The F-Series is a series of full-size pickup trucks from Ford Motor Company which has been sold continuously for over six decades. The most popular variant of the F-Series is the F-150. It was the best-selling vehicle in the United States for 24 years, currently the best-selling truck for 34 years, and the best selling vehicle in Canada, though this does not include combined sales of GM pickup trucks. In the tenth generation of the F-series, the F-250 and F-350 changed body style in 1998 and joined the Super Duty series.
During the post-WWII era, smaller Canadian rural communities had access to either a Ford dealer or a Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor dealer, but not both; a Mercury-badged version was sold at Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor dealers there from 1946-1968. Other than the grilles, trim, and badging, these trucks were identical to their Ford counterparts.
First generation (1948–1952)
The first F-Series truck (known as the Ford Bonus-Built) was introduced in 1948 as a replacement for the previous car-based pickup line introduced in 1941. It had a flat, one-piece windshield and integrated headlamps. It had a wider cab. Options included the "See-Clear" windshield washer (operated by foot plunger), passenger-side windshield wiper & sun visor, and passenger-side taillight. The F-1 truck was also available with additional chrome trim and two horns as an option. All F-series were available with optional "Marmon-Herrington All Wheel Drive" until 1959. Design of the F-Series truck changed tremendously from 1950 to 1954. From 1948 to 1950, the grill was a series of horizontal bars and the headlights were set into the fenders. For 1951 and 1952, the headlights were connected by a wide aerodynamic cross piece with three similarly aerodynamic supports. The rear window was wider in the later trucks and the dashboard was redesigned.
F-Series trucks were assembled at sixteen different Ford factories. Serial numbers indicate the truck model, engine, year, assembly plant, and unit number. The most common model was the F-1 with a 6 ½-foot bed followed by the F-2 and F-3 Express models with an 8-foot (2.4 m) bed.
Second generation (1953–1956)
The F-Series was redesigned for 1953 with a more integrated look. The pickups also acquired their now familiar names: The F-1 now became the F-100, the F-2 now became the F-250, and the F-3 now became the 1-ton F-350. Optional interior amenities were new, including a dome light, lighter, arm rests, sun visors and a radio. On March 13, 1953, the "Ford-O-Matic" automatic transmission became an option.
The 1953 F-100 was the last year for the flathead in the US. Canadian models, however, (Mercury M-Series), retained the flathead. 1954 saw the introduction of the new 239 CID overhead valve Y-block 8-cylinder, dubbed "Power King." The six-cylinder engine's displacement was also increased from 215 to 223 CID and power steering was introduced as an option. In 1955 the 239 Y-block was replaced with the 272 and 292.
The 1956 F-100 is a one-year only body style. The 1956 F-100 is easily identified as it has vertical windshield pillars and a wrap around windshield as opposed to the sloped pillars and angled windshield of the 1953-55. The 1956 model also offered a larger wrap-around back window as an option. Starting in 1956, Ford offered the very rare "Low GVWR" versions of each model. Also in 1956, seat belts became an option.
Second generation trucks were built in Brazil from 1957 to 1962 as the F-100, F-350 and F-600.
Third generation (1957–1960)
The truck was restyled again in 1957 with a hood that now sat flush with the fenders and a new chrome grille. In the back, Ford started its tradition of distinguishing the two types of pickup boxes; the traditional separate-fender body was called FlareSide, while a new smooth-sided look was known as StyleSide. Four-wheel drive drive-train, previously outsourced to Marmon-Herrington, was now produced in-house by Ford beginning in 1959. Ford still offered a "Low GVWR" version of each model. In May 1957 Ford discontinued building trucks at the Highland Park Ford Plant in Highland Park, Michigan. All light and medium trucks were transferred to 10 other plants in the USA. Heavy-duty trucks (above F-350) were transferred to Kentucky Truck Assembly in Louisville, Kentucky.
Third generation trucks were built in Brazil as the F-100, F-350 & F-600 from 1962 to 1971.
Fourth generation (1961–1966)
The truck was completely redesigned for 1961 with a wider look; Ford also introduced a new style of truck. Unibody trucks, integrating the cab and the box, were produced from 1961 to 1963. From 1964 on, only the traditional separate cab and bed arrangement were available. Power was over 200 hp (150 kW) with the 1965 update of the powertrain. In 1965, the Twin I-Beam front suspension was introduced with coil springs. 1965 also marked the beginning of a completely different chassis; many parts from 1965-1979 interchange such as brakes and motor mounts. The 1965 and 1966 trucks have a "TWIN I-BEAM" emblem on the front fender. A 4-door crew cab version was also introduced in 1965, which would become a popular option. The Camper Special was built heavier for the slide in campers that were becoming increasingly popular during this time. Ford still offered a "Low GVWR" version of each model. In 1965, the Ranger name first appeared as a styling package for the F-Series pickup trucks. The interior featured bucket seats (from the Mustang) and a curtain over the gas tank.
