Tuesday, 20 January 2009

1950-1959 Ford Trucks

In the 1950s, Ford added trucks to its line, such as a car-truck hybrid. The style of Ford trucks changed dramatically over the course of the decade.



As flashy as Ford trucks would get in the late Fifties, those that ushered in the decade could only be described as subdued -- and little-changed from the year before. Aside from a larger "Big Six" engine for F-6 buyers who didn't want to opt for the V-8, there wasn't much new and exciting for dealers to trumpet.

Ford Motor Company celebrated its Golden Anniversary in 1953 by introducing a totally redesigned line of F-Series trucks. The company also took this opportunity to change its model designations, adding "00" to the end of the existing monikers. Thus the F-1 became the F-100, and so on -- the nomenclature still used today. Added at the top of the line was a new heavy-duty model called the F-900.

Instead of calling these trucks the "Bonus Built" models, as they had been from 1948 to1952, Ford now referred to them as the "Economy Truck Line." Joining the new name was a new hood emblem: a gear cog bisected by a lightning bolt below the Ford script. And for the first time in Ford-truck history, an automatic transmission was offered as an option, though initially only on F-100s.

The biggest news in the middle of the decade was the new car-truck hybrid called the Ranchero. Based on a two-door station-wagon platform, it combined Ford's new-for-'57 car styling with the utility of a pickup by replacing the wagon's covered cargo area with an open bed.

In 1959, Ford celebrated a production milestone when its 50-millionth car -- a Galaxie hardtop -- left a company assembly plant. Ford cars outsold those of rival Chevrolet that year, putting a finishing touch on what had been an exciting decade.

See some great photos of Ford trucks in this article. In the next section, learn about the changes in the F-1 redesign for 1950.

1950 Ford Trucks

Ford truck aficionados will note the subtle changes to models in 1950.

Notice the sleek functionality of this F-1 Ford truck from 1950.

For example, since its redesign two years earlier, the F-1 had received only detail changes, none of which are readily visible on this 1950 model. Power comes from Ford's 226-cubic-inch flathead six rated at 95 horsepower. This example has a floor-mounted shifter, which was being phased out in favor of column shift.

A restored 1950 Ford F-7 pumper

Wearing an unusually sleek body by Howe, this restored 1950 Ford F-7 pumper was originally used by Martin Township in Michigan.


Good Humor drivers with Ford F-1 pickups

An army of Good Humor drivers prepares to fight summer's heat with a fleet of Ford F-1 pickups converted for their intended use.

This Ford F-5 totes a reproduction of the Liberty Bell.

A Ford F-5 totes a reproduction of the Liberty Bell in a promotion intended to encourage the purchase of U.S. Savings Bonds with the tagline, "Save for YOUR Independence."


1950 Ford F-6

Newly optional on F-6s for 1950 was a 254-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine rated at 110horsepower, which would surely be helpful in hauling the heavy loads this Stake Bed truck could carry.

Even though the Ford trucks in 1950 changed little, the world had begun to change. North Korea invaded South Korea, sparking the Korean War. Clara Ford, Henry's widow, also died in this year.

1951 brought in a new heavy-duty truck line for Ford. In the next section, learn about the "Big Job" Ford truck models.

1951 Ford Trucks

Ford trucks received a number of revisions for 1951. Restyled for the first time since their 1948 debut, Ford's F-Series conventionals and C-Series Cab-Over-Engine trucks received modified front fenders, grille cavity, and grille. Also changed were the hoods and cabs, along with the dashboard and rear window, which was now substantially larger for better visibility.

Also for 1951 -- and for the first time since the late 1930s -- Ford offered truck buyers two levels of cab trim: the standard Five Star Cab and the deluxe Five Star Extra Cab. The latter came with such niceties as foam seat padding, extra sound-deadening material, bright metal trim around the windshield and vent windows, an argent-finished grille bar, locks and armrests on both doors, two-toned seat upholstery, a dome light, and twin horns.

