The first F-Series, called the F-1 (half ton), F-2 (three-quarter ton), or F-3 (Heavy Duty), were introduced as 1948 models. A few "modern" improvements over Ford's previous pickups were smoother body contours, integrated headlights, a bigger cab and a one-piece windshield. Two engines were available: a 226-cubic-inch inline six rated at 95 horsepower and a 239-c.i. V8 that put out 100 horses.
1951 brought a new base engine, a 215-c.i. inline six with 101 horsepower.
The F-Series continued through 1952 with some cosmetic revisions (such as different grille inserts) as well as mechanical upgrades (such as a waterproof ignition) to improve performance and durability.
A somewhat sleeker look appeared for 1953, with the hood flowing into the grille and front fenders, as opposed to sitting on top of them. The consumer-oriented pickups were now called the F-100 and F-250. Heavy-duty versions were renamed F-350.
For 1954 the "Mileage Maker" inline six grew to 223 c.i. and put out 115 horsepower. The 239 "Power King" V8 kicked out 130 ponies. A "Driverized Cab" option provided such luxuries as armrests, a dome light, a cigar lighter and sun visors. Minor cosmetic updates, mainly in the grille area, continued through 1956. Horsepower also increased, with the six rated at 137 horsepower and the V8 (increased in size to 272 c.i.) pumping out 173 horsepower.
A modern restyle occurred for 1957 with a lower hood that was now flush with the front fenders. Two body styles were available, the traditional Flareside with its separate rear fenders and a new Styleside model with smooth sides that lended a more unified appearance.
A new grille debuted for 1958.
1959 saw a larger V8 (292 c.i., 186 horsepower), the availability of four-wheel drive and two-tone interior trim along with the traditional front-end freshening. The clean '59 grille gave way to a heavy, bug-eyed scheme for 1960.
1961 brought a complete redesign. The F-Series went back to single headlights and the trucks were lower and wider than before. Flareside and Styleside boxes continued to be available, and the Stylesides had a one-piece cab and box for a smoother look.
Yearly grille changes again took place, and in 1965 three new engines debuted: 240- and 300-c.i. inline sixes, with 150 and 170 horsepower, respectively, and a 352-c.i. V8 with 208 horses.
A new, smoother body style debuted for 1967 that also provided a roomier cab with more glass area. Three trim levels; base, custom and Ranger were now offered. The Ranger had carpeting, plusher seats and chrome exterior trim (such as the grille) standard.
In 1968 functional improvements came about: a new, 360-c.i. V8 replaced the 352, and a 390 V8 was now available. F-100 models featured a new, "Mono-Beam" front suspension with coil springs instead of the leaf springs, which the F-250s still had.
A Crew Cab (four-door pickup truck) was offered for 1969.
1970 offered F-Series buyers a choice of four trim levels: Custom, Sport, Ranger and the top dog Ranger XLT. A 302-c.i. V8 with 220 horsepower was now optional in addition to the former engine choices.
Grille designs changed slightly to update the 1971 and 1972 models.
Ford's popular pickup was updated and improved in many ways for 1973. A beefier frame, a roomier cab, an optional 460-c.i. V8, an optional automatic transmission and revised.front suspension were the more notable functional changes. A new body topped these changes and featured a concave groove that ran the length of the body and a cleaner grille with integrated turn signals.
The big news for 1974 was the introduction (late in the model year) of the extended cab version of the F-Series, called the SuperCab. A SuperCab was available only with the Styleside body and could be fitted with either a bench seat or a pair of jump seats in the rear compartment.
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.
Aside from minor facelifts in the grille area, the F-Series continued through 1976 with little change.
Engine choices were revised for 1977 with 351- (163 horsepower) and 400-c.i. (169 horses) V8s replacing the 360 V8 option.
For 1978, the 300-c.i. inline six (114 horsepower) became the standard base engine and square headlights debuted (on all models except Custom). The luxurious Ranger Lariat was introduced that year as well as a new, more massive grille.
1979 brought square headlights for all F-Series trucks.
Entering the eighties, Ford's 1980 trucks sported an evolutionary, more aerodynamic redesign. The face of the hood was slanted rearward, the grille had a cleaner look and the body sides were more chiseled with a flatter accent groove. The SuperCab's quarter windows were split for a twin window effect. A bonus of the revamped interior was 10 percent more legroom. Flareside (regular cab only) and Styleside (regular or SuperCab) styles were again offered and the big 460 V8 was dropped from the option list. The four-wheel-drive versions adopted an independent, coil-sprung front suspension design called "Twin-traction beam."
1982 saw the "FORD" letters on the hood replaced by the blue Ford oval in the grille center and the fitment of new, "lubed for life" ball joints. The Ranger name was dropped from trim lines, as it would be the moniker for a new compact pickup that Ford introduced later that year. F-Series models now consisted of base, XL, XLT and XLT Lariat.
1983 saw engine offerings increased to again include the 460 V8 (or 7.5-liter, as now engine sizes were referred to in liters) with 245 horsepower and a 6.9-liter diesel V8. The diesel had less horsepower (170 horses) than a gas engine of equal size but a lot more torque for heavy hauling and towing duty. And this was the last year for the F-100, as the F-150 became the new base truck for 1984.
