March 30, 1999 – Half a Century of experience – and counting

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Half a Century of experience – and counting

One of the last major programs under Henry Ford’s direction at Ford Motor Company was an exciting new product line which would be known as the F-Series family of trucks. Although Ford had handed the reins of the company over to his grandson Henry Ford II in 1945, the senior statesman of Ford Motor Company still took an active interest in company plans, including plans for what would eventually become the immensely popular F-Series line of vehicles.

Sadly, the father of the American auto industry passed away at his home in Dearborn before his last great dream could be realized. Ford died April 7, 1947, and the F-Series truck was introduced the following year. The lineup for the new trucks included two Class 4 through 6 models, the Ford F-7 and the Ford F-8 — Ford Motor Company’s first “medium duty” trucks. The big trucks were powered by a newly developed gasoline-fueled Lincoln V-8 engine and had maximum Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings (GVWR) of 21,500 pounds.

Air brakes were introduced on the new big Ford trucks in 1949. By 1952, overhead valve engines had been introduced to the line and, the following year, an entirely new

F-Series was introduced.

The second-generation heavier duty “Fs” used a revised numbering system, going from single-digits to hundreds, and featured setback front axles and a high “greenhouse.” The largest of the new trucks, the F-900, placed Ford in the Class 7 market segment for the first time.

Two years later, this branch of the Ford F-Series family was being offered with tubeless tires, wraparound windshields and a 12-volt electrical system.

In 1958, two important new engines — a powerful Super Duty V-8 and the first Ford domestic diesel truck engine — joined the F-Series powertrain lineup. The F-Series received new front-end styling, and the heavier weight classes began to take on their own distinct medium-duty and heavy-duty look.

In recognition of the fact that not every truck driver could bend steel in his or her bare hands, power steering became available across the board in the 1966 F-Series. Two years later, a diesel engine would be offered on the heavier trucks in the lineup.

Fueled in large part by F-Series success, Ford Motor Company in 1968 regained truck sales leadership after more than three decades. By 1969, power brakes and air conditioning would be offered as F-Series options, and the Kentucky Truck Plant, eventual home to North American F-Series Super Duty production, had opened.

When the F-Series was revised in 1980, significant changes would be included in all models, but the most extensively revised were the medium-duty models, almost completely redesigned for the new decade.

By 1987, the F-800 was one of a number of Ford medium-duty offerings. A Cargo low-cab forward truck (introduced in the United States in 1986 as the Ford CARGO), the Ford F-450 “lightmedium,” and the Ford AeroMax (later the AeroMax 106) had joined other models — the L-Series and the C-Series — covering various weight categories in the medium-duty sphere, Class 4 through Class 7.

In 1993, the F-Series Medium family got its first major revision in 17 years, receiving new front-end styling, a forward-tilting hood and more robust underhood design. The big “F” would soon go into production in Monterey, Mexico, in addition to being built on the No. 1 line at the Kentucky Truck Plant. The market for this versatile truck had expanded to include Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and the Arabian peninsula.

In March 1995, the media got their first look at a mid-nose conventional version of the Ford Louisville, a truck which would, in the lower end of its weight range, also compete in the medium-duty market. The new “heavy medium” would go into production at Kentucky Truck Plant in December of that year.

In spring 1997, Ford Motor Company announced the sale of the manufacturing and marketing rights to its Class 8 truck design to Freightliner Corporation. As a result, the Ford Kentucky Truck Plant was converted to Class 2 through 5 F-Series truck production, and F-800 assembly was relocated for the interim to Cuautitlan, Mexico.

The F-150 had been the first of a series of new “Fs” which would be rolled out over the next halfdecade. For the first time, models’ numerical designations would correspond to weight classifications: the F-150 would be a Class 1, the F-250 would be a Class 2, and so forth. All F-Series trucks would share a definite “family” appearance, although there would be distinct differences in the styling and overall size of the Class 1 and 2, Class 3-5, and Class 6 and 7 trucks.

Later in 1997, the F-Series revolution sparked by the 1996 F-150 continued, as the new Super Duty F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 models made their first public appearances.

And in March 1999, the Super Duty F-Series family will be complete as the Class 6 and 7 2000 model-year Ford Super Duty F-650 and F-750 trucks make their first public appearances at the Mid-America Truck Show in Louisville, Kentucky.

Designed to combine the best comfort attributes of the lighter F-Series trucks with the toughness and brawn of 51 years of Class 6 and Class 7 trucking experience, North American F-650 and F-750 Super Duties will be built at Ford’s Cuautitlan Assembly Plant in suburban Mexico City. Additional vehicles for the international market are assembled in San Paulo, Brazil, and Valencia, Venezuela.

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