The Evolution of The Ford F-150 Truck

July 20th, 2021 by

2021 Ford F-150

Vehicles with an Illustrious History, Available at Your Kansas City Ford Dealer

When we say that the Ford F-150 has a long and storied history and has built a following so loyal that it’s become the most popular truck on the road, it isn’t an exaggeration or hyperbole.

This pickup truck has earned its place in Americana for its consistency of quality, toughness, and style. Since 1917, Ford trucks have built their history and played a role in the U.S.’s history, too.

Let’s explore the evolution of this iconic truck, and help you find one of your own at your local Ford dealership.

The Birth of the Ford F-150: Model TT

After Henry Ford established the first moving assembly line and the release of the Model T, the first pickup truck rolled out of the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit in 1917. The Model TT used the Model T’s cab and engine, but placed it on a sturdier frame that could accommodate aftermarket pickup beds and carried a one-ton payload. This first truck cost just $600, and Ford sold just over 2,000 of them.

In 1926, a Model T with a pickup body became the first factory-assembled Ford truck. A total of 1.3 million customers purchased them by 1928. Their success launched the Model AA and BB trucks, which were just as popular in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Henry Ford knew pickup trucks were going to be big.

Ford Model 50 Truck

Between 1935 and 1941, Ford Motor Company produced the Model 50, powered by a Ford flathead V-8 engine. By the end of the Model 50 production, Ford had built and sold more than 4 million trucks.

But supporting the war effort got in the way, so Ford shifted its production to World War II supplies, and the Model 50 project was put on hold.

Post-WWII Trucks

In the late 1940s, Ford Motor Company began focusing on producing more pickup trucks. Between 1948 and 1952, they were known as the F-Series Bonus Built trucks. Ranging in size and capability from the half-ton F-1 to the cab-over F-8, this was the first time in Ford history that we can begin to see the formation of a truck line-up that carries over into today’s F-series stable.

In 1953, Ford launched the second generation of the F-series truck, renaming the F-1 to the F-100. F-2 and F-3 trucks became F-250, and the F-4 became the F-350. Through 1956, Ford began adding features like sun visors, dome lights, and optional automatic transmissions, replacing the famed flathead V-8 with an overhead-valve 8 in 1954.

Midcentury Ford Trucks

Between 1957 and 1960, the F-series exteriors underwent major changes. Wider, squared-off styling in this third generation began to form the iconic Ford trucks we know today. In 1959, Ford added four-wheel drive as an option.

Fourth Generation F-Series Trucks

Ford added traditional solid-axle suspension and a vaunted twin-I-beam setup on two-wheel-drive trucks. For consumers, this meant the new pickups drove more like a car, without sacrificing the strength and power of a truck.

In 1965, the first four-door crew cab rolled out of the factory on the F-250 trim, but it was special-order only. The Ranger, the F-series top trim level – not the midsize pickup we know today – included carpeted floors, power brakes, air conditioning, and power steering.

The Late 60s and Early 70s

Between 1967 and 1972, Ford Motor Company produced the fifth generation of the F-series. This generation added block letters on the hood that spelled out the automaker’s name, integrated headlamps on the grille, and a larger cab.

From 1973 to 1979, the sixth generation of Ford trucks rolled out of the factory with few body upgrades from the fifth generation. In 1974, the biggest change was the launch of the Club Cab, which included a pair of center-facing jump seats, or a small bench seat with a foldable cushion.

But 1974 was a very important year, because it was when the F-150 first appeared, and it soon became more popular than the F-100.

The Aerodynamic 80s

Between 1980 and 1986, the seventh generation of the Ford F-Series stable of trucks focused more on developing comfortable interiors and increasing the aerodynamics. And in 1983, Ford bid adieu to the F-100, in favor of keeping the larger F-150.

For the 50th anniversary of Ford, the 1987 truck model received some refreshed features, including a flat grille, rounded wheel arches, power steering and brakes, and rear anti-lock braking. The base six-cylinder engine added fuel injection, increasing horsepower and torque.

In 1991, the end of the generation, Ford released the Nite Edition, a regular-cab truck in the XLT Lariat trim level with four-wheel drive. It was all black, with blacked out trim, perhaps a nod to the Model T, which famously came in any color you wanted, as long as it was black. A big 5.0-liter V-8 came standard on this sharp special edition.

