Moving the front axle back 102 mm (4.0 in.) shortened the turning radius, and gave improved weight distribution and a longer, taller box. It also made the Ford look somewhat nose-heavy.
The F-100 stayed largely unchanged for four years. The ’55 received key starting and tubeless tires, and in 1956, a wraparound windshield and optional “panoramic” rear window.
The redesigned and squared up 1957 F-100 had integrated front fenders and hood. Although the traditional fendered Flareside model continued, the Ford Styleside’s full-width cargo box predicted the pickup’s truck future by eliminating rear fenders and running boards, a feature of the high style Chevrolet Cameo Carrier but at a much lower price.
The 1961 Styleside’s blended cab and cargo box was even more stylish, but was abandoned in 1964 apparently because it was more rust prone.
Ford’s new “Twin I-Beam” front suspension came in 1965. It had the wheels mounted on long swing axles pivoting at opposite sides of the frame. Radius rods maintained the location of the coil-spring-suspended axles.
Pickups being less style driven than cars, Ford brought only detail F-100 improvements for many years. There was a facelift for 1967 and 1974 brought the extended “Super Cab” with passenger seats behind the regular seat.
More aerodynamic styling was adopted for 1980, and in 1984 the F-150 name reflected more payload capacity. It replaced the F-100 nomenclature as Ford’s basic light duty truck.
Another more luxurious F-150 iteration came for 1997, reinforcing the market forces acting on pickups since the 1950s, when they started being used for other than commercial purposes.
As Ford adapts to a higher fuel economy future, the 2011 F-150 engine line includes a high-tech 3.5 litre, twin turbo, direct injection “Ecoboost” V6 developing a lusty, V8-like 365 horsepower. It caps a line of Ford engine types that included the early side-valve four, the 1932 V8 (the first V8 truck) and side-valve and overhead valve inline sixes and eights. Replacing the twin I-beam suspension a few years ago with a conventional A-arm type allowed lower engine placement.
Cabs are even larger and more aerodynamic and the extended-cab version’s extra doors provide easy rear seat access. Virtually every safety, luxury and convenience feature is available, including a clever step-up to the box. Dual airbags and anti-lock brakes are standard.
Although Ford pickup trucks have come a long way in their 60-plus years they still carry the spirit and DNA of that original 1948 F-1.