Ford is one of the most—if not the most — renowned and trusted brands in the automobile industry, manufacturing vehicles ranging cars, SUVs, crossovers and trucks. And the Ford F-Series is among the bedrock on which Ford has built its reputation.
The F-150 has been America’s best-selling truck for the last thirty nine years. Since it began productions on 1948, Ford has relentlessly, and successfully, improved and upgraded the trucks to satisfy the demands of customers. Let’s have a look at how the F-Series has changed—from work trucks to more luxurious rides– over thirteen generations.
First Generation (1948-1952)
In 1948 the first lines of Ford F series pickup trucks, promoted as Bonus Built, debuted in the American Market. While the previous pickups were car based, this new series had truck-like chassis. The first post-war design from Ford offered three new engines, integrated headlights, flat one-piece wind shield and wider cabs.
The first generation models of 1950 and 1951 came up with updated design including an aerodynamic cross piece connected to the headlights instead of horizontal bars, and a completely new dashboard. The first generation F-Series was sold in various cab and chassis configuration in different weight segments, from half ton F-1 through the full ton F-3.
Second Generation (1953-1956)
The 50th anniversary of Ford saw the F-Series receive its first redesign in since its first launch. The trucks were larger and sleeker with large hood flowing into the front fenders along the horizontal grille bars. The 1953 models were last to use the flathead V8 engine. “Driverized Cab” options offered more luxuries such as armrests, dome light, sun visors and cigar lighters. In addition, automatic transmission were made available for the first time.
The trucks also received their now familiar monikers: the F-1 became F100, F-2 and F-3 were combined into F250 and so on.
Third Generation (1957-1960)
The third generation F-Series vehicles sported a modern and square look as opposed to the rounded contour of their predecessors. The trucks underwent major redesign with hoods covering full width of the truck, integrating the full fender with the cab.
Customers had two options regarding the body style: traditional ‘Flareside’ with separate rear fenders and a new ‘Styleside’ with smooth sides giving it a unified appearance.
Fourth Generation (1961-1966)
The trucks in the fourth generation were wider, larger, lower and slicker. Unibody trucks in which the cab and box are integrated into one piece without any gap between them were introduced.
In 1965, a new platform with Twin I-Beam front suspension with coil springs was introduced. This provided the vehicle better handling and softer ride. Another major improvement was the availability of 4-door crew cab in F-250.
Fifth Generation (1967-1972)
Ford focused on the interior comfort and luxuries of the cab in this generation. The cabs were roomier with more glass area. Padded dash, padded sun-visors and shoulder mounted belts were available. More engine options and plusher trim levels were offered.
In accordance with the Federal regulations, 1968 models incorporated side markers or reflectors in the front and rear fenders.
Sixth Generation (1973-1979)
The sixth generation of trucks saw significant modification and modernization. The highlights of these vehicles were front brakes, roomier cabs, beefier frame, and relocation of oil tank under the bed.
In 1974, Ford introduced extended cabs dubbed the ‘SuperCab’ with Styleside body trucks. The SuperCab offered either center-facing jump seats or a front-facing bench seat that could be folded up when not in use.
F-150 a heavier version of F-100 was available in 1975. The F-150 would later go on to replace F-100 as the base model of F Series.
Seventh Generation (1980-1986)
The attention of Ford turned to efficiency and economy in the 80’s, which was clearly reflected in the trucks as well. The chassis were redesigned to give it more aerodynamic advantage. The trucks were lighter due to use of plastics, aluminium and lighter gauge steel when possible.
The M-series engine were replaced with Windsor V8 engines specifically built for fuel efficiency. Ford also made a diesel truck line available for the first time in 1983.
Furthermore, in 1984 the F-150 replaced the longstanding F-100 as the new base model.
Eighth Generation (1987-1991)
The new F series were similar in design to the ones in seventh generation predecessors but sported rounded front clips to improve aerodynamics. They employed flushed headlights that only required the bulbs to be changed instead of the whole headlights.
In 1988, F-series started using 5-speed manual overdrive transmission as standard equipment, though 4-speed manuals were available as customer-ordered options. The eighth generation trucks were also the first to feature standard rear anti-lock brakes.
Ninth Generation (1992-1996)
The ninth generation trucks received further updates for aerodynamic design like lower hoodline, smaller headlights that angle back towards the fenders, and bumper ends slightly angled back. Other modifications included ‘Aero’ mirrors and revised tailgates. Furthermore, driver’s side airbag, door intrusion side beams were included in the 1994 model.
In 1993, the F-150 Lightning powered by a 240-horsepower 5.8-liter V8 with sport suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels and front spoiler was marketed to appeal younger buyers.
Tenth Generation (1997-2003)
Ford took a major decision in 1997 to split the F-series into two categories: F-150 targeted towards customers wanting a truck for personal use; and the Super Duty models (F-250 and F-300) for people looking for a work truck..
The F-150 model of tenth generation was radically different from its predecessors. It boasted a slick, streamlined body, and discarded the Twin I-Beam Suspension in favor of fully independent front suspension. The SuperCab models had a rear hinged door, and later got a fourth door in 1999.
Eleventh Generation (2004-2008):
The Eleventh Generation F-150 were designed in a new platform. The trucks were larger with taller grille and front fenders. All F-150s now had four doors regardless of the cab type. Rear doors in the regular cab provided access to behind-the-seat storage. Ford also brought the Triton engines in the 5.4L variants of the F-150.
In 2008, the Super Duty trucks were also manufactured with a new platform. Although they retained their bed and cabin from their predecessors, they had a new interior and larger grille and head lamps.
Twelfth Generation (2009-2014)
The 2009 model was distinguished by an aggressive front-end look featuring Super Duty-style grilles and headlamps. The trucks were lighter but rigid due to use of fully-boxed frame with hydro-formed and high-strength rails. These trucks operated on new engines called EcoBoost for fuel economy, and employed 6-speed automatic transmission. Moreover, The Nexteer Automotive Electric Power Steering (EPS) system was incorporated into most of the models.
2010 witnessed entry of high-performance SVT raptor purely dedicated to off-road driving into the F-Series.
Thirteenth Generation (2015-present)
Ford brought in the thirteenth generation of F-Series in 2015. While it has retained its dimension, it is very light compared to the trucks of previous generation. In fact, designers managed to reduce nearly 750 pounds without changing the size and contour of the vehicle. The light weight is attributed to the use of aluminum in place of steel in the body structure. This weight reduction has significantly cut off its fuel consumption.
The current F-Series is also the first pickup truck with adaptive cruise control which employs radar sensors on the front of vehicle to maintain a distance between it and vehicle ahead slowing down if required.
The Ford series has undergone tremendous variations in the appearances, engines, interiors, cabins and technology; but for more than 60 years on, the Ford trucks are still going strong.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain]