Ford's F-Series foundation
On the heels of a World War II victory, one of that conflict’s largest suppliers of war material, Ford Motor Company, had turned its attention back to the business of making vehicles for the public. High on the company’s must-do list was a total overhaul of its pickup truck line.
Ford had good reason to be spurred to action, as it had some catching up to do. Some 30 years earlier, Ford dominated this vehicle segment by selling over half of all pick- ups. In the mid-1940s, it slipped to second in truck sales behind archrival Chevrolet.
After several years of development, Ford unveiled its handiwork in 1948 in the form of the now vaunted F-1 pickup. The vehicle was advertised as being “Built Stronger To Last Longer”.
Eager for the good life
Ford’s timing could not have been better. The economy was booming, and war veterans eager to enjoy the good life (and by the way, earning far more money than many of them previously considered possible) were investing in new vehicles.
The farm market was particularly susceptible to the lure of an Excitingly Modern (more Ford advertising hyperbole) truck after suffering from years of driving antiquated trucks, most of which were throwbacks to the late 1930s.
Veterans who returned to pickup-less farms after driving trucks during the war desired the advances of a light-haul vehicle for their operations.
The hype surrounding the introduction of this new line of trucks was warranted if only for the mechanical advantages and creature comforts that were promised.
Styling stays the same
Stylewise, the F-1 was certainly a repeat of the past. Except for possibly the front grille, the visual treatment of the truck seemed to have been ignored by Ford designers; its overall appearance was almost a direct knockoff of pick- ups sold by Ford since the early 1940s.
However, the F-1’s styling did depart from previous Ford pickups in one aspect: they were colorful. Buyers could select from five different shades. Until this time, Ford trucks were more often than not sold in a limited variety of black or gray versions. Offering a wider color palette signaled a change in Ford mentality that pickups were no longer homely haul-masters only.
A million-dollar cab
The F-1 was markedly different than previous Ford pickups when it came to the cabs. Ford called it the Million Dollar Cab. The truck’s operator compartment was wider, longer, and taller than previous cabs. It was also built entirely of steel and was suspended on rubber pads and rubber-insulated bolts employed at the front corners of the structure. Lever-action links in the torsion-type rubber bushing were placed at the rear corners of the cab to absorb frame vibration.
The cab was also feature-rich, offering an extra-large rear cab window, ashtray, glove compartment, a cowl ventilator with “three- way air control system to assure high-volume, fresh-air ventilation,” the promotional verbiage at the time proclaimed.
Here was a cab, Ford asserted, that was designed to “assure living-room comfort.”
Not all the F-1 advances were about comfort. Ford introduced three power plants at this time. F-1 buyers could choose from the entirely new Rouge 226 engine (named after the Rouge River plant in Detroit where they were built) that was a 226-cubic-inch six-cylinder (inline) that turned out 95 hp.
Buyers could opt up to an improved Rouge 239 V-8, offering 100 hp. That V-8 powered a bit more horsepower but no more torque since both engines turned out 180 ft. lbs. of energy. The V-8’s main appeal was based on its smooth running operation.
Larger pickup trucks (F-2, F-3, and F-4) also had an optional Rouge 337 V-8 available, which developed more than 145 hp.
Advances in these engines included the use of valve seat inserts made of molybdenum chrome alloy, aluminum alloy pistons (with four piston rings), and high-lift camshafts. The large V-8 featured hydraulic valve lifters.
The F-1 introduction had an immediate impact on sales for Ford, as 1948 marked the best year for truck sales since 1929. The firm sold over 300,000 trucks – up an astounding 60,000 from the previous year. Although still number two to Chevy, Ford was catching up to its rival in the truck market.
Ford would overtake Chevy as number one in truck sales 11 years later. It would hold on to that position for decades to come, due to the popularity of the F-1 vehicles.