14 March 2014

Secrets of the F-150: Five things you didn’t know about Ford’s popular pickup

The F-150 has been the best-selling pickup truck in the U.S. since 1978. Yes, 36 years — that’s longer than a lot of you reading this have been alive. However, there are a few things about Ford’s popular pickup that most people don’t know about. Here are five of them:

  1. Earliest Ford pickup wasn’t an F-series. Although Ford offered delivery-bodied cars sporadically since 1905 and one-ton trucks since 1917, its first factory-assembled “pickup” was built on April 15, 1925. The 33,795 1925 model T runabouts with pickup body sold for $281.

  2. Why it was called the F-150. The earliest use of the F-series name dates to the all-new 1948 Ford trucks, the half-ton model being the F-1. Ford made the jump to the F-100 name in 1953, but the F-150 nomenclature didn’t arrive until 1975. Why? This was a model that debuted to evade emissions requirements, as it was essentially a “heavy half” pickup rated at just over 6,000 pounds gross weight — the line in the sand drawn by the EPA at the time, which required catalytic converters and subsequently unleaded gasoline. International Harvester also did this for 1975 — its final year of pickup production — making all half-ton 100 models 150’s, to avoid installing catalytic converters. The final year of the F-100 was 1983 — by which time leaded vs. unleaded was a moot point.

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  3. Built all over North America, then there were two. When introduced for 1948, The F-1 was built at all 16 U.S. assembly plants that also built Ford cars.  In 1956, with trucks becoming more specialized along with the opening of the Detroit Truck Plant, Ford started consolidating truck production to fewer plants.  Beginning in the late 1970’s, Ford split its North American assembly groups into car and truck. Today, only two plants build all F-150’s globally – the Kansas City Assembly Plant in suburban Claycomo, Mo., and the Dearborn Truck Plant near Dearborn, Mich.

  4. Off-white or chrome? The longest-running component that was constantly used on every single pickup and remained unchanged during the F-series era was the front bumper – from 1959 to 1979.

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  5. I guess he liked it. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and one of the richest men in America, drove the same 1979 F-150 Custom 4x4 to work every day until he died in 1992. When asked why in an interview, he stated “What am I supposed to haul my dogs around in, a Rolls-Royce?” Today it can be seen enshrined in the company’s visitor’s center / museum in Bentonville, Ark.