In 1965, the 300-cubic inch (4.9 L) straight six was introduced (a larger version of the 240-cubic inch Six). It had 7 main bearings and timing gears (no chain or belt). The 300 six would remain in the F-Series lineup until the end of the 1996 model year.
Fifth generation (1967–1972)
Another refresh came in 1967 along with a familiar name: the upscale Ranger trim line in addition to the base and Custom Cab trim levels. In 1968, federal regulations required all automotive manufacturers to add side marker reflectors or lights, so Ford redesigned the hood emblems to incorporate reflectors. The same year the trucks received larger versions of Ford's FE engine family with the introduction of the 360 and 390 cubic inch engines. Also changed for 1968 were the heater controls, arm rests, interior door handles and window cranks, and the upper trim moulding on models so equipped. Rear side marker reflectors were also added to the lower bed side panels in 1968, per government regulations. The 302 V8 became an option in late '69. The top trim for 1970 was now named Ranger XLT with Ranger, Sport Custom and Custom rounding off the rest of the line. The fifth generation bodies were noted for durability and simplicity of design making them a favorite for restoration.
Some trucks came with an outer flush mounted bed side compartment/tool box on the passenger side only. Trucks from the Fifth Generation can be identified as to year model by their year specific grille arrangements.
After the 1968 models, Ford discontinued the "Low GVWR" versions. Still available was the Camper Special option, along with the new Explorer Special (a limited edition trim and option package), Contractor's Special(including a behind the seat toolbox and 3/4 ton (F-250) suspension), Farm and Ranch Special, and Heavy-Duty Special. Most of these "specials" from 1967 to 1972 were made in relatively low numbers and are now becoming increasingly difficult to locate. Voltmeters and oil pressure gauges were optional.
The fifth-generation F-series was introduced in Brazil in 1971, which remained in production until circa 1992 with a slight redesign and changes in its motorizations. It was the last Ford truck manufactured in the Ipiranga plant, that was soon closed. At the end of the 1972 F100 production a low number of trucks made had the 1973 body.
Sixth generation (1973–1979)
The F-Series was redesigned in 1973; the grille featured two silver-metallic plastic inserts divided by an aluminum bar that was part of the main grille frame, with the letters "F O R D" spaced out in a thin rail in the upper part of the grille. Large round headlights were on either side of the grille with the park/turn signal lamps placed above in the same rail where the "FORD" lettering was. Medium-duty models, however, weren't redesigned as drastically as the light-duty trucks. In fact they were incredibly similar to the fifth-generation medium-duty F-Series trucks. In 1976, this familiar "split-grille" design was facelifted slightly to feature black accents around the headlights and a refined appearance overall. In 1978, the round headlight design was retained for the regular Ranger and Custom trim levels. The XLT and "Lariat" trim level incorporated rectangular headlights with optional chrome headlight doors and chrome grille insert. The split grille design was overhauled in favor of a single-piece grille insert design. The headlights were also placed in a more stylized "insert" themselves, and the park/turn signal lamps were now placed below the headlights. Additionally, a new chrome-plated "F O R D" letter set could now be seen on the hood immediately above the grille. A luxury Lariat trim was also introduced for 1978. In 1979, the round headlights were replaced by rectangular headlamps across all the trim levels and the surrounding grille insert that framed the headlamps was now available in either black, or chrome to match that of the aluminum grille frame.
In 1973, a new model was offered, the F350 SRW (single rear wheel) pickup. These were a new heavy-duty pickup with contractors and camping enthusiasts in mind. The trucks rode on a longer-wheelbase chassis but were the same overall length as an F250 pickup. If you ordered the Camper Special package on an F350 SRW it became a Super Camper Special which was designed for the much heavier slide-in campers coming on the market at that time. Other changes included the 1974 introduction of the extended cab version, dubbed SuperCab. The F-150 was introduced in 1975 to help circumvent coming emissions requirements. These came with a maximum payload of 2,275 lb (1,032 kg) when properly equipped. With the 1/2 ton F-100 still in production, the new F-150 was referred to as the "heavy half" ton by some people. In 1976, the F-series became the best-selling truck in America, a position it has continued to hold ever since. This generation is noted for the durability of the body panels as Ford used extensive amounts of galvanized sheet metal to fight corrosion. 1977 was the first year for smaller cowl insignias moved near the windshield and the last year for the medium-duty F-500.
