1948 Ford F-1 pickup
1948 Ford F-1 pickup. Click image to enlarge

Article and photo by Bill Vance

Ford’s F-Series pickup truck has been the bestselling vehicle in North America for decades, and after more than 60 years it still carries on the long tradition of Ford light trucks.

After the Ford Motor Company’s formation in 1903 it soon got into commercial vehicles. Its first 1905 “delivery car” was a panel truck body on a Model C Ford car chassis.

But Henry Ford’s focus was passenger cars, and the delivery car was discontinued after just one year and a production run of only 10. Those wanting a Ford truck bought a chassis and arranged to have a commercial body constructed, or purchased an aftermarket conversion.

Ford re-entered the pickup business in 1912 with the return of the delivery car, based on the ubiquitous Model T. As commerce and roads improved, Ford finally saw the potential for a production pickup truck and introduced its first factory pickup in 1925. It was basically a Ford car with a cargo box behind the cab.

During the 1930s pickups gradually became more utilitarian and evolved away from their car-based roots. Ford’s new 1938 pickup, for example, was more functional and rugged looking than the 1938 Ford car.

Although this independent truck trend reversed briefly, Ford returned to distinctive pickups in 1942, and apart from the sedan-pickup Ranchero beginning in 1957, Ford cars and trucks travelled divergent paths from then on.

Due to the Second World War, Ford didn’t update its pickup truck until 1948 when it introduced the soon-to-be-famous Ford F-Series. The F-1 had a half-ton payload capacity, the F-2 three-quarter ton, right up to F-7 and F-8 heavy duty trucks. The F-Series was Ford’s first new post-war model, beating the new 1949 Ford car by a year.

To accommodate its different dealer structure, Ford of Canada introduced a “badge engineered” Mercury version of the Ford pickup in 1946. This continued until 1968, and other than its name it was virtually identical to the Ford.

The thoroughly new and modern 1948 Ford F-Series pickup had a one-piece windshield, a horizontal bar grille and a no-nonsense appearance. A 1951 restyling brought a wider a grille with integrated headlamps.

Ford’s 50th anniversary in 1953 saw the new Golden Anniversary F-100 replace the F-1. Although even more rugged looking than the F1, it was joining the trend to car-like comfort and conveniences like automatic transmissions and power steering and brakes. It had a higher, roomier cab, a curved windshield and 50 per cent greater glass area.

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