42 Reader Comments

  • 1
    tom IN March 26, 2014 at 15:47
    Sam Walton drove a '64 Ford Pick Up till about '88. Then bought the '79
  • 2
    Ian F Croydon, PA March 26, 2014 at 15:54
    I've owned two F series trucks: a '71 F-100 4x4 and a '78 F-150 4x4. Unfortunately, sold over 20 years ago... I do wish I had either of them now.
  • 3
    Don W Hillsboro, Oregon March 26, 2014 at 16:10
    I have owned a number of F-100s over the years. My favorite was a 1966 (Heavy Duty) Half-Ton. That designation meant it has 15" split rims, and a built in tool box that was accessed via a locking door in the lower right front side of the bed of the bed bodywork. I loved that truck and it had over 350k on it when I sold it in the late 70s and still never burned any oil. Even though the first 125k were put it by a logger who drove it up into the woods daily. He obviously loved that old truck too and treated it accordingly. I wish I still had it.
  • 4
    Phil Skinner S. California March 26, 2014 at 16:40
    Being a Ford person, thought I knew a lot, now I know a little bit more.
  • 5
    Bob Fitch United States March 26, 2014 at 17:48
    sounds like a Ford AD to me. Never believe Ford over Chevrolet. In 71 years I know of NO Ford sucess story.
  • 6
    OldBuckaroo Denver CO March 26, 2014 at 18:14
    My Candyapple red 1983 F-100 short-bed "flare-side" with the 300 I-6 and 4-speed manual is without a doubt the best truck I've ever owned. It ain't full of creature comforts (but it does have R134A A/C and an AM/FM) and it does what all most new "pretty-boy" pickups can't do .... haul a load of 4X8 sheets of plywood in the bed. No need for some luxurious, leather upholstered, techno-loaded, 2014 model. My truck was built when trucks were meant to haul. And haul it does ... with no worthless, costly, unnecessary frills. 165K and still running strong.
  • 7
    Jim Little Roseburg, Oregon March 26, 2014 at 18:27
    My 1956 Ford F-100 is the most beautiful vehicle ever to roll out of Detroit..I wanted onat the age of 16 and now at the age of 71 have a beauty! Although not completely "Ford" (Chevy 350 engine)...turns heads when I drive down the road!
  • 8
    Kerry Frampton Utah March 26, 2014 at 18:28
    The only reason Ford can make that claim is due to the fact that General Motors let the Chevrolet and GMC trucks (essentially the same truck) stand on their own instead of counting them AS the same truck. If you consider that little fact, no other pickups are even in the same league.
  • 9
    Warren Turner Western PA March 26, 2014 at 19:10
    Ford Introduced the F-1 series trucks in 1948 -100. The 100 or 150 indicated the nominal axle loading 100 = 1000 lbs, 1/2 ton, 150 = 1500 lbs 3/4 Ton. Had nothing to do with environmental requirements. It may be that the gross weight of the truck was increased in response to the 6000 lb marker but the F-150s had been made for some time. "The F-150 debuted for 1975. A half-ton pickup, the F-150 filled the gap between the F-100 and F-250 as it was a bit more "heavy duty" than an F-100 though considerably less so than the F-250. In that year, more than one-third of F-Series sales were comprised of the new F-150.
  • 10
    Mike Graney Oakland, Mi March 26, 2014 at 19:27
    Love the Ford trucks. Have been driving my 1974 F-350 Super Camper Special since I bought it new in June of 74.
  • 11
    brian pawlak Howell Mi March 26, 2014 at 19:27
    I have owned many Ford trucks. They are the best. Currently have a 460 F 250, a F250 Plow truck, a F150 Plow truck that I have run into oblivion.
  • 12
    charles goolsby mt orab ohio March 26, 2014 at 21:02
    I bought a 1977 ford xlt F-150. It has never been the snow. Al-ways garaged. Have 93,000 miles on it. No rust, looks as new as the day I bought it. I like it so much that I just spent $14,000 to have it completely painted original color + other work, all new brake lines and brakes overhaul motor to use unleaded gas + seat re-upholstered. The truck had no rust before I had this work done. I bought it in April, 1977
  • 13
    Dale Pautzke 53110 March 26, 2014 at 21:39
    F-150 is cool, WalMart is evil!
  • 14
    MarionDavidson Weatherford, Ok. 73096 March 26, 2014 at 22:12
    Good comment I was the Ford dealer here in our town sold Fords from 1958 until 2000. MD
  • 15
    Jeff Stockton, CA March 26, 2014 at 23:47
    There has always been something about Ford trucks that just screams "American". It is about time I find myself in one again !
  • 16
    Todd here March 27, 2014 at 17:04
    My father bought a brand new 78 F 150 Camper Special when I was 15 I inherited it and still have it. It had everything on it except air conditioning. It has dual gas tanks and a side compartment and holds a total of 50 gallons of fuel. Has front and rear limited slip from the factory with dual front shocks and it will almost climb a pole. it is also midnight blue it came with a 400 and had excellent power. People that complain about fuel economy in these vehicles forget that when its empty it weighs exactly five thousand pounds that's like towing another car behind you and you will get the same crappy mileage. On a funny note the 400 is a massively Torquey engine I rebuilt it, put in flat top pistons for 10 to 1 compression also a 4 barrel and high lift cam. Carburetor and manifold with headers. Now it is a tire roasting beast and just for fun at the freeway on ramp I have a lot of fun dusting off BMWs and Mercedes they can't believe that this old beast just beat them. Anyway awesome truck there's nothing better than it out there now even. and PS since updating the compression and running Premium I get much better mileage now. and 78 was the cutoff year for catalytic converters in California YAYYYY !!!
