.

© Ford Motor CompanySixth Generation: 1973–1979
The sixth iteration of the F-Series rolled out for the 1973 model year with new grilles that incorporated FORD across the top, below the hood. The biggest change of gen six came in 1974 when the first extended-cab SuperCab appeared for F-100 through F-350 models. The SuperCab offered either center-facing jump seats or a front-facing bench seat that could be folded up when not in use. The SuperCab was only available with 2-wheel drive; full-time 4-wheel drive was added as an option for F-100 and F-250.

© Ford Motor CompanySixth Generation: 1973–1979
In 1975 Ford created the F-150 as a heavy-duty version of the F-100 with heavier springs and increased payload capacity; it was only offered with 2-wheel drive. The introduction of the F-150 was not extremely significant at the time, but it would eventually go on to replace the F-100 as Ford’s base-model full-size pickup and best-selling truck model.

© Ford Motor CompanySixth Generation: 1973–1979
In an effort to spruce up the aging sixth-gen truck prior to the release of the next version, Ford added a new grille for 1978 featuring rectangular headlights for the top trim levels. The new luxury Lariat trim was added as well. For 1979 all trim levels included rectangular headlights, and the Ranger Lariat had optional two-tone paint.

© Ford Motor CompanySeventh Generation: 1980–1986
Focusing on economy and efficiency, Ford reengineered the F-Series for 1980 by making the overall design more aerodynamic for improved fuel economy, as well as reducing weight via the use of plastics, aluminum and lighter gauge steel where possible. In the middle of the gen-seven truck run, Ford offered its first diesel pickup: a 6.9-liter V8 diesel engine available in the 1983 F-250. In 1984 the F-100 was dropped and the F-150 became the base F-Series truck.

© Ford Motor CompanyEighth Generation: 1987–1991
The next-generation F-Series debuted as a 1987 model with new flush headlights that only required the bulb to be replaced rather than the entire headlight unit. The 1987 F-Series is the first truck to feature standard rear anti-lock brakes. The F-150 SuperCab was also offered with 4-wheel drive.

© Ford Motor CompanyNinth Generation: 1992–1996
The 1992 redesign continued to improve aerodynamics with smaller headlights that angle back toward the fenders. The front bumper angles back on the ends, and the exterior mirrors are more aerodynamic as well. Attempting to appeal to more sporty buyers, Ford premiered the F-150 Lightning for 1993, powered by a 240-horsepower 5.8-liter V8 with sport suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels and front spoiler. For 1994 a driver’s side airbag and door intrusion beams were added and 7.3-liter diesel engine was offered. The 1995 F-Series passed the Volkswagen Beetle as the world’s best-selling vehicle nameplate.

© Ford Motor CompanyTenth Generation: 1997–2003
The 10th generation F-Series features redesigned F-150 and light-duty F-250 models with a new lighter chassis. The SuperCab versions get the industry’s first standard third door for a pickup — a rear-hinged door on the passenger’s side that opens after the passenger’s main door opens, providing access to the rear of the cab. The F-Series was voted “North American Truck of the Year” by a panel of 47 automotive journalists, and was named “Truck of the Year” by Motor Trend magazine. The SuperCab received a second door on the passenger side for 1999.

© Ford Motor CompanyTenth Generation: 1997–2003
The SVT F-150 Lightning returned in 1999 as a regular cab stepside model, powered by a supercharged 5.4-liter V8 engine producing 360 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque. Power gets delivered to a limited-slip rear differential through a 4-speed automatic transmission borrowed from the Super Duty. SVT Lightning handling improvements include tuned sport suspension, Bilstein shocks and Goodyear tires.

© Ford Motor CompanyTenth Generation: 1997–2003
In 1999 Ford launched a new Super Duty line of medium-duty trucks built on an exclusive new frame. Ford’s decision to split the F-Series by chassis stemmed from a desire to increase payload and towing capacity of the F-250 Super Duty and F-350 Super Duty while improving and refining the best-selling F-150 at its own rate.

© Ford Motor CompanyTenth Generation: 1997–2003
The first Harley-Davidson edition premiered as a 2000 model F-150 SuperCab with black monochromatic paint, a Flareside box and a hard tonneau cover. The F-150 H-D edition has 2-wheel drive, powered by a 5.4-liter V8 engine with a sport-tuned exhaust. The truck features lowered suspension, 20-inch 5-spoke cast aluminum wheels and P275/45R20 tires. The striking exterior has a special grille, chrome bars below the doors, a unique front valance with fog lights, stripes and Harley-Davidson badges. Inside, this special edition includes black leather seats, black leather trim, a spun-metal finish for the instrument cluster and Harley-Davidson badging.

