From model TT to now Ford’s F-Series pickup truck history

A generational breakdown of the history behind America’s best-selling vehicle. The popularity of the Ford F-series pickup is no fluke. Born more than a century ago, it earned its place in the American landscape by delivering rugged value and consistent innovation. Early on, it was its available flathead V-8; next was the twin-I-beam front suspension, and more recently, the truck has adopted industry-first aluminum bodywork and embraced smaller, turbocharged engines. From the first Model TT chassis cab, which debuted in 1917, to today’s leather-lined four-door luxury haulers, this is a brief history of the long-lived Ford F-series.

The history of manufacturing Ford’s F-Series pickup truck (1917-1972)

Humble Beginnings: Model TT Pickup

1918 ford model tt one ton stake bed truck

The Model TT truck launched in July 1917, nine years after the Model T, put America on wheels. It combined the T’s cab and engine with a sturdier frame. It had a one-ton payload and accommodated numerous third-party pickup-bed configurations. Ford sold 2019 units that the first year, charging customers $600 apiece. A version of the Model T with a pickup body joined the TT in 1925, marking the factory-assembled Ford pickup truck’s dawn. In 1928, little more than a decade after the truck’s debut, Ford put 1.3 million customers into Model TT trucks. The Model AA and BB trucks that followed continued on a similar path of success.

1935 Ford Model 50 Pickup (1935—1941)

1935 ford pickup truck greyhound

Introduced in 1935, Ford’s Model 50 pickup shared many of the styling updates applied to the brand’s passenger-car lineup for the same model year. It was powered exclusively by the legendary Ford flathead V-8. Production of the successful model came to a halt in 1941, when Ford shifted its considerable production might benefit the war effort. By that time, Ford had produced more than four million tracks.

First-Generation F-series (1948—1952)

1948 ford f 1 pickup truck

With the aftermath of World War II winding down in the late 1940s, Ford began working on its next generation of consumer trucks, which would come to be known as the F-Series Bonus Built trucks. The lineup marked the beginning of Ford’s comprehensive truck-lineup strategy, ranging in size and capability from the half-ton F-1 pickup to the cab-over F-8.

Second Generation (1953—1956)

1953 ford f 100 pickup truck

The second generation of the F-series marked the arrival of the now-classic vintage F-series visage and the naming system that remains in place today. The F-1 became the F-100, the F-2 and F-3 trucks were folded into F-250, and the F-4 became the F-350. Heavier-duty models were spun off into Ford’s newly created commercial-truck division. Creature comforts such as armrests, sun visors, a dome light, and an optional automatic transmission began to sprout up, and the storied flathead V-8 was replaced by an overhead-valve eight in 1954.

Third Generation (1957—1960)

1957 ford f 100 custom cab pickup truck

The 1957 redesign brought significant changes to the F-series’ exterior, and the new truck adopted the first hints of the more comprehensive, squared-off styling cues that were to define it in the decades to come.

Third Generation (1957—1960)

1959 ford f 150 4x4

Four-wheel drive became a factory option in 1959.

Fourth Generation (1961—1966)

ford f 100 custom cab 1961

Although the fourth-generation truck made its debut in 1961 with a traditional solid-axle suspension, it received Ford’s vaunted twin-I-beam setup in 1965. Available on two-wheel-drive models, the novel suspension design was hyped directly at non-commercial truck users with the slogan “Drives like a car, works like a truck.” Although the twin-I-beam suspension was adequate and kept in use for decades to come, some owners complained about increased tire wear due to camber variations inherent to the design. The first factory-built four-door crew cab appeared in 1965 in F-250 trim and was sold as a particular order. The top-level Ranger appeared in 1966, offering carpeting, power brakes, power steering, and air conditioning.

Fifth Generation (1967—1972)

1968 ford f 100 styleside

Showing the first inklings of the design cues that would remain with the F-series for the next decade or two, the fifth-generation F-150 featured FORD spelled out in block letters on the hood, a grille sporting integrated headlamps, and an improved cab with nearly four more inches of shoulder room.

Ford’s F-Series pickup truck manufacturing history (1973-2003)

Sixth Generation (1973—1979)

1975 ford f 150 pickup truck

Although it looked nearly identical to the previous F-series, the sixth-gen version had a redesigned grille, parking lamps situated above the headlamps, and a concave body-length groove housing the side-marker lights. The Club Cab arrived in 1974, offering either a pair of center-facing jump seats or a small bench seat with a foldable bottom cushion. The F-150 appeared for the first time in 1975; even though it would soon surpass the F-100 in popularity, the F-100 remained on the order books until 1983. Rectangular headlights were offered on upper trim levels in 1978; they became standard in 1979.

