Promoted as a “Bonus Built” truck, the release of the new F-Series line in 1948 was the first new design from Ford since returning to civilian vehicle production after WWII. A number that designated the load capacity of the truck followed the “F” prefix. The F1was rated at ½ ton capacity, the F2 at ¾ ton, and the F3 rated as a 1 ton pickup. The series continued up through F8 for Ford’s heavy-duty trucks.
In an effort to gain some ground on the light truck sales leader, Chevrolet, Ford invested a significant amount of resources, both in designers and dollars, toward the creation of their new pickups. Particular attention was given to the one place where the driver spends the most time, the cab. Ford advertised “living room comfort” for a new cab that was taller and more spacious than any Ford had previously released. The wide cab, furnished with a comfortably upholstered coil spring bench seat, had sufficient room for a driver and two passengers. The focus on driver comfort was even extended to the way the cab was mounted upon the frame. Various rubber pads, bushings, and rubber insulated bolts were used in an effort to reduce cab noise and soften the pickup’s ride.
The interior of the cab featured more trim items than usual for period pickup trucks including sun visors, an ashtray, and an instrument panel designed with accessibility in mind. The clearly visible gauges were complemented by the expansive view from behind the wheel, as the driver looked over the hood through a wide single-paned windshield.
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The body of the new F-Series saw its share of restyling as well. The front fenders featured a wraparound appearance, coming together around a five-bar horizontal grille. Headlights were nestled on either side of the grille rather than placed into the front fenders as was previously done. The large triangular hood drew back to the broad windshield and under the hood, the buyer could opt for a 226 CID, 95 HP, 6-cylinder engine or the 239 CID, 100 HP, Flathead V8.
A 3-speed floor shift transmission was standard for the F1 and F2 pickups, and the F3 1 ton pickup was offered with a 4-speed transmission as standard.
By the end of 1948 it was clear that the effort Ford put into designing the F-Series was worth it. Ford’s sales were hitting record numbers and the company celebrated its best production year for trucks since 1929.
Not wanting to tamper with success, Ford changed little in the F-Series design for the next four years. A significant engine change occurred in 1952 with the introduction of the overhead valve, 215CID 6-cylinder engine. Rated at 101 HP, the 6-cylinder was only 5 horses behind the Flathead V8’s 106 HP.
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In 1953, Ford celebrated its 50th anniversary. The year would see Ford introduce a new generation of F-Series trucks and would be the last year for the venerable Flathead V8. For the next generation of pickup trucks, new number designations, once again relating to load capacity, accompanied the new look. The former F1 was now the F100 ½ ton, with the F250 at ¾ ton, and the F350 rated at 1 ton.
New styling for 1953 included a more spacious cab with a wider bench seat and upgraded upholstery. The instrument cluster was grouped into a single unit and all dashboard switches were relocated in an effort to provide easier driver access from behind the wheel. A large, curved front windshield was smartly slanted back in the cab. This not only increased visibility for the driver, but, along with an option for a large rear window, would become a distinctive design element within the F-Series for the next few years. While the engine options remained unchanged from the previous year, the option of an automatic transmission was added for F100 in 1953.
Changes to F-Series line would be few from 1953-56. One considerable highlight was the introduction of the overhead valve, “Y-Block” V8. Replacing the Flathead V8 in 1954, Ford’s newest engine, the result of years of development, had the same displacement as the Flathead at 239 CID, but produced 30 more HP.
In 1956, the curved windshield was expanded, giving the pickup a wraparound windshield that, when combined with a full wraparound rear window option, brought the F-Series to the apex of pickup design. Under the hood, the “Y-Block” V8, increased to 272CID, was offered.
The pickups produced by Ford from 1953-56 were not only popular for their time, but remain to this day some of the most sought after models with restorers and street rodders alike.
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Despite the new styling of the F-Series and the great gains Ford made in the light truck market, by the mid 1950’s, they were still facing tough competition from Chevrolet. To answer the popular high-styled pickups offered from Chevrolet beginning in 1955, Ford introduced a radically redesigned F-Series pickup for 1957.
A clean “slabside" appearance replaced the fat-fendered look and the cab was widened, eliminating the running boards. A flat, full-width hood added to the clean lines of the pickup and provided greater visibility. A choice of pickup beds was offered, the traditional Flareside, with a narrow bed, and the first true full-width Styleside bed with straight-through rear fenders.
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Improved options for two-tone paint were available as a result of the new design. No longer were just the roof and cab pillars painted white in a two-tone paint job. Now, a crease that ran down the side of the fender and cab became the divider when two-tone paint schemes were applied. Engine options for the 1957 pickup included a 223 CID, 139HP, 6-cylinder and a 272 CID, 171 HP, V8.
Like Ford’s passenger car line, the 1958 pickups were easily distinguished from previous model years by the addition of two more headlights. Under the hood, 1958 saw the replacement, in mid-year, of the 272 CID V8 engine with the 186 HP 292 CID V8.