© Ford Motor CompanyTenth Generation: 1997–2003
The F-150 SuperCrew joined the lineup for the 2001 model year, featuring four forward-hinged doors, more second-row passenger room than the SuperCab and a shorter pickup bed. The 10th generation F-Series saw a lot of significant additions to the line, including the premium King Ranch edition for 2001 and the second Harley-Davidson edition based on the F-150 SuperCrew; the third Harley-Davidson edition was added as a 2003 model. A 6.0-liter Power Stroke diesel joined the Super Duty lineup for 2003 as well.

© Ford Motor CompanyEleventh Generation: 2004–2008
Larger than the previous version, the 11th-gen 2004 Ford F-Series has a taller grille and front fenders, and the sides of the bed are two inches taller. The regular cab and SuperCab are both six inches longer than the previous model for more rear-seat passenger room for the SuperCab. The regular cab offered storage room behind the seat and included small rear-hinged doors to access the storage room behind the seat. The SuperCab and the Crew Cab offered an optional power-sliding rear window.

© Ford Motor CompanyTwelfth Generation: 2009–2014
The redesigned 2009 model features a more aggressive front-end appearance with a bigger, bolder grille similar to the style of the Super Duty. A new fully-boxed frame with hydro-formed and high-strength steel side rails makes the truck lighter but delivers more torsional rigidity for improved durability and comfort. Updates include higher output engines and a new 6-speed automatic transmission. The new top-of-the line Platinum trim increases the level of luxury offered in a pickup with 20-inch chrome wheels, a unique grille design, monotone paint, chrome accents, premium leather upholstery and heated/cooled seats. Regular cab models no longer have rear-hinged access doors.

© Ford Motor CompanyTwelfth Generation: 2009–2014
A high-performance truck that looks like an off-road desert racer for the street, the F-150 SVT Raptor became part of the F-Series lineup for 2010. The SVT Raptor has an aggressive look derived from 7-inch wider track than a standard F-150, wider fenders, skidplates, hood vents, a raised ride height and a wide black grille with large FORD lettering in the center. Off-road performance equipment includes Fox Racing shocks, upgraded suspension with increased articulation, 17-inch alloy wheels, special 35-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, an electronically locking rear differential and revised stability-control system for off-road use. The exterior features special graphics with sport seats inside. The SVT Raptor was initially powered by a 310-horsepower 5.4-liter V8 engine; a 400-horsepower 6.2-liter powerplant was added the following year.

© Ford Motor CompanyThirteenth Generation: 2015–
The new 2015 Ford F-150 design is Ford’s most technologically developed F-Series pickup to date. Extensive aluminum use allowed Ford engineers to drop 700 pounds of weight from the truck when compared to the previous model. The latest look is both aggressive and refined, and underneath the new fully-boxed frame uses more high-strength steel to make it both stronger and lighter. Smart technology includes an available 360-degree camera view, available trailer-hitch-assist rear camera view, available remote tailgate with hands-free opening and available next-generation tailgate step. Four engine choices include a new turbocharged 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 with standard Auto Start-Stop — a lightweight, compact design that makes the same power as a mid-range V8 engine.

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  1. Gary E Best

    I’ve had a F-150 STX, and a F-150 FX4, I really liked, and enjoyed both of them. Planning on purchasing a new FX4, sometime in 2016. Ford builds a great truck.

  2. Richard Block,Sr.

    1997 and 1998 F150 and F250 light duty were the ONLY 3 DOOR MODELS with the
    passenger door being the 3rd door, NOT the driver side being the 3rd door!
    I know this because I still have my F250 light duty 1997 3 DOOR model!

  3. Don Keepers

    This was a great display of the history of the Ford trucks!
    I have had many Ford trucks and a few Chev. trucks but like the Ford above all for all the main reasons!
    NOW! I would like to see the return of the Ford Sport Trac, the nicest and most convenient vehicle made for all around use, especially in the City for parking, handling, visibility, power, lock capacity etc etc. I would buy one in a minute if they were available again! Best to you all, Don Keepers.

  4. ObstructedView

    “Ford introduced the Model T One-Ton truck chassis in July 1917 (three months after the start of World War I)”. This could be a typo.

    WWI is generally accepted to have started 3 August 1914 when Germany declared war on France. This would be three YEARS before Ford introduced the Model T One-Ton truck chassis in July 1917.

  5. Ben Vaughn

    My Ford truck experience started with a Ranger pickup, then a 1996 F-150, 2002 F-350, and just recently a 2015 F-150 with the new 2.7 EcoBoost engine.Just yesterday i went to the southern tip of Florida. Driving back home it was very cool. So i turned off the air and opened the windows. I drove at 55 MPH the whole way and got 27 MPG. And the trailer assist camera for hooking up to my RV is a one person blast.I get 12 or 13 MPG pulling my travel trailer.

  6. Sky

    This is a very nice article, I really enjoyed it. However, I feel like the 100th Anniversary edition that was produced in 2003 should have been mentioned.


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