1951 Ford F-1

Resplendent in its cherry-red paint, whitewall tires, and chrome trim, this restored 1951 Ford F-1 truck looks ready for a night on the town; most pickups of the era weren't dressed nearly as well. This truck shows off that year's new look, with revised front fascia, grille, and hood trim.

Pickup beds now had a wood floor rather than steel, and note the larger rear window that accompanied the 1951 redesign. As advertised on its nose, this truck carries Ford's 239-cubic-inch flathead V-8, still rated at 100 horsepower.

1951 Ford F-1 Panel Truck

Another change for 1951 was that the F-Series designation no longer appeared on the cowl, as evidenced by this F-1 Panel Truck. Instead, it was stamped into the leading edge of the hood's side-trim "spear."

1951 Ford F-5

Popular with farmers, a Ford F-5 truck could be fitted with a nine- or 12-foot Stake Body.

1951 Ford F-8

A 1951 F-8 tractor truck hauls a trailer load of Vernor's ginger ale. It is fitted with the cast wheels and demountable rims newly available that year.

Heavy Haulers

Ford's Extra Heavy Duty F-7 and F-8 models were called "Big Jobs," and indeed, that's what they could do. These were the only two F-Series models fitted with Ford's big 336-cubic-inch flathead V-8 engine, which was available with an exclusive five-speed transmission.

At first, all Big Jobs were fitted with eight-lug steel wheels, but in 1951, Ford began offering cast wheels with demountable rims. This allowed tractor-trailer units with demountable rims to use the same spare tire on any wheel. Also new that year was an available two-speed rear axle.

Although the F-8 carried a three-ton rating, it had a Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) of 21,500 lbs. And some aftermarket companies offered a tandem rear suspension (a second rear axle) that allowed for even higher payloads. For tractors hauling trailers, the F-8 offered a Gross Combined Weight (GCW) of up to 39,000 lbs.

1951 Ford F-8

Another Ford F-8 tractor truck sports special wheels that combine a demountable-rim feature with a standard eight-lug bolt pattern. It also has an aftermarket dual-rear-axle conversion that allowed for a higher-than-stock GVW.

In the next section, learn about the overhead-valve six- and eight-cylinder engines introduced to Ford trucks in 1952.

1952 Ford Trucks


Ford introduced new overhead-valve (OHV) engines for 1952, but not all made it to the truck line -- at least, not yet. The first new OHV engine, a six-cylinder displacing 215 cubic inches, was available in Ford trucks from the F-1 through the F-5, as well as in Ford cars.

The second new Ford OHV engine was a large V-8 based on a new Lincoln engine that was offered in 279- or 317-cubic-inch variations, but it was only available in the big Ford F-7 and F-8 truck models; smaller trucks still used the old flathead V-8.

1952 Ford six-cylinder truck engine

Ford truck styling was altered little for 1952, with the most noticeable change affecting the nose and side trim on the trucks' hoods. Beneath the hood was a different story, however, as a new six-cylinder engine boasting overhead valves was introduced. Sized at 215 cubic inches, it produced 101 horsepower, six more than the 226-cid flathead six it replaced. The flathead V-8 continued to be used in Ford pickups as before, although cars and heavy-duty trucks offered overhead-valve V-8s.

1952 Ford Ranger

Marmon-Harrington had long been offering four-wheel-drive conversions for Ford trucks. When a 1952 Ford Panel Delivery truck was so equipped, it was called a "Ranger."

1952 Ford F-5

The rearmost banner on the cargo-body "spine" of this 1952 Ford F-5 truck reminds fans to drink Dr. Pepper at 10, 2, and 4 o'clock.

­1952 Ford F-6 chassis-cab

The 1952 Ford F-6 chassis-cab truck weighed 4590 lbs and had a GVW rating of up to 16,000 lbs. Its V-8 was still the venerable 239-cubic-inch flathead, rated at 110 horsepower.

In the next section, learn how Ford celebrated its Golden Anniversary with new truck designs.

1953 Ford Trucks

In 1953, the Korean War ended, and Ford marked its Golden Anniversary with their first truck redesign since 1948. Ford's 1953 trucks received a longer hood that flowed into the front fenders, along with horizontal grille bars. Cabs were also new, boasting more glass area.