1959 was the first year Ford offered a factory-built four-wheel drive option. Ford had previously only offered a four-wheel drive conversion done by an outside manufacturer such as the Marmon-Harrington Company. Sticking with the success of the previous two years, the 1959 F-Series pickup received only subtle ornamentation changes and a restyled hood. Once again, Ford had a successful model, and the design elements implemented in the 1957 F-Series would influence the modern look of all pickups to follow.
The next significant change in design for the F-series pickup came in 1961 with the introduction of the controversial integral cab Styleside pickup. A feature of the passenger car based Ford Ranchero since 1957, the integral cab and bed was an untraditional approach for pickup truck. While this innovative design created a great new look for Ford’s pickups, as the box was no longer a separate unit, problems quickly became apparent. When fully loaded, the bed flexed at a different rate than the cab and once rust set in, Ford was forced to acknowledge that the exciting new look of their unibody pickup came with the cost of inherent structural problems. As a result, the design was short-lived.
In 1963, Ford reinstated the non-integral cab and box style, and in 1964, abandoned the unibody pickup truck design completely for the F-Series.
For 1965, Ford introduced the innovative Twin I-Beam independent front suspension. Offered on two-wheel drive pickups, the new suspension gave a softer ride while at the same time, provided better handling. This year also saw the introduction of two new 6-cylinder engines, the 240 CID and 300 CID, as well as an upgraded 352 CID, 208 HP, V8.
Ford continued to provide more creature comforts for the 1966 F-Series pickup trucks. A new trim level that included passenger car features such as floor carpeting, bucket seats, and a console was available for the newly created Ranger model.
The next generation of Ford pickup trucks lasted from 1967 through 1972. Ford ignored the trend for softer, more rounded bodylines, producing instead a truck with a crisp, angular look to it. Pickups were available in multiple trim levels, often with bright body, side, and rocker panel mouldings as prominent elements of the packages offered. Throughout this five-year span, the overall design stayed the same and a continued emphasis was placed on offering car-like comfort and convenience, as well as utility.
Ford continued to use the Twin-I-Beam front suspension and added two new engines, the 360 CID and 390 CID V8 to the pickup truck line in 1968. In an effort to offer an engine option with fuel economy in mind, Ford made the reliable small block 302 CID, V8 available in 1970. As public demand grew for more comfort and convenience options in pickup trucks, Ford obliged buyers with the Ranger XLT option in 1970, and upped the ante again in 1971 with the Explorer package. By 1972, you could order a pickup truck that had nearly every option that was available for a passenger car.
Once again, Ford opted not to interfere with a successful design. The F-series pickup trucks offered from 1973 through 1979 were all subtle variations on the theme Ford began in 1967. The most noticeable change in the sheet metal was the creation of a cove that ran down the length of the body and bed. This indentation was the perfect spot for side marker lights and the bright aluminum mouldings that were a part of the upscale trim packages.
In 1974, Ford introduced the first F-Series SuperCab pickup truck. The SuperCab offered a small space behind the seat that could be left empty for storage or fitted with a pair of inward facing jump seats.
In an effort to bridge the payload capacity gap between the ½ ton F100 and the ¾ ton F250, Ford introduced a new model designation, the F150, in 1975. The F150 was, in essence, an F100 with a front and rear spring package that would carry a slightly heavier load. As a result, F150 drivers could enjoy an increased payload capacity without trading for the stiff ride of the heavier-duty F250. A big bonus in the eyes of many was the fact that the F150 was exempt from catalytic converters and other pollution controls. The F150 would eventually replace the F100 as the base model pickup for the F-Series, and ultimately, become the best selling vehicle in the United States.
Ford continued their development of better sound deadening technology and creating a more comfortable cab environment through the 1979 models and on. One of the best selling vehicles of all time, the F150 remains a favorite in the United States to this day.
If you are thinking about restoring a 1948-79 pickup, MAC's wants to be your source for parts. Our current 1948-79 Ford Truck catalog has clear descriptions, accurate illustrations, years of application, quantities required, part numbers and of course, prices. The catalog is free if you have a vintage Ford truck. Outside the U.S. we do require a payment of $5.00 U.S. to cover the cost of postage.
Let MAC’s help you make the most of your restoration. Whether you need a few finishing touches for your completed classic or are just beginning to sort through your collection of vintage parts from your soon to be Concours, Custom, or Cruiser, we have what you need to complete your dream car. MAC’s has been serving the Ford restorer since 1978 and we carry an extensive collection of Ford flathead parts, accessories, supplies, manuals, and literature. Our fully illustrated 1948-1979 Ford Truck parts catalog lists 8,331 parts. You will easily find what you need including part numbers, prices, descriptions, number of parts required, and the years of application. Our catalog is free if you have a 1948-1979 Ford Truck. Outside the U.S. we do require a payment of $5.00 U.S. to cover the cost of postage.
NOTE: The pickup section of our 1948-79 Truck catalog is specifically aimed at two-wheel drive, ½ ton pickup trucks (F1 & F100). Whenever possible, other applications (heavier trucks and four-wheel drive, etc.) have been listed in the part descriptions.
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Restore your vintage Ford with classic auto parts from MAC’s Antique Auto Parts. We carry restoration parts, including classic Ford engine parts, for 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979 Ford pickup trucks. Browse our online inventory of accessories and parts for sale!