History of the Ford F-Series: America's Best-Selling Vehicle
Ford’s iconic F-Series pickup truck line has such a rich history that it's no wonder that it is America’s (and Canada's) best selling vehicle. From its humble beginnings in 1948 to what is now a dependable and powerful workhorse, The F-Series played a big role in making the country productive and literally has carried the proverbial load of American workers for over a century. It also represents the forefront of the pickup truck and was a trendsetter that other pickup truck lines were struggling to emulate. There’s lots to go over, let’s jump into it.
Before The F-Series: The Model TT (1917)
In order to understand the origins of the F-Series, we have to understand the beginnings of the pickup truck as a whole, and it all started with the Model TT, back in 1917. If you remember from history class, the Model T was the most successful Ford car in those days, transforming American culture by providing an affordable, reliable mode of transportation and signaled the end of horse and carriage as the main way of getting around.
Nine years after the Model T became so prevalent, Ford combined the Model T's cab and engine with a reinforced chassis and a 1-ton payload limit. It also was ahead of its time in that it had the option to customize it by accomodating third-party pickup beds from other manufacturers. 8 years after the first Model TT, Ford added a pickup body. This was essentially the first of many lines of factory-assembled Ford pickup trucks. Within 11 years in 1928, Ford has sold approximately 1.3 million Model TT trucks to customers, and the love of pickup trucks in the American zeitgeist was berthed.
First Generation F-Series (1948-1952)
Ford's official inaugural entry to the pickup line came in 1948 with what was then known as the Ford Bonus-Built. It was built to replace the car-based pickup series that Ford introduced in 1942. It was sold in eight different weight ratings from the half-ton F-1 pickup to the cab-over F-8. Ford was ahead of its time, going all-in on the pickup truck by providing a comprehensive pickup line. They answered America's burgeoning need to move heavy stuff around and do it reliably. Boy were they right.
Second Generation F-Series (1953-1956)
Two major things came out of the 2nd generation F-Series. First, it signaled the beginning of the now iconic and renowned front grill. Second, it introduced the naming system that Ford still uses today. The F-1 became with F-100, the F-2 and F-3 trucks were consolidated into the F-250, and the F-4 turned into the F-350. For heavier-duty commercial models, Ford created a newly launched commercial-truck variants.
Ford also introduced more luxurious aspects to the line by adding armrests, visors, and a dome light. It also had the option for an automatic transmission. It also gave the cab new doors, a redesigned dashboard, and a wraparound windshield in the 1956 model. Ford took something that was already popular and improved upon it immensely.
Third Generation F-Series (1957-1960)
For the fourth generation, Ford made some drastic improvements for modernization and updates into the design. The fenders became part of the body, and it introduced the new Styleside bed which helped give it a sleek look. Another big development was the introduction of in-house production of four-wheel-drive pickups in 1959.
Fourth Generation F-Series (1961-1966)
"Drives like a car, works like a truck." This embodied Ford's signature fourth series where it was attempting to appeal to a wider audience. This was a dramatically new style of pickup, since the style was much longer and lower than the previous F-Series trucks that came before it. It also provided more options for dimensions, engine types, and gearboxes.
It also introduced the Twin I Beam front suspension in 1965. This was a staple for Ford F-Series trucks until 1996 on the F-150 and 2016 on the F-250 and F-350. It also introduced the first of the higher-end Ford Ranger pickup lines, with more luxurious packages than the traditional F-Series.
Fifth Generation F-Series (1967-1972)
The introduction of the 1967 F-Series model was built on the same chassis as the 1965 model. The dimensions were increased as well as engine options, as well as more options for trim levels. It also began to shape the way that the design of the F-Series would look like for approximately the next 10 years.
Sixth Generation F-Series (1973-1979)
One may say that the new iteration of the Ford series looked the same as the previous ones, but Ford had the mentality of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Instead of changing the design of the body, Ford focused on improving the internal components. Front disc brakes were added, the cabin was roomier, and it also benefited from full double wall bed construction as well as more galvanized stell. The grille had also been slightly redesigned.
