A Brief History of the Ford F-150

All truck-lovers know Ford’s F-series because of its impressive design and performance. Nevertheless, it hasn’t always been the full-sized powerhouse it is today. Read this brief history of the Ford F-150 and how it changed from a postwar lightweight truck into the full-size off-road-capable warrior we know today. It may even go electric or hybrid, given competing market demands. Read on to learn more.

A New Postwar Vehicle (1948-1960)

Ford’s F-150 began in 1948 with eight weight ratings and five body styles. Also called the Ford Bonus-Built, it was the first generation of pickups to use a flathead engine without automatic transmission. At the start of the 1950s, Ford began its second-generation F-150. This model showcased increased dimensions, an improved engine, and an updated chassis. This generation also used the three-number symbols the trucks are known for today, featuring the F-100, F-250, F-350, F-500, and F-900. By 1957, Ford had already moved on to its third-generation F-150 with a complete redesign. Front fenders and a redesigned bed were integrated into the body, and in 1959 the vehicles became four-wheel-drive trucks.

American Automobile Culture (1961-1979)

The 1960s presented a new lifestyle to target for American car manufacturers: car culture. Ford was quick to jump on this. While the 1960s saw the rise of pony and muscle cars, especially from Ford’s own Mustang series, it did not skimp on updating the F-150. These trucks belonged to the fourth-generation lineup and featured increased dimensions, new engine and gearbox options, and midcycle redesign. It also debuted the famous Twin I-Beam platform, which would remain until 1996. Around this time, the Ford Ranger made its debut as a smaller, midsize pickup truck alternative to the F-150. For the fifth generation a few years later, the F-150 changed only slightly. It used the same platform but had different engine options, plusher trim levels, and interchangeable suspension components. The following generation in 1973 introduced a revised platform with modern refinements, like front disc brakes, increased cabin dimensions, double wall bed, and galvanized steel construction. In 1975, Ford replaced the F-100 numbering with F-150 to adhere to certain emission restrictions and reduce confusion between its pickup truck series.

Urban Cowboys and Powerful Performance (1980-1987)

By the 1980s, Ford had already released its seventh generation of F-150s with the first ground-up redesign since 1965. It boasted an all-new chassis, new body, better fuel economy, different powertrain, and the famous Ford Blue Oval grille emblem that replaced the “FORD” hood lettering (which itself would not return until the Ford Raptor). The following generation significantly changed the preceding one. Different body panels, new front fascia, redesigned interior, five-speed manual, and four-speed automatic transmission highlighted these changes. Ford also released the F-Super Duty for the first time in 1987.

Off-Road Behemoths with Full-Size Functionality (2009-Today)

Last in this brief history of Ford’s F-150, the current F-150s received a style makeover with the twelfth generation in 2009. Numerous generational changes occurred between 1987 and 2009, but this is when Ford began to implement its rounded body style and full-size truck platform. Subsequent generations added Super Duty-style grilles and headlamps, two- and four-door options, and electronic-based dashboards onto their designs. This timing also saw the release of the SVT Raptor, a unique trim level dedicated to off-road performance. Today, Ford is on its fourteenth generation of F-150s, opting for gasoline-electric hybrids and electric-only engines to compete with other EV automobile manufacturers.

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