No changes occurred for 1985 and 1986.
After being the best-selling vehicle (that's right, not truck but vehicle, which includes cars and trucks!) for nine straight years, Ford made evolutionary changes to the F-Series in 1987. A new front end featured flush headlights (which required only the bulb, not the whole headlight to be replaced), wraparound parking lights and a simple grille with 12 rectangular openings. New front fenders, hood and bumper added to the new, more streamlined look. A revised instrument panel had more legible gauges and a bigger glove box. Maintenance was made easier via an easy-access fuse box and simplified belt replacement for the alternator, power steering pump and A/C compressor. Safety took a leap forward with antilock rear brakes, as Ford was the first company to make this feature standard on trucks. The 4.9-liter inline six received fuel injection and a healthy 20 percent increase in output, for a total of 150 horsepower. And later in the year, the 7.5-liter V8 also benefited from the fitment of fuel injection.
1988 saw the SuperCab offered in a shorter (139-inch versus 155-inch) wheelbase and all engines were now fuel injected, including the 5.0- and 5.8-liter V8s. The Flareside body style was dropped. Horsepower for the various engines stood at 150 for the 4.9-liter inline six, 185 for the 5.0-liter V8, 210 for the 5.8-liter V8, 230 for the 7.5-liter V8 and 180 for the now 7.3-liter (up from 6.9 liters) diesel V8. Four-speed manual gearboxes were replaced with five-speed units.
A new silver and black grille replaced the all black unit for 1989 Custom and XL models. SuperCab models with the optional captain's chairs had a tilt and slide feature on both sides that afforded easier ingress and egress for rear seat passengers. Later in the year, automatically locking front hubs (on F-150) came on line as standard equipment, and manual locking hubs were made optional for those who preferred them.
1990 was the year of the Package. A heavy-duty service package, ideal for snowplow operators, consisted of a heavy-duty battery, high-capacity radiator and skid plates. And a sport appearance package included fancy wheels and a large tape stripe adorning the pickup's flanks. An electronically controlled, four-speed unit was now offered which promoted better fuel economy and reduced engine wear.
Automatic hub locks were made standard for F-250 and F-350 trucks for 1991. And as with the F-150 the year before, the manual hubs were optional. Helping to make the transition from two-wheel to four-wheel drive even easier was an optional (on models with the 5.0-liter V8/automatic overdrive transmission) "Touch-Drive" electronic transfer case control that put the truck into four-wheel drive with the press of a dash-mounted button. Two-sided galvanized steel was adopted for the hood, tailgate and doors to help fend off body cancer (rust). The oddly named "Nite" package debuted this year as an option for the XLT Lariat and featured blackout trim, alloy wheels with 235/75/15 white-lettered tires, sport suspension and the obligatory decals.
Taking the aerodynamic approach a step further, the 1992 F-Series was facelifted with a smoother nose that had the front light clusters and bumper ends angled back slightly. "Aero" mirrors and a revised tailgate completed the fresh look. A new instrument panel contained easier-to-use controls and a power point. Plusher seats and door trim made the interior more inviting, and SuperCab models offered a large, optional console in addition to standard three-point rear seatbelts. And after a four-year hiatus, the Flareside version returned in 1992.
For 1993 the Custom model was dropped, as the XL became the new base model. The Sport Appearance was also axed. Raising the seat cushion and adding padding improved rear seat comfort in SuperCab models. The aptly named Lightning, with its tire-smoking 240 horsepower, 5.8-liter V8 joined the popular F-Series lineup. More a boulevard brawler than workhorse, the Lightning was available only in a standard cab, two-wheel-drive configuration.
Safety upgrades took place for 1994 when a driver's side airbag (except on heavy-duty models), side door beams and a high, center-mounted third brakelight debuted. A couple of new options showed up this year: a CD player and a 40/20/40 front seating arrangement that had a center seat which converted to an armrest with a built-in storage compartment and cupholders.
Still on top of the sales charts as the No. 1 selling vehicle, the F-Series brought a new model into the fold for 1995: the Eddie Bauer edition. Named after the outdoor gear and apparel company favored by yuppies, the Eddie Bauer F-Series was the most luxurious Ford pickup available, with features such as two-tone paint, air conditioning, power everything, stereo with cassette, alloy wheels and the 40/20/40 front seat. A new 7.3-liter, "Power Stroke" turbodiesel became optional on F-250 Heavy Duty pickups. Matched to a four-speed automatic gearbox, the new engine put out 210 horsepower and 425 foot-pounds of torque, making it ideal for heavy hauling and towing applications.
Two models were dropped and two were added for 1996: F-150 Flareside and Lightning models met their demise and shorter-wheelbase versions of the F-250 Heavy Duty SuperCab and Crew Cab debuted. The short-wheelbase versions had a bed length of 6.75 feet versus the 8-foot bed of the longer-wheelbase trucks.