The Landmark Ninth Generation

A 1992 redesign of the F-Series led to Ford truck surpassing the Volkswagen Beetle as the world’s best-selling vehicle.

In 1993, America saw the first SVT Lightning, a sport truck with a beefy 5.8-liter V-8 engine, four-speed automatic transmission, single-cab, short box, in red or black. The future held big things for the SVT Lightning, but we wouldn’t know what for another 27 years.

A Truck for the New Millennium

The tenth generation of F-Series trucks produced between 1997 and 2003 received a dramatic redesign as Ford began marketing the F-150 to daily drivers, adding a lighter chassis and ditching the twin-I-beam front suspension. The new marketing strategy left the F-250 and F-350 trucks for more heavy duty users.

This same generation relaunched the SVT Lightning in 1999 with 380 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque, the most powerful passenger vehicle in the United States at the time. It went zero to 60 in 5.2 seconds and topped out at 142 miles per hour, still one of the fastest trucks in history.

This Truck Goes to Eleven

The eleventh generation of the F-Series, built between 2004 and 2008, really bulked up. An extended “SuperCab” offered more storage and passenger comforts as more and more Americans chose the F-150 as their primary family vehicle.

In turn, the annual F-Series pickup sales reached 939,511 units.

Twelfth Generation Ford Trucks for Sale

Between 2009 and 2014, Ford continued to beef up the F-150, playing off the popularity of the aesthetic of the Super Duty trucks: a prominent grille, squared-off body, and aggressive aesthetics.

In 2011, Ford launched the twin-turbo 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 and a Platinum trim level that provided luxury never before seen in a pickup truck. The automaker was molding history as it approached 100 years.

In 2010, the F-150 SVT Raptor brought off-road suspension and Fox Shox Racing dampers. These offroad sport trucks came with a 320-horsepower 5.4-liter V-8 or a 411-horsepower 6.2-liter V-8. It was, and remains, an absolute beast of a truck.

Craving the continued success of specialized sport trucks, the 2014 Tremor was powered by the twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6, paired with a regular cab, graphics package, and a 4.10:1 electronically-locking rear differential, in either four-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive and 20-inch wheels.

Lucky Number Thirteen

A 2015 redesign of the F-150 didn’t include many noticeable changes, except for an aluminum body on a steel frame. Despite the lighter body, it was the first pickup in history to earn a five-star National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety rating.

Ford revived the Raptor, this time calling it the Raptor 2.0, powered by a 510-horsepower twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6, serving as a daily driver and a trustworthy off-road truck.

In 2018, the F-150 underwent minor cosmetic changes, but the biggest news was a new direct-injected 3.3-liter V-6 as a base engine, plus a half-top diesel option.

The 2021 Ford F-150

This model year’s truck broke the mold and continues Ford Motor Company’s dedication to innovation. With Pro Power Onboard, a powerful generator built into the truck, an available hybrid powertrain that doesn’t slack in payload or towing capacity, and tons of cab features that take your truck from work to play, the 2021 Ford F-150 really is something special.

For 2021, Ford offers five engine options with a 10-speed automatic transmission, including the hybrid EcoBoost.

Another landmark truck is the 2021 Ford Lightning, an all-electric, all-wheel drive crew cab with lowered center of gravity and heavy curb weight. An extended-range battery provides a whopping 563 horsepower, with a range of 300 miles on a single charge. And yes, it can still tow, ranging from 7,700 pounds to 10,000 pounds.

How to Buy Your Ford Truck at Your Local Car Dealership

If you live near Kansas City, you can find a huge selection of new and used Ford F-150 trucks at Zeck Ford in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Our Ford dealership prides itself on our unique customer service promise, which includes no-haggle transparent pricing and rigorously-inspected used trucks that meet our high standards. And because our personal shoppers are salaried and don’t work on commission, you’ll never feel pressured to buy if you aren’t ready.

While Ford Motor Company’s new truck production is stunted due to the chip shortage, Zeck Ford is working hard to get as many new 2021 Ford F-150 trucks into our dealership. But we have plenty of used Ford F-150 trucks at competitive prices right here near Kansas City.

Make an appointment with a personal shopper to test drive a Ford F-150. You could drive away in a storied piece of Americana the very same day.

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