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100 years of Ford pickup trucks

Nine years after the first Model TT, Henry Ford introduced the Model TT pickup

Published: July 27, 2017, 3:50 AM
Updated: July 20, 2020, 4:37 PM

100 Years of Ford trucks - 1954 Ford F-100 pickup

The first Ford pickup, the Model TT, was introduced 100 years ago today – the beginning of a line that truly was to become a dynasty.

Now, Ford’s F-Series trucks are not only the best-selling trucks in both Canada and the U.S.A., they’re the best-selling vehicles, period.

They have been the top-selling trucks in Canada for 51 consecutive years and the best-sellers overall for seven in a row. Stateside, those records are 40 years as best-selling pickup and 35 years overall.

100 Years of Ford trucks - 1918 Ford Model TT one-ton stake-bed truck

Ford Model TT Pick Up Truck

Nine years after the first Model T was introduced, Ford added the Model TT, which retained the Model T cab and engine but could haul heavier loads and provide greater utility for work and deliveries. It came with a heavier-duty frame capable of carrying one ton of payload, with a factory price of $600. Only  209 were sold that year.

Similar to the Fordson tractor introduced in 1917, Henry Ford envisioned a chassis that could accommodate third-party beds, cargo areas and other add-ons to deliver the increased functionality needed to get work done.

It was a formula for success for, by 1928, Ford had sold 1.3 million Model TTs. The company then replaced that model with the more capable Model AA with a 1.5-ton chassis.

Henry Ford marketed his early trucks heavily in rural areas, according to Ford historian, Bob Kreipke. “Model AA trucks in particular had a certain class to them,” he said. “Customers could use them on the farm, yet still take them to church on Sunday.”

Like the Model TT, the Model AA was available exclusively as a chassis cab offered in two lengths, with new powertrain and axle options for greater capacity. Ford replaced the Model AA with the even more capable Model BB in 1933.

Many of those were outfitted as mail and freight vehicles, ambulances and stake trucks. Two years later, Ford introduced the 1935 Model 50 pickup, powered exclusively by its famous Ford Flathead V-8 engine.

By 1941, Ford had sold more than 4 million trucks. Changing over to war production resulted in the loss of consumer sales but a gain in experience building heavy-duty military truck chassis and four-wheel-drive personnel carriers.

100 Years of Ford trucks - 1948 Ford F-1 pickup

Post-war F-Series Ford Pick Up Trucks

“After the war, a lot of rural Americans moved to urban and suburban centres looking for work, and many took their Ford pickups with them,” said Kreipke. “Ford saw this as an opportunity, and began work on the next generation of trucks for 1948, what came to be known as F-Series Bonus Built trucks.”

This first-generation F-Series covered Classes 2 through 7 capacities – from the half-ton F-1 to the much larger F-8 cab-over truck. With the arrival of the second-generation F-Series for 1953, Ford increased engine power and capacity, and rebranded the series.

The F-1 became the F-100, while F-2 and F-3 trucks were integrated into the new F-250 line. F-4 became F-350. Class 8 trucks were spun off into a new C-Series commercial truck unit.

Throughout this period, Ford trucks started looking less utilitarian, sporting two-tone paint, automatic transmissions, and improved heater and radio offerings. New standard features debuted with the 1953 F-100, including armrests, dome lights and sun visors. Lower and with a wider cab, the new truck featured integrated front fenders and a more aerodynamic design.

Then, in 1957, Ford tested out a car-based truck – the Falcon Ranchero. Marketed as “More Than a Car! More Than a Truck!,” this light-duty truck brought car-like amenities to consumers.

In 1961 – 44 years after the Model TT – Ford introduced its fourth-generation F-Series. Lower and sleeker, it debuted the company’s revolutionary twin I-beam front suspension.

An upscale Ranger package appeared in 1967. Ads emphasized improved comfort, value and durability, as Ford trucks now offered power steering and brakes, and a lower chassis profile. A larger SuperCab option introduced in 1974 featured more comfortable seating to attract dual-purpose work and family buyers.

100 Years of Ford trucks - 1975 Ford F-150 pickup

Arrival of the F-150 Ford Pick Up Truck

With the arrival of the sixth-generation F-Series in 1975, Ford dropped the popular F-100, replacing it with a higher-capacity F-150 pickup to combat the C/K trucks from General Motors. By 1977, F-Series pulled ahead in the U.S. sales race, and 26 million trucks later, Ford hasn’t looked back.

That same year, a copywriter for a Ford truck magazine is said to have written three simple words that would come to define the brand – Built Ford Tough. More than just a slogan – it has become the mantra for Ford’s entire truck team.

Trucks were fast becoming universal family vehicles, in addition to being work trucks, according to Kreipke. Instead of renting a truck for a big job or for towing, people now had ones they could use for work during the week, then hitch a trailer to and haul the family in for weekend getaways. 

Premium edition trucks, such as the Lariat package introduced in 1978, offered more comfort features including air conditioning, leather trim, and power windows and locks. In 1982, Ford charted a different course with an all-new compact truck – Ranger. Versatile and efficient, Ranger quickly built a reputation for being tough and capable, leading it to thrive in diverse markets around the world. After a seven-year hiatus, Ford will reintroduce an all-new Ranger in North America in 2019.

In 1998, Ford introduced the F-Series Super Duty, engineered for fleet and heavy-duty work use. From the F-250 all the way up to the F-750, it more clearly defined Ford trucks for a growing base of commercial applications. 

With an expanding lineup of F-Series trucks, the company added high-end trim and technology packages to meet customers’ diverse needs. The addition of King Ranch, Platinum and Limited model trucks provided more luxury content along with improved functionality and capability.

Features such as premium leather-trimmed seating, SYNC® with navigation, sunroofs and heated seats, along with gross vehicle weight and tow ratings in the 15,000-pound range combined to deliver on the Built Ford Tough brand promise.

Powerful, yet efficient EcoBoost V-6 engine technology debuted for 2011, followed by the industry’s first aluminum-alloy pickup truck body for the 2015 F-150. Two years later, 2017 Super Duty trucks also got aluminum-alloy bodies..

Ford also spun off performance-oriented variants of its pickups, include Harley-Davidson F-150s and the F-150 SVT Lightning. Then came Raptor – the first off-road trophy truck from a major manufacturer.

Today’s second-generation 2017 F-150 Raptor features a 450-horsepower EcoBoost V-6 engine, 10-speed transmission, and segment-exclusive Terrain Management System with electronic-controlled transfer case and differentials.

The blue-oval branded trucks have come a long way in 100 years!

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