Ford took a risky route and went for a very different look when it redesigned its F-150 in 1997. The best-selling vehicle, let alone truck, in America for 13 years now sported a smooth jellybean-like style that stands in sharp contrast to the chiseled box look that endured for so long.
A trio of new engines are charged with propelling the F-150: a 4.2-liter V6 with 202 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque, a 4.6-liter V8 rated at 231 horses and 293 lb-ft and a 5.4-liter V8 pumping out 260 horses and a stout 350 lb-ft of twist. (Note: Engine specifications are for 2002 models.)
As before, a dizzying variety of F-150s are offered. Regular cab, SuperCab (extended cab) and SuperCrew (a crew cab introduced for 2001) body styles cater to passenger-carrying requirements. A choice of standard or Flare side bed styles are offered (except on SuperCrew standard bed only) and trim levels consist of base XL, midlevel XLT and plush Lariat. In addition to those, the Lightning made its tire-scorching comeback in 1999 sporting a supercharged 360-horsepower 5.4-liter V8, high-performance suspension, 18-inch wheels and a quarter-mile time of around 14 seconds. Another special F-150, the Harley-Davidson edition came along the following year. The Harley edition (based on a 2WD SuperCab) came with black paint with orange accents, huge (20-inch) wheels, special leather interior trim, and, of course, plenty of badges.
Leaving no stone unturned, Ford later brought out a couple of additional trim levels for the SuperCrew: a loaded "King Ranch" edition with two-tone paint and a cabin that would make a Texan proud with its abundance of saddle leather trim, and the latest Harley-Davidson edition that again features 20-inch chrome wheels wearing fat 275/45R20 tires, special black paint scheme with flame striping and obligatory Harley emblems and a black leather interior.
The other F-Series models, the 250 and 350, soldiered on with the pre-1997 body style and platform until 1999, when the heavy-duty brutes were completely revamped. A massive grille and a more traditional squared-off design separate these big boys from their smaller F-150 brother. Three body styles; regular cab, SuperCab and Crew Cab are available in the traditional Ford truck trim levels dubbed XL, XLT and Lariat.
Moving the F-250 and F-350 trucks are the same 5.4-liter V8 available in the F-150 and a pair of stump-pullers; a 6.8-liter V10 with 275 horsepower and 410 lb-ft of torque and a 7.3-liter turbodiesel V8 with 235 horses and a walloping 500 lb-ft of twist.
Ford chose to quietly mark the F-150's 50th anniversary in 1998. Very quietly, as the celebration consisted chiefly of a 50th anniversary decal affixed to the windshield. An STX package became available on XLT 2WD models and featured 17-inch alloy wheels and a color-keyed grille. The top-dog Lariat now had a leather-wrapped steering wheel and turn signal indicators incorporated into the side mirrors.
A few years after the revamping of the light-duty trucks, the heavies got their turn for 1999. Unlike the rounded styling of their F-150 and F-250 siblings, the F-250 and F-350 Super Duty versions had prominent grilles, angular body lines and "stepped-down" front side windows, all of which reinforced their big truck status. Regular Cab, Super Cab and Crew Cab body styles were offered, as was a variety of power plants that included the Power Stroke turbodiesel V8.
Y2K, otherwise known as the year 2000, brought the Harley-Davidson edition of the F-150. Fitted with special leather trim, this special SuperCab Flareside 2WD also had black paint with orange accents, the 5.4 V8, massive (20-inch) chrome wheels and plenty of Harley emblems festooned about the body and cabin. The Super Duty trucks picked up ABS brakes (in Lariat trim) along with power windows and locks as standard for the XLT trim levels.
A crew cab body style, dubbed "SuperCrew," came aboard for 2001. The Harley-Davidson edition adopted the SuperCrew body this year, and a new top-o'-the-line trim debuted, called King Ranch. Named after a huge Texas cattle ranch, not a new salad dressing, the King Ranch featured a handsome leather interior that called to mind a Western saddle. Four-wheel ABS became standard across the line as did power-adjustable pedals on the Lariat models. A trio of new options (heated front seats, power sunroof and rear-seat entertainment system) became available late in the year.
The Harley-Davidson edition added some bite to its bark for 2002, in the form of a supercharged version of the 5.4-liter V8 that sent 340 horsepower to the rear wheels. Flame-styled pinstriping and a billet-style grille insert further distinguished the H-D F-150 from its predecessors and siblings. A SuperCab version of the King Ranch debuted as did an FX4 off-road option package (for Lariat and XLT 4x4s) that featured Rancho shocks, skid plates and unique accents.
Knowing that an all-new F-150 was just around the corner, Ford brought out a "Heritage Edition" for 2003 that featured special wheels, paint scheme, pinstripes and lower valance panel. Also bowing this year was a revamped STX edition geared toward youngsters that grouped a sound system with MP3 capability, a monochromatic body treatment and, of course, different wheels. Also helping to carry the F-150 through its last year of this generation were upgrades to the upper trim levels, namely faux wood trim and an in-dash six-disc CD changer for the King Ranch as well as a Pioneer audio system for the Lariat.