Seventh Generation (1980—1986)

1980 f150 ford

Billed by Ford as “the first new truck of the 1980s,” the seventh generation was designed to focus on improved aerodynamics and plusher interior trappings. While 173,050 F-150s were sold in 1980, the base F-100 still managed to find 133,590 buyers. Of those, 73 percent stuck with Ford’s trusted 300-cubic-inch inline-six engine with a one-barrel carburetor, which made 117 horsepower and 223 lb-ft of torque. The F-150 superseded the F-100 as the base F-series at the end of the 1983 model year.

Eighth Generation (1987—1991)

1989 f 150

Billed by Ford as “the first new truck of the 1980s,” the seventh generation was designed to focus on improved aerodynamics and plusher interior trappings. While 173,050 F-150s were sold in 1980, the base F-100 still managed to find 133,590 buyers. Of those, 73 percent stuck with Ford’s trusted 300-cubic-inch inline-six engine with a one-barrel carburetor, which made 117 horsepower and 223 lb-ft of torque. The F-150 superseded the F-100 as the base F-series at the end of the 1983 model year.

Eighth Generation (1987—1991)

ford f 150 nite pickup 91

To add a little zip to the lineup, Ford released the Nite Edition for the 1991 model year. Available in a regular-cab configuration only, all 1991 F-150 Nite editions were four-wheel drive XLT Lariats available exclusively in black with blacked-out trim. The 5.0-liter V-8 was standard, while the 351 Windsor was known as an option.

Ninth Generation (1992—1996)

95 f jpg

A softer, more aerodynamic-appearing fascia and hood highlighted the F-series’ 1992 redesign. The Nite Edition returned for one more year, and in 1995 the F-series surpassed the Volkswagen Beetle as the world’s biggest-selling vehicle, although the Beetle retained the title for passenger cars.

Ninth Generation (1992—1996)

1993 ford f 150 lightning pickup truck

Possibly inspired by the success of the Nite trim package, Ford swung for the fences with the 1993 F-150 SVT Lightning. The sport truck was available only in the single-cab, short-box configuration in either black or red. It relied on a beefed-up version of the corporate 5.8-liter (351 cubic inches) V-8 engine producing 240 horsepower and 340 lb-ft of torque and hitched to a four-speed automatic transmission.

Tenth Generation (1997—2003)

1999 ford f 150 4x4

Introduced at the 1996 Detroit auto show, the 10th-generation F-150 represented the breed’s most dramatic redesign in over a decade. It also stood like a totem to the moment Ford decided to actively market the F-150 to more casual users, leaving the F-250 and F-350 Super Duty models for commercial users and heavy haulers. Sleeker and more aerodynamic, the new F-150 utilized a new, lighter chassis that ditched Ford’s vaunted twin-I-beam front suspension in favor of a torsion-bar setup.

Tenth Generation (1997—2003)

2001 ford svt f 150 lighning david dewhurst

Although the SVT Lightning returned for the 1999 model year, it made its bones in 2001. Offering 380 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of twist, it was the most potent production passenger vehicle sold in the U.S. at the time. C/D testing revealed the Lightning could reach 60 mph in 5.2 seconds on its way to a 142-mph top speed, making it one of the quickest trucks we’ve ever tested even today. The car started at $32,460.

History of Ford F-Series pickup developing from 2004 today

Eleventh Generation (2004—2008)

2004 ford f 150

More extensive than the previous version, the 11th-generation Ford F-Series that arrived in 2004 was redesigned for even more comfort and user-friendliness. Featuring more considerable regular and SuperCab (extended cab) variations with more storage and passenger space, the new truck reflected the growing number of buyers who use pickups as a primary vehicle. Consumers responded in kind, driving annual F-series pickup sales, including Super Duty versions, to an all-time high of 939,511 units.

Twelfth Generation (2009—2014)

2009 ford f 150 xlt supercab photo 232266 s

For the 2009 F-150, Ford cribbed liberally from its Super Duty brethren. The Super Duty, new the year before, proved popular, so Ford gave the 150 a little familial resemblance for extra showroom appeal. Marked by a more prominent grille, aggressive headlamps, and squared-off styling, the 12th-generation F-150 moved further afield of its rounded, aerodynamically styled predecessors. The truck also got the benefit of a new, fully boxed frame for improved torsional rigidity. Engines were updated across the board, and in 2011 Ford debuted the twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6. The Platinum trim level also made its entrance, reaching for luxury truck customers with an exclusive grille, 20-inch chrome wheels, premium leather upholstery, and heated and ventilated seats.