  • 17
    Ronald Cook United States March 27, 2014 at 18:23
    Interesting facts, just one to add I have a 1974 super camper special f 350 that has been in the family sense it was born and looks like new. also not forsale
  • 18
    Roy Shrader Lima, Ohio March 27, 2014 at 18:38
    I have owned dozens of vehicles but my 1995 F150 Lightning pickup has to be one of the best I have ever owned. Problem free and so much fun to drive.
  • 19
    Rudy New Buffalo, Mi. March 27, 2014 at 09:31
    I had a 1978 F-150. It had the 351M engine. It was a gas guzzling Dog of a motor!
  • 20
    Darcie Boelter United States March 27, 2014 at 22:29
    The best engine, bar none was 300 straight six. My 1988 F150 was a little workhorse. Pulled huge loads thru Colorado mountains, good clutch and the prettiest Chesnut Brown. I loved that truck!
  • 21
    John Niantic, Ct. March 27, 2014 at 10:33
    bought a new F150 ext.cab in 1983.Truck was well used and abused and ran until the day I donated it to the Heart Fund,29 years later. The 6cyl eng, manual trans & clutch needed no repairs in the well over 200,000 miles.Actual mileage unknown as the odometer stopped working around 2002.
  • 22
    Joe A. Reed Marysville, WA. March 27, 2014 at 10:39
    I special ordered my 1979 F150 4x4 new and still have it. Original paint was/is 79 Mark IV Dove Gray. It's also one of the 1st Lariats. I special ordered axles and rear ends (try that now), and double shocks in the front. The only 2 options the truck does not have are the block heater and the flimsy little front bumper guards. It is insured with Haggerty, and " no " it is not for sale. It took 90 days to build because it had to wait for more little economy cars to be produced before they could release any more big blocks. It sits next to our 1960 Falcon Ranchero. Have a great day. Joe
  • 23
    Bob Santa Maria, CA. March 27, 2014 at 23:06
    I always liked Ford F-trucks, especially the mid-fifties styles.
  • 24
    Malik Newton Georgia March 27, 2014 at 00:22
    I always liked the 1948-1996 seem like those last longer than today's trucks plus had plenty of bed to all just about anything need one now to drive.
  • 25
    Tim M. Park Rapids, MN March 28, 2014 at 18:13
    I own two, a 1973 F100 with a 360, auto tran, manual steering and manual brakes and a 1977 F150 with a 460, posi rearend and a western plow. The '73 is all original and runs perfect, the '77 originally had a 351m but the previous owner dropped in the 460 and does it push snow. Trucks aren't built like these anymore. Love my Ford's!
  • 26
    Todd Rustad Oklahoma March 28, 2014 at 10:05
    I have only owned 2 trucks in my 38 years on this planet. One a 1966 F100 and a 1973 F100. Yes both of the trucks are older than I am. The 66 got killed in an auto accident, and I liked disk brakes so I replaced it with a 1973. Gets bad gas mileage with a 390 in it, but will haul anything you can fit in the bed or put on the trailer hitch.
  • 27
    Gary Traverse City March 28, 2014 at 10:48
    The first vehicle I ever drove alone on the farm was my Uncle's F-100. A black Ford Lariat would be my first pickup 20 years later. Loved it .
  • 28
    Ted Griffett Calgary, AB, Canada March 28, 2014 at 00:25
    I have a 1973 Ford F 100 and as the 3rd owner I have restored it three times and the latest was 2 years ago and I love driving it only in good weather. I will never trade it. TED
  • 29
    john stanbrook Illinois March 29, 2014 at 07:17
    I moved to the Illinois from the UK. a few years ago and needed a vehicle to haul materials for house restoration and my son-in-law found a 1978 f-150 with the 351m motor.It had been restored at some point and painted a metallic green colour but had a long bed and was reasonably priced so I bought it.It is now on its third house restoration and has 171,000 miles on the clock,it guzzles gas,is loud,has no traction on snow or ice,but still turns heads and I drive it daily and I love it!
  • 30
    greg Illinois March 31, 2014 at 11:59
    The 1964-77 Ford trucks used the same front bumper.
  • 31
    Randy Houston, TX April 1, 2014 at 17:20
    I have assembled quite a collection of Ford trucks over the years, and would not sell a one. From my 1954 F-100, through my 2004 F-150 SVT Lightning, they have all provided me safe and reliable transportation. So much so, I just ordered a 2014 F-150 Raptor. Can;t wait to get behind the wheel of that beast.
  • 32
    Ken Patenaude Winter WI April 1, 2014 at 10:03
    My grandson is 17 years old and feal in love with 1946 ford pickup trucks and is building one now frame up restoration he buys every 1946 truck he can afford works hard with his lawn mowing business for money
  • 33
    Cal Littlerock, WA April 1, 2014 at 11:13
    My 55 F100 is all Ford with a 1971 351C/C4 installed. Why desecrate a classic Ford with chevy power?
  • 34
    Casey emery Texas June 1, 2014 at 10:40
