The First F-Series Didn’t Have An F100 (‘48 - ‘52).
The F-series has a long and rich history, but it might surprise you that the F-100 wasn’t even a part of the first generation of F-series trucks. The “F1” was the light-duty model Ford offered (along with of eight different configurations). Also known as the “Ford Bonus Build”, the company stressed the technical and practical aspects, telling potential buyers that they could haul more cargo or work more efficiently with the F100 doing the hauling.
The Second Generation F 100 Begins The Tradition (‘53 - ’56)
The second generation of F-series pickups revolutionized the automotive world. Gone was the clunkiness of early trucks, including the “Ford Bonus Builds” (‘48 - ‘53) with their rigid practicality. This new truck was designed to look as good sitting in the middle of a field as in the driveway of an American suburb.
Ford introduced three different sizes (which they labeled their “Triple Economy Trucks - F100, F250, and F350). Designers increased the strength and size of the truck’s payload and offered the Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission for the first time. Committed to putting the best high-performance engines into their trucks, Ford shifted to the Y-block engine in 1954, which provided plenty of thrust with increased horsepower and torque.
Perhaps the most significant renovation for the F 100 was the design of “driver-sized” cabs. Built for three adults to ride comfortably, the custom interiors included a curved front windshield (with I-Rest tinted safety glass as an option). A rear window measuring four feet wide allowed drivers to execute reverse maneuvers with little strain.
Padded seats with shock absorbers delivered a comfortable ride. Vinyl interiors were modified because they looked better, lasted longer, and were easier to clean. The new gauges on the dashboard were user-friendly and geared toward the driver’s convenience. Ford desired to make driving a happy experience because, as they so eloquently penned in the sales brochure of 1954 - “a happy driver is a more efficient driver.”
In 1956, power brakes were brought into production as standard equipment. Additionally, seat belts were offered as an option (along with all Ford cars). The pickup truck was changing, and Americans were ready.
The Changes Keep Coming. (‘57 - ’60)
The third generation of F 100 was a full-fledged redesign to widen the cab, making the fenders part of the body and extending that flow to the back of the bed. This modification was a case of trying to copy the modern looks of GM and Dodge products that were drawing attention away from Ford’s older, outdated appearance.
The most extensive development in the third generation came in 1959 when Ford integrated 4-wheel drive into their pickups. (All three automakers had been offering four-wheel as an install option at a dealer but not as an integrated unit already on the truck).
It’s The Sixties, Man! (‘61 - ’66).
The fourth generation of the F100 began in 1961 with a complete integration of a uni-body look. The truck was elongated by over four inches, and with a widened wheelbase, the 80 cubic feet of cargo room (8’ bed), owners could haul full sheets of plywood, materials, or more hay.
The windshield was increased to add visibility. New padded roof insulation made the cabin environment much quieter. Small driver conveniences like a chrome horn ring, oval adjustable defroster vents, a coat hook, an enlarged rearview mirror, and padded armrests were examples of Ford’s commitment to developing a truck people wanted to ride in.
The company brought out a mid-generation redo in 1965. The Twin I-Beam front axle and suspension became a thing (which Ford continues to use on some trucks). Polyurethane padding was added to the seats (you could order up to five inches).
The 1964 F100 was one of the first trucks to be factory warrantied for 24 months/24k miles, whichever came first. Ford even resurrected the “Ranger” name to denote their top trim level. If you ordered it, you got factory-installed air-conditioning.
Muscle Cars Influence Pickup Trucks (‘67 - ‘72)
Though the late sixties are best known for the muscle car, Ford pickup trucks were not immune to influence. Engine sizes grew as Ford offered the 360 and 390 Big-block FE V8s (the same large cast-iron V8s they were putting into their cars). Design features included a long outward concave strip that ran lengthwise from the front bumper to the back fender. The concave stuck out, making many owners nickname the truck a “bumpside.”
The stigma of driving a pickup as a daily driver took hold as many owners in the country’s heartland were using their trucks as family haulers (4H fairs, trips to the store, or even church service on Sunday. The ‘68 brochure seemed to capture this trend, with captions like “Truck-like toughness with Carlike smoothness.”
The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards began to play a role as seat belts became standard and hydraulic brakes were added. Emergency flashers, interior dome lights, and reflective markers on all quarter panels. Emission controls were beginning to take shape, and they would seriously impact future generations of the F-100.
The Sixth Generation Keeps a Good Thing Rolling (‘73 - ‘79).
While the sixth generation used most of the design cues from the mid-redesign in ‘65, Ford designers were gaining traction with buyers by offering double-walled construction, front disc brakes, and increased cabin dimensions. The concave was reversed to distinguish the truck from the previous “bumpside” generation, earning the sixth generation the title of the “dentside.”.
This generation included the introduction of the SuperCab. The new cab offered the option of a pair of jump seats or a small bench seat that could be folded for additional storage. While entrance to the rear area was gained by folding the front seat back forward, eventually, a door would be added to help provide more room.
The older FE Big-block engines were discontinued (primarily due to the effects of the Oil Embargo and tighter emissions controls), and replaced with the more fuel efficient 335 and 385 series small-block engines. (although Ford still had an option for a monster 7.5L V8).
Ford brought the F150 out in 1975, which made competitors scratch their heads because it seemed to be in direct competition with the F100. But for the next eight years, the two models would compete side by side for the wallets of truck-loving Americans.
The End Has Come (‘80 - ‘83)
Even though the 70s were tumultuous for Americans, the eighties didn’t fare much better for the F100. As more and more Americans turned to the new F-150, Ford redesigned the F100, removing the square body style for a more aerodynamic design, but even this was not enough to sway new buyers. The F-150 became the new flagship of the F-series line and would continue to be an industry-leading bestseller for the next 40 years.
This generation saw the placement of the Blue Oval on the front hood, replacing the chrome lettering. The Ranger trim level was dropped from the F100 and F150, shifting to become the name of the new compact pickup that Ford had developed. In 1983, the last F 100 rolled off the assembly line.
Will the F100 Rise Again?
In 2021, Ford had their new F100 Elumanator concept e-truck on display in Las Vegas. The truck is based on a 1978 F100 and features two electric motors that generate zero emissions while producing 480 hp and 634 lb/ft of torque. The modified truck is an example of Ford’s support of customers who want to leave a zero carbon footprint. While the F100 hasn’t risen from the ashes just yet, here’s hoping that maybe the rich history of this truck will have an encore.