Seventh Generation F-Series (1980-1986)
To signal the beginning of a new decade, Ford introduced a complete redesign with a brand new chassis and larger body. It had been the first ground-up redesign in 15 years, since 1965 and many were saying that it was overdue. First off, the exterior of the whole body was redesigned to give it a more aerodynamic look, thus improving the fuel economy.
Ford also introduce Diesel power to the F-Series in 1983 through a partnership with International Harvester. On a go-forward basis, the heavy-duty trucks, that is, the F-350 trucks and above were usually made with diesel engines. Another change came in 1982 where the classic "Blue Oval" was put on the front grille. The Ranger Trim was also discontinued in the F-Series, and instead, was shifted into a separate line altogether that focused on a compact pickup. Lastly, this was the first line of F-Series that featured power windows, power door locks, and power mirrors.
Eighth Generation F-Series (1987-1991)
With the 50th anniversary of the F-150 looming, the 1987 iteration was redesigned with a new grille and headlights that were flush to the body. It also featured power steering, power brakes, and a rear anti-lock braking system as standard. It also featured new and improved aerodynamics and softening body lines on the bed and fender. With that came a brand new redesign of the interior in the 1987 model.
Ninth Generation F-Series (1992-1997)
1992 was a year of major upgrades for the F-Series. Ford was known to be at the forefront of the design world as far as pickup trucks go and this generation was no different. It further improved on aerodynamic and fuel economy by slightly lowering the hood, further rounding the fenders, and to go along with the changes to the chassis, it completely redesigned the interior.
To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Model TT and the first Ford factory produced truck, Ford also offered a special edition in the 1992 edition. This edition had a stripe package, a colored step bumper, and special logos commemorating the 75th anniversary. Ford also introduced the first SVT Lightning edition as a performance truck. It had 240hp that was specially made for enthusiasts.
Tenth Generation F-Series (1997-2004)
The tenth generation of the Ford F-Series marked a huge change in its line of trucks. What Ford did was split the line in two. From the 70's until the 90's, consumers had usually purchased an F-Series truck for personal and not business use.
Ford, realizing that it had a huge opportunity at hand, decided to increase its market share even more by developing trucks for both. This is how the F-150 became usually known as a personal-use truck, while the F-250 and F-350 variants became designed and modeled for work use.
Eleventh Generation F-Series (2004-2008)
The 2004 F-150 was built on a brand new platform called the Ford P Platform that saved fuel and improved economy. It was also markedly larger than the previous version so people can be even more comfortable while driving. This drove sales to an all-time high of 939,511 sold because Ford rightly realized that customers were using it as their primary vehicle.
Twelfth Generation F-Series (2009-2014)
A bigger grille and more aggressive styling was the hallmark of the twelfth F-Series truck. Ford realized that consumers wanted bigger, badder, trucks and the F-150 borrowed lots of features from its bigger counterparts to meet that market demand. It also had a fully boxed frame, with the update of the Ford full-size truck platform.
There was also a shift towards a more fuel-saving engine called the EcoBoost by Ford. The F-250 also earned the title as the "Longest Lasting Vehicle" by iseecars.com, which show the vehicles that are the most reliable. It also marked the first appearance of the Ford F0150 SVT Raptor, which changed the game in the enthusiast truck sphere. Off-roading was starting to go mainstream and the Raptor answered that call from consumers where that void was.
Thirteenth Generation F-Series (2015-Present)
The current generation of the Ford F-Series has a huge emphasis on saving as much fuel as possible. So much so, that Ford reduced the curb weight of the F-150 by 750 pounds without changing the exterior too much. In order to do so, Ford switched the body panels from steel to aluminum, while the frame itself is still high-strength steel. This made it the first pickup truck to have a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA, which is not a small feat.
It also marked the introduction of adaptive cruise control. With these improvements, it's no wonder why the F-Series is still the top-selling vehicle in the United States.
So there you have it, folks: a complete rundown of the history of one of the most influential vehicles to ever grace the roads. The F-Series is as American as anything else, embodying hard work and grit, while still having a sense of style. The continual improvements and lack of complacency that Ford has had throughout the years show that it's on the bleeding edge of innovation and design, and many truck makers are often catching up to the F-Series.If you want to Shop Ford F-Series Parts, check out our inventory here at Cal Pony Cars. We have Ford F-Series Interior parts for years 2015-2019, with much more inventory to come!