    Some good stories,I have owned Fords since I was 13 years old. first for$150.00 my dad bought me a 1952 coupe . I will just list the others:1954 1/2 ton(gift from grand pa) , 1954 1/2 ton with 390 thunderbird (was my high school hot rod) my dad sold both while I was gone out of state,did'nt tell me., 1959 4x4 1-ton sizemograft. Truck had iron all around it for south brush, 1961 Fairlane,then 1971 f-100 ranger I wreaked it when brakes went out, then I ordered a new style 1973 ranger two tone (first year for gas under frame), next sky blue f-100 1975 4x4 short bed, fun truck with 360ci, 1978 3/4 ton double cab 360 ci 1979 1/2 ton short bed 2wheel dr., then a 1981 1 ton dully(for welding truck) , another1979 1/2 ton short bed,another 1979 1/2 ton hunting truck, 1977 1/2 ton 6cyl. Long bed , 1977 1 ton dully another welding truck, then a new 1996 1 ton dully xl welding truck( still own it has 214,000 miles son uses it to this day .about 5or 6 years ago my back quit on me so I bought a 1996 3/4 ton 4x4 (no ac , was wreaked) has a 351 in it I have put about $15,000.00 in it ac, paint everything is new ford parts I found my dream truck finally i'm going to keep putting money into this truck and till I get it brand-new and there were a couple of different trucks in between all of these fords that I don't want to mention I didn't wear very many tires out anyway this Ford four-wheel-drive is my pet truck it probably will be my last one
  • 35
    nevel A north carolina July 28, 2014 at 05:15
    Wow seems like a bunch of guys on here who know a lot about older ford trucks exspecially from the 1970'S well I'm hopeing maybe some of you guys can help me out back in 2005 are 2006 i can't rember which year but i bought a 1975 ford truck but here is the kicker about the truck it doesn't have the vin on the dash but it has a military plate on the dash right beside the glove box but on were it says model it has f-190 at first i thought it was a era by the military but when i looked on the door factory plate the model also says f-190 if anybody knows anything about this please message me at ncpapabear03@gmail.com cause no one else i have found can tell me anything thank you so much guys for your time
  • 36
    Ted Rich Bladenboro NC August 4, 2014 at 01:44
    I have a 1984 ford with a flare box that I want to paint myself and need to know how much paint is needed for this truck.
  • 37
    Matt dillon West Virginia August 20, 2014 at 20:17
    I liked all fords until 97. After that they lost out. Big Fordsfrom 50s on were real trucks F 1100 T 850-T950 now pre Louisville Line now you are talking like a real truck man remember Ford F8- F800 proven most truck for least amount of money
  • 38
    Kurt North Carolina December 7, 2014 at 18:46
    I have always wanted and owed dodges. But after I wreaked my 2013 dodge and it was totaled my dad went and bought me a brand new f-150 sxt sport and I love this truck at first I didn't like it cause it wasn't my dodge....now I like it better. Nothing like looking down on that steering wheel and seeing my Ford logo
  • 39
    Rusty Port Neches Tx December 29, 2014 at 19:16
    I've got an original one owner, 400 CID, 78 f250 no A/C 4x4 explorer with ranger package that would climb a tree if I was so inclined. Also have a original one owner 460 CID custom with A/C 2x4 that pulls like a train and rides sooth as a new Lincoln...
  • 40
    lane Russell, IA September 5, 2015 at 23:26
    I have a 1975 f250 and I love it, I am actually getting ready to do a body off restoration on it. Its a full time 4x4 has a 390 in it, still has the closed knuckle front end that WILL be staying under the truck and a Dana 60 power lock rear-end. The truck has a c6 transmission in it. The problem I'm having is the box, I want to put the type of box on it that has the inbox tool box in it on the drivers side, not the massive spare tire compartment. What is the box type called and where can I find one? Any help will be greatly appreciated.
  • 41
    Michael Potter Utah May 8, 2016 at 17:24
    Thanks for sharing so much information and stories. I'm 34 so my appeal to the truck was sharing experinces with my grand parents. I decended from a ford family. They were always very particular that if you wanted tuff and reliable you buy ford. Well i started in a $500.00 taurus went to a contour then an expedition and finally worked up to a 2006 fx4 f-150. Its a nice truck. But my love for ford exists in the 70's that my grand parents would take me for rides in. So i evemtually found a nice 78 f150 custom shortbed 4×4 manual trans. And loved it for 8 years only to feel guilty i wasnt driving it so i sold it to a friend who was secretly waiting for the day apparently. Now its his treasure. Remorsed i realized it was difficult to see him enjoy it and no longer have one lol. So i bought a 1977 f150 manual 4x4 short bed. And you cant take this one away. It has a 390 im pulling it for some updates (stroker). Anyways these trucks were the pinnacle for tough and attractive in my mind. I hope to pass the love on to my kids. It reflects a time America was at a pinnacle for me as well.
  • 42
    Jeff Texas July 19, 2017 at 00:49
    I have an opportunity to buy a 1984 Ford F150 for $1,300. The body is straight. It supposedly runs great. Under the hood is a V-8 and it has a 4 speed manual trans. I surely aim on looking at the pickup truck tomorrow.

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