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01 August 2017

1950 Ford F-1 Truck Review: Rolling the OG F-Series

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Ford is celebrating 100 years in the truck business. Its Model TT (Model T Truck?) began production on July 27, 1917. It was the company’s first mass-produced, dedicated 1-ton truck chassis (a lighter-duty Model T roadster pickup body had been available, and aftermarket entrepreneurs had been making heavier trucks out of Model Ts for years). Powered by the same 2.9-liter 20-hp four-banger/two-speed manual planetary transmission powertrain, it shouldered heavier loads by using far lower gearing that trimmed top speed to 18 mph. The company learned plenty during the 10 years spent building 1.3 million TTs. Those learnings informed its successors, the Model AA 1.5-ton truck (1927-1932), Model BB (’32-’34), and others leading up to World War II. By 1941 Ford had sold over 4 million trucks, but it was the post-war suburban expansion boom that really revved up Ford’s truck business and led to the introduction of the F-series, starting with 1948’s F-1. On the occasion of Ford Trucking’s centennial birthday, the company offered rides in a pristine 1950 F-1 that amply illustrated how incredibly far Ford F-Series trucks have come.


Regular Five Star Cab!

Today it is likely possible to build several million F-150 trucks, each featuring a unique combination of bed and cab lengths, trim levels, powertrains, and option loading. But in the F-1 days, a single bench-seat cab design served all Ford trucks, including the 3-ton-rated F-8 cab-over model. This first-gen F didn’t get a second, more deluxe trim level offering until 1951 when the standard Five Star Cab was joined by a Deluxe Five Star Extra Cab. The Extra didn’t add length, only sybaritic spiffs such as foam seat padding, extra sound-deadening material, bright metal trim around the windshield and vent windows, an argent-finished grille bar, locks and armrests on both doors, two-toned seat upholstery, a dome light, and twin horns. That gigantic steering wheel lowers steering effort but demands zillions of turns to negotiate a tight corner or U-turn.


Heater, Radio, and Turn Signals were Options

Ford’s little red F-1 features a Yankee turn signal and an auxiliary cab heater that we believe Firestone manufactured. (The Ford and Firestone families were intermarried, so why not?).


Art Deco Dash

For such a basic interior, the remarkably complete gauge cluster (speedometer, odometer, fuel, oil pressure, coolant temperature, and charging-system voltage meters) is beautifully designed, and it looks a bit like a small radio of the period.


Flatty V-8

Open the big hood (by pulling on the chrome bar in its left air intake hole) to reveal the 239-cubic-inch flat-head Ford V-8. That puny two-barrel carb and heady 6.4:1 compression were good for a hot 100 horses and 176 lb-ft of torque. They’re routed to the rear wheels via a three-on-the-floor transmission with a nonsynchronized first gear and a clutch that engages right at the top of its lengthy travel and with considerable chatter these days. But once engaged, the little V-8 pulls reasonably strongly with a low, quiet rumble. It’s no EcoBoost twin-turbo, but it feels up to the task of whisking your Larson boat up to the lake.


Who Needs Jumper Cables?

Should the battery die or the starter fail, the venerable flathead V-8 was apparently still capable of being crank started. Stare down the silver hole in the lowest bar of the grille, and you’ll notice it lines up with a similar hole in the radiator support and points right at a bolt in the center of the main fan pulley. Righty-tighty should start it—just don’t close your thumb over the crank in case it backfires.


Wooden Bed Floor

That’s no over-restoration flourish, they came with wooden beds, and a glance under the truck confirms that it’s not just mounted inside a steel box. Be sure to keep up with the periodic varnishing maintenance (and termite treatments?).


Analogue Tailgate “Latches”

We take opening a tailgate for granted these days, expecting single-latch releases and dampers to slow the gate’s descent and/or assist raising it. In the F-1 era, you removed a hook, slid the large chain link out of the way and reinserted the hook, and then repeated the same on the other side before lowering the gate. Don’t forget to rehook the chains, or the nicely painted tailgate will bang into the bumper and become dented and scratched.


Easy-Dent Single-Wall Bed

Every pickup these days is either made of composite material or offers inner and outer sheetmetal panels so that dimples on the inside don’t look like pimples from the outside. But in the F-1 era, you got single-wall steel construction. Oh, and forget about cargo management systems. There were no tie-down hooks (unless you drilled and screwed them eyelets into the wood floor yourself). There were four stake holes, though, if you wanted to raise the sides of the bed a bit.


Ford Truck fun facts

  • Ferrari named an F1 car F150 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian reunification. Ford objected
  • First 4×4 factory offering was 1959
  • The Ford F-Series truck from 1961-1963 had unibody construction! It required fewer stampings, fewer welds, and was less complicated to paint. It also increase load space by 16 percent.
  • Ranger was the King Ranch of F-100s in 1965
  • Fifth- gen F-series (’67-’72) was produced in Brazil from ’71-’92!
  • F-150 name inspired by increasing GVWR to 6,000 pounds as a dodge of catalytic converter requirements
  • First factory-assembled pickup truck was built on April 15, 1925.
  • The longest-running component that was constantly used on every single pickup and remained unchanged during the F-Series era was the front bumper – from 1959 to 1979.
  • Sam Walton, founder of Walmart and one of the richest men in America, drove a 1964 Ford Pickup until approximately 1988, and then he bought a 1979 F-150 Custom 4×4 to drive to work every day until he died in 1992.
  • When introduced for 1948, The F-1 was built at all 16 U.S. assembly plants that also built Ford cars. In 1956, with trucks becoming more specialized and the opening of the Detroit Truck Plant, Ford started consolidating truck production to fewer plants. Beginning in the late 1970s, Ford split its North American assembly groups into car and truck. Today, only two plants build all F-150’s globally—the Kansas City Assembly Plant in suburban Claycomo, Missouri, and the Dearborn Truck Plant near Dearborn, Michigan.

 

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