Twelfth Generation (2009—2014)

2010 ford f 150 svt raptor photo 350452 s

While we appreciate Ford’s 2009 redesign, it introduces the 2010 F-150 SVT Raptor that put the entire truck world on notice. Unlike previous SVT projects, the Raptor’s primary magic lies not under the hood but in its rugged, off-road-ready long-travel suspension. Consisting of beefy cast-aluminum lower control arms up front and Fox Shox Racing dampers at all four corners, the rest boasted 11.2 inches of travel in the front and 12.1 in the rear—stock, right off the showroom floor. Early versions shipped with a 320-hp, 390-lb-ft version of Ford’s SOHC 5.4-liter V-8. The much more appropriate 411-hp, 434-lb-ft 6.2-liter V-8 came later.

Twelfth Generation (2009—2014)

ford f150 tremor 2014

Marking the end of the line for special-edition F-150s before the arrival of the new, aluminum-bodied 2015 model, the 2014 Tremor relied on Ford’s 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 for motivation (and appeal) rather than a traditional V-8. The truck essentially was a regular-cab F-150 with a graphics package and a 4.10:1 electronically locking rear differential, and it bore hazily nostalgic connections to sport trucks gone by. Buyers could choose rear- or four-wheel-drive, but either way, they’d get a set of 20-inch wheels with 275/55 Pirelli Scorpion all-season tires. In our testing, the Tremor pulled a good 0.75 g of lateral grip on the skidpad, but its 6.0-second zero-to-60-mph time merely fell in line with the rest of the EcoBoost V-6–equipped F-150 lineup.

Thirteenth Generation (2015—2020)

2015 aluminum body f150

A perennial best-seller, the F-150 didn’t need to break much new ground, nor did it when it is redesigned for 2015—just kidding. Even though Ford could easily have made incremental changes to the existing vehicle and slapped a “new” badge on it and customers would have kept buying the things, it went slightly radical: The 2015 F-150 wore a mostly aluminum body atop a traditional steel frame. Not only was the new body lighter and more rust-resistant than the previous version, it also was the first pickup to earn a five-star NHTSA safety rating. And, yes, the F-series—including the Super Duty—remains the top-selling vehicle in the U.S., beer-can-body jokes aside.

Thirteenth Generation (2015—2020)

2017 ford raptor

The original F-150 Raptor proved a tough act to follow, but Ford deftly navigated the pressure and crushed it with the Raptor 2.0. Powered by a 510-hp twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6, it leaped from the assembly line right into our hearts—or off the nearest dune (as you see here). More than just an off-road animal, it proved to be a fully functioning daily driver and superbly reliable during its 40,000 miles as a C/D long-term tester.

Thirteenth Generation (2015—2020)

2019 ford f 150 limited comparison 101

Ford rolled out a few cosmetic tweaks for the 2018 F-150 along with some new wheel designs, but the real news was hiding under the hood: a new direct-injected 3.3-liter V-6, replacing the old 3.5-liter V-6 as the truck’s base engine. Plus, after years of rumor and speculation, the F-150 received its first half-ton diesel option. Based on the Lion turbo-diesel 3.0-liter V-6, the diesel features a host of upgrades designed to optimize it for domestic truck duty.

Fourteenth Generation (Starting 2021)

2021 ford f 150 202

The best selling vehicle in the U.S. will be familiar in style but wear a fresh face as the new 2021 Ford F-150. The most significant changes are inside. The new F-150 joins the Ram 1500 in the 12.0-inch touchscreen club but has also added features like a stable gear selector to turn the center console into a computer desk. Five engine options that carry-over from the 2020 model include the 5.0-liter V-8, four V-6s with two twin-turbo engines displacing 2.7 and 3.5 liters, a 3.0-liter turbo-diesel, and a naturally aspirated 3.3-liter. All are backed by a 10-speed auto. The fourteenth generation will be offered with 11 different grille options.

Ford F-150 PowerBoost (Coming 2021—2023)

2021 ford f 150 205

A hybrid powertrain with an electric motor sandwiched between a V-6 and a 10-speed auto has joined the F-150 lineup. Ford says it will be offered within the next two years but is still tight-lipped about horsepower and torque numbers. Hybrid models will use the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V-6 and standard with rear-wheel drive but are also available with four-wheel-drive. Ford says that the F-150 PowerBoost targets 12,000 pounds of towing capacity and an EPA-estimated range of 700 miles on a 30.6-gallon tank of gas.

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