1953 Ford F-100

A set-back front axle made the 1953s look nose-heavy but allowed for a tighter turning radius. Series designations added "00" to the end, meaning this light-duty pickup went from being an F-1 to being an F-100.

This also was the first year an automatic transmission was available in trucks (in the F-100 line), but would prove to be the final year for the flathead V-8.

1953 Ford F-350 truck

The former F-4 continued its one-ton rating as the F-350. This nomenclature is still used today.

1951 Ford sedan and 1953 Ford F-700

A 1951 Ford Sedan Delivery ambulance fronts a 1953 F-700-based fire truck at the Dearborn, Michigan, fire station.

1953 Ford F-250

Also in 1953, the former Ford F-2 and F-3 trucks were combined into the new 3/4-ton F-250 truck.

Ford's famous flathead V-8 engine was retired in 1954. Find out what replaced it on the next page.

1954 Ford Trucks

The 1954 model year brought the end of Ford's famous flathead V-8 engine, replaced in trucks that year by the overhead-valve V-8 already two years old in Ford's car line. Referred to as the "Y-Block" engine, it displaced the same 239 cubic inches as the flathead, but produced nearly 15 percent more horsepower.

Another first for Ford trucks in 1954 was the availability of tandem rear-axle setups for heavy-duty work. Ford referred to these trucks as the T-700 and T-800 models. Ford also added a couple of heavy-duty Cab-Over-Engine models in the form of the C-700 and C-900. Also that year, availability of the automatic-transmission option was expanded to include F-250 and F-350 trucks.

1954 Ford truck with V-8 engine

Another grille change marked Ford's 1954 trucks, this time adding a pair of prominent vertical guards. The V-8 badge on the grille indicates this pickup has Ford's new overhead-valve V-8. At 239 cubic inches, displacement was the same as the flathead's, but horsepower rose from 110 to 130.

1954 Ford tandem-rear-axle truck

Ford had introduced a pair of tandem-rear-axle models in 1953, the T-700 and T-800. Previously, buyers wanting a tandem-axle chassis had to have it built using an aftermarket conversion kit.

1954 Ford automatic transmission truck engine

Ford expanded availability of the optional automatic transmission for 1954, offering it for F-250 and F-350 trucks in addition to the F-100s.

1954 Ford F-100

1954 Ford F-100 interior view

A cross in the center of this restored 1954 Ford F-100's grille (above) indicates that the truck carries the revised six-cylinder engine Ford issued for 1954. A bore increase brought it up to 223 cubic inches and 115 horsepower from 215 cid/101 hp.

The six chrome hash marks that flank the cross indicate this is a Deluxe model, which had fancier trim. Adopted with the 1953 redesign (and featured on this vehicle) was a new hood badge featuring a lightning-bolt/gear-wheel motif below the famous Ford script.

At right is a look at the not-so-deluxe inside of this deluxe Ford pickup truck.

Most of Ford's 1955 attention focused on cars, but designers did find time to remake the Ford truck grilles once again. See the results in the next section.

1955 Ford Trucks

Most of the news coming out of Ford Motor Company in 1955 centered on the redesigned car line and the introduction of a new sporty personal car named Thunderbird. As for trucks, changes were kept to a minimum, with little to note besides revised grille and exterior trim pieces.

1955 Ford truck

Yet another change to grille design differentiated the 1955 Ford trucks from the 1954s. The vertical guards were dropped in favor of a V-shaped dip in the upper bar, which again carried an indicator of a six-cylinder or V-8 engine. Less obvious were the switch to tubeless tires on F-100s and the newly optional power brakes.

1955 Ford F-800 Big Job dump truck

This 1955 Ford F-800 Big Job dump truck boasts the tandem-axle setup introduced in 1954, which was becoming very popular.

