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 4×4 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.

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