The GVWR ratings for these trucks was tied to a combination of wheel, spring, axle and brake combinations. The series code on the ID tag denotes which model and from that it can be determined what weight rating each vehicle has. 4×4 trucks can also be identified by the Vehicle Identification Number and on the ID plate as a serial number. For example, F10 is an F-100 2-wheel drive, but F11 is an F-100 4×4, and so on. Serial numbers beginning with an "X" are SuperCab models.
Starting in 1978, Ford redesigned their Ford Bronco and based it upon the F-150. The Bronco was now virtually identical to the F-150, except for its unibody design structure. The new Bronco incorporated design characteristics which eliminated leaky roofs and body flex associated with other full size removable top utility vehicles of the era. This allowed Ford to compete better with the Chevrolet Blazer by offering a larger and more luxurious SUV while minimalizing production costs since many (especially the most complex and expensive) parts were shared with the F-series trucks. The Bronco was only offered with the 351M and 400 V8 engines.
Seventh generation (1980–1986)
The next major redesign for the F-Series came for the 1980 model year. The new truck had a squarer look, with sharp lines and flat panels; the trucks were designed with improved fuel efficiency in mind, and to this end, Ford added its new AOD automatic overdrive (four-speed) transmission as an option on light-duty models. The upscale Ranger trim line was dropped from the F-Series in 1982; Ranger was subsequently applied to the replacement for the Ford Courier compact-pickup line. Trim options became XL, XLS, and XLT Lariat. In 1982, a slightly re-designed grille appeared, featuring fewer vertical bars than the previous 1980–1981 grille; for the first time, the corporate Blue Oval logo made its appearance on the grille. This generation of Ford trucks are the latest to become popular restoration projects as most of these trucks are becoming emissions exempt in most states and now old enough to be registered as classics or antiques.
The F-100 was dropped as the base model at the end of 1983 and the now-familiar F-150 took its place as the base model F-Series truck for 1984. This generation also saw extensive use of galvanized body panels to fight corrosion which is now gaining them popularity among restorers. In Mexico, there is an "F-200" which was introduced in 1976. This variant remained until 1991.
The various changes that occurred between the 1981 and 1982 model years were accompanied by a slight cosmetic change- 1980–81 trucks have a plain grille with "FORD" spelled across the front of the hood in chrome lettering, similar to the previous generation. 1982–86 models had the letters removed, and a Ford oval placed in the center of the grille. This made the 1982 the first model year to feature a blue oval on the front, something that has been on every model that followed it, with the exception of the 2010 and 2011 F-150 SVT Raptor.
The big-block 460 CID V8 was dropped for 1980, but returned in 1983 along with the 6.9 L V8 International Harvester IDI option. In 1982, the 335-series "Cleveland" V8s were discontinued. The 351M was replaced by the 351 Windsor (an older design that now made its debut in light trucks), while the 400 vanished altogether (Ford's competitors had ceased selling engines in that size range a few years before). The 5.0 L V8 switched over to fuel injection, first as an option in 1985 and then as standard in 1986.
The new Essex V6 was added in 1982, but didn't sell particularly well. It was dropped after 1983, and the long-lived 300 inline six continued as the standard engine through the series. Trucks equipped with the 3-speed manual transmission were the last American vehicles to have a column-shifted manual transmission
Axles and differentials
This generation was the first time Ford used Independent suspension on their full size 4x4 trucks. As well as being the first time any of the Big Three (automobile manufacturers) made a 4x4 full size truck without a solid front axle. Ford & Dana Corporation called this the Twin Traction Beam or TTB. The F-150 used a Dana 44 TTB. The rear was a Ford 9-inch axle with the Ford 8.8 axle being phased in, in 1983. The F-250 used a 8 lug version of the Dana 44 TTB called the Dana 44 TTBHD with the Dana 50 TTB being an option. The rear was a Dana 60 until 1985 when Ford phased out the axle for their own Sterling 10.25. The F-350 used the Dana 50 TTB in front until a mid-year change in 1985, when the F-350 was fitted with the Dana 60 solid front axle. For the rear axle the F-350 trucks used a Dana 60 for the single rear wheel trucks and a Dana 70 for the dual rear wheel trucks until 1985 when Ford once again phased in their own Sterling axle.