1955 Ford F-100

Not surprisingly, the F-100 with 61/2-foot bed was Ford's most popular truck in 1955

1955 Ford F-100 exterior logo

Despite all the emphasis placed on exterior styling over the years, such as the snazzy logo on the 1955 Ford F-100 truck shown above, interiors had gained little in the way of "character" by that time (see below).

1955 Ford F-100 interior

Inside, the 1955 Ford F-100 remained rather sparse.

Wraparound windshields and larger engines aimed to give Ford trucks a competitive edge in 1956. See photos of this new look on the next page.

1956 Ford Trucks

Ford's nearly singular focus on its cars changed for 1956, at least to a degree. This year Ford gave its trucks a wraparound windshield that provided a fresh look. Tubeless-tire availability expanded to include Ford F-250-and-up trucks, and larger V-8 engines were offered on several models.

Also in 1956, the Federal Highway Act authorized the building of the 41,000-mile Interstate Highway System, which would become a boon to both drivers and -- more immediately -- construction companies.

1956 Ford F-750 Stake Bed

Ford offered larger V-8 engines for trucks in 1956, with a 302-cubic-inch version available in heavy-duty trucks like this F-750 Stake Bed.

1956 Ford truck lineup

The lineup of 1956 Ford trucks extends from F-100 pickup truck and panel truck at right, through the heavy-duty conventionals, all the way to Big Job cab-forwards.

1956 Ford F-Series

In an effort to match the redesigned Chevrolet trucks that had appeared for 1955, Ford attempted to modernize its F-Series trucks by giving them wraparound windshields and restyled dashboards.

1956 Ford F-Series

Ford's 1956 truck grilles got the customary annual update, and now boasted a "Back to the Future" look very similar to that of the 1953 Ford truck models.

1956 Ford F-Series V-8 engine

This 1956 F-Series truck boasts a larger 272-cubic-inch V-8 engine, which offered 167horsepower.

Ford added a new type of vehicle to its truck lineup in 1957: the Ranchero.

1957 Ford Trucks

Ford rival General Motors had brought out stylish new trucks for 1955, and for two years, Ford had to face the competition with a warmed-over truck line that dated back to 1953. That made 1957 a very big year for Ford dealers, as they finally had a stylish truck of their own -- two, actually.

Ford's F-Series trucks now sported a completely new look that was more square and modern, while at the same time featuring a wider cab, hidden running boards, flush-mounted front fenders, and a wider, full-width hood. The 1957 model year also brought a choice of two pickup beds: the traditional Flareside, with a narrow bed and attached rear fenders, and the new Styleside, with straight-through fenders. A straight-sided bed was nothing new to the industry, but unlike other manufacturers, Ford offered its Styleside pickup box at no extra charge.

Perhaps even bigger news was Ford's new car/truck hybrid called the Ranchero. Based on a two-door station-wagon platform, it combined Ford's new-for-1957 car styling with the utility of a pickup truck by replacing the wagon's covered cargo area with an open bed.

In addition to the dramatic changes that greeted pickup truck buyers this year, Ford also performed a major revamp to its Cab-Over-Engine models. These C-Series trucks were converted to a forward-control design, placing the steering wheel and pedals ahead of the axle, and the driver seat above it. They were branded "Tilt Cabs" because their cabs tilted forward for easier engine access.

1957 Ford Ranchero

The new Ford Ranchero was a sensation, sharing the look of Ford's restyled 1957 cars. Top engine was the car line's 292-cubic-inch 212-horsepower V-8, which wasn't offered in other trucks.

1957 Ford Ranchero

The Ford Ranchero was considered a 1/2-ton pickup like the F-100 truck, but its styling and car-like amenities didn't come free. Prices started at $2098, whereas an F-100 -- either Styleside or Flareside -- started at $1789.

1957 Ford F-Series

Ford's radically redesigned 1957 F-Series trucks offered slab-sided styling both front (see above) and rear (see below) with the introduction of the Styleside bed. A traditional bed with separate fenders, called a Flareside, was also still available.

1957 Ford F-Series

Both pickup beds were offered in 61/2- and 8-foot lengths for the 1957 Ford F-Series trucks. Engine choices included a 223-cubic-inch six, with 139 horsepower, and a 272-cid V-8 with 171 hp.

