America’s best selling vehicle for the last forty years has been the F-Series pick up truck from Ford. But the F-150 sitting in your neighbor’s driveway isn’t the same truck Ford put on the road forty years ago. We’re going to take a journey through the decades of innovation, advancement, and rebadging that have made the F-Series badge a household feature. Some of the model years will overlap to account for minor changes to existing models that precluded a generational overhaul, and Ford’s propensity for releasing model years during the closing of the calendar year.
Before we get into the meat and potatoes of Ford’s historical line of pickups, there was a whole experimental phase that precluded the arrival of the F-series. It is important to know this phase to get the full context of the vehicles that would eventually become the best selling truck in the USA for nearly half a century.
Pre F-Series Trucks
In the nearly five decades before Ford launched the original F-1, the company experimented with several models of van and delivery vehicle. The first was the Ford Delivery Car released in 1905. Based on the Model C, the Delivery car featured a large, covered in cargo area instead of the rear bench. The second attempt was in 1905 when the Ford Delivery Van was released and was built on the Model N chassis, which had been launched the previous year.
Ford released a Delivery Car version of their iconic Model T in 1912, and in 1917, released the Model TT chassis, which was rated to one ton and sold as an open chassis. In 1924, Henry Ford took note of the third party hardware being built for the frame and released the Model TT with the Express Body, which was essentially a pickup bed. By 1928 the Model T needed replacing, so Ford introduced the Model A and larger Model AA, which was rated to 1.5 tons.
As the economy began recovering from the devastation of the 1929 economic collapse, 1934 saw significant upgrades to the base models, including a closed cab and an improved engine that replaced the small four-cylinder, which had only received minor upgrades since the Model T. In 1938, the one and a half ton versions got a new, stronger chassis. These upgrades were indicators of the healing economy, and Ford saw slow, but increasing sales.
Canada joined Great Britain in the war against Germany in late 1939, and soon after that, the Ford Motor Company of Canada, Ltd., started producing military specification vehicles for the war effort. The American arm of the company would follow in 1942, ending the production of a new truck model to focus on the war effort. With the end of the war in sight and demand for military equipment easing, in late 1944 the War Production Board authorized Ford to build a limited run of heavy-duty trucks for civilian use. These trucks were essentially beefier versions of the 1942 model that had been cut short.