1957 Ford C-900

New for 1957 were the Ford C-Series Tilt Cab forward-control trucks, which would go on to live a long and prosperous life. Cabs could be tilted forward for easy engine access, and the set-back front axle allowed for a tight turning radius.

Best of all, the design allowed for a shorter overall length with a given trailer size. Shown is the top-line Ford C-900 truck, which -- like other 900s -- used a 332-cubic-inch V-8 with 212 horsepower.

1958 Ford trucks would sport quad headlights, and a whole new line of work trucks arrived on the scene.

1958 Ford Trucks

Although the major 1958 news stories at Ford Motor Company were the introduction of the ill-fated Edsel and a more successful four-passenger replacement for the two-seat Thunderbird, 1958 Ford trucks got some changes as well.

Like their automotive counterparts, nearly all Ford trucks were restyled to accommodate quad headlights. But the big change -- literally -- was a new line of heavier-duty model trucks called Super Duty, which came equipped with new V-8 engines of up to a whopping 534 cubic inches.

1958 Ford F-Series

Like most other vehicle manufacturers, Ford switched to quad headlights for 1958, applying them to both cars and trucks. For the F-Series trucks, that meant a restyled grille -- which they had been getting every year anyway.

1958 Ford F-Series interior

By this time, interiors were beginning to show some style themselves, with contoured dashboards and car-like instrument panels.

1958 Ford Ranchero

The Ford Ranchero returned for 1958 with a whole new face, necessitated in part by the move to quad headlights. With the change came a massive, fancier grille topped by a small hood scoop. Ford advertised the Ranchero as a truck for both work and play.

1958 Ford Extra Heavy Duty

Big power was the big news for Ford's 1958 Extra Heavy Duty truck line. New V-8 engines up to a whopping 534 cubic inches were offered, far outpowering the previous year's engines. These trucks' GVWs rose to as much as 36,000 lbs on the F-Series and up to 51,000 lbs on the tandem-axle T-Series.

1958 Ford Extra Heavy Duty tandem-axle

Of more importance to tractor-trailer operators were the Ford Extra Heavy Duty trucks' Gross Combined Weight (GCW) ratings of 65,000 lbs with a single rear axle and 75,000 with a tandem axle.

The factory-made 4x4s Ford would introduce in 1959 changed the truck business significantly, and Ford hit a production milestone as the decade closed.

1959 Ford Trucks

In 1959, for the first time in Ford history, a light-duty truck buyer could buy a factory-built 4x4 Ford truck. Previously, Ford trucks had been converted to four-wheel drive by outside manufacturers such as Marmon-Herrington, Napco, or American-Coleman.

The 1959 model year also brought a redesigned Ford Ranchero, which again echoed the look of the equally redesigned Ford car line. As it would turn out, this would be the last year the Ranchero would be based on a full-size station-wagon chassis.

1959 Ford F-250 2-wheel-drive

Although more buyers still chose the 61/2-foot bed for their F-100 trucks, the 8-foot bed was gaining in popularity and would eventually surpass its shorter sibling in sales. Likewise, the smooth-sided Styleside bed sales would soon top those of the "traditional" Flareside.

1959 F-250 4x4

Factory-built 4x4s, such as this 1959 Ford F-250 truck, would soon relegate the Marmon-Harrington conversions -- which had been around since the 1930s -- to history.

1959 Ford Super Duty F-Series

Topping the Ford F-Series line for 1959 were the F-1000 and F-1100. Note the hood scoop, which could be found on Super Duty F-Series trucks.

1959 Ford C-Series

The Ford C-Series trucks saw few changes for 1959 -- and didn't need any. Tandem-axle versions had been introduced in late 1958, which further increased their popularity.

Ford celebrated a production milestone in 1959 when its 50-millionth car -- a Galaxie hardtop -- left a company assembly plant. Ford cars outsold those of rival Chevrolet that year, putting a finishing touch on what had been an exciting decade.

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