Ford Trucks – 85 Years Old And Showing No Signs Of Aging
DEARBORN, Mich., July 27, 2002 – At 124 inches long – two feet longer than that of the Model T – this chassis must have looked a little odd coming off the assembly line in Highland Park.
But the oddly long one-ton chassis that rolled out 85 years ago on July 27, 1917, was to be the cornerstone for Ford Motor Company’s permanent entry into truck manufacturing and its astonishing growth and leadership in a hugely popular vehicle segment.
Henry Ford had been determined to build a car for the masses. He did that with the Model T. But there were no boundaries to the imaginations and the ingenuity of the masses. For years, they had been converting car chassis for their own use. Many had truck-like bodies built and installed on car chassis to keep up with the commercial and industrial demands of a country that was growing by leaps and bounds.
“The truck had proven its worth against the traditional horse-drawn wagon and was becoming a necessity as fast as the country developed road systems and goods to haul across them,” said Steve Lyons, president, Ford Division.
Ford met this need with the $600 Model TT chassis, the first specifically built for trucks and ready to serve as fire truck, delivery truck, ambulance, hauler and more. Ford was on its way to becoming a major manufacturer of the world’s toughest trucks.
Just 209 truck chassis were built that first year, but by the end of the 1920s, Ford led all manufacturers in truck sales. The company continued its truck leadership through the Great Depression of the 1930s, supplying the struggling country with ambulance, police, delivery and bus models.
Ford began adding flair and comfort to its truck toughness in 1940, putting an improved cab and car-like face on its half-ton model. During World War II, Ford shifted to wartime production, providing more than 250,000 general purpose vehicles for military use along with B-24 Liberator bombers.
Another landmark year in Ford’s truck production was 1948, when the F-Series line of pickup trucks debuted. The F-Series ranged from a half-ton model and up, as well as marking Ford’s entry into the heavy truck business with the most powerful non-military V-8 engine the company had ever built. F-Series would become the most successful vehicle line in history with sales of about 27.5 million and records of 20 straight years as the nation’s top-selling vehicle and 25 years as its top-selling truck through 2001. The company sold more than 911,000 F-Series pickups in 2001 alone.
As the nation’s interstate system was being completed in 1960s, Ford trucks were there with development of highly efficient hauling tractors for moving goods around the network. Ford also was ready for a growing trend in which people more often put trucks to personal use and even began using them in off-road racing in the Southwestern desert, developing a second-generation Econoline van and one of the early sport utility vehicle success stories, the Bronco.
The Ford Ranger, destined to lead compact-pickup sales for a decade, was introduced in 1983. The Aerostar, Ford’s first minivan, debuted for 1985, followed by the four-wheel-drive Windstar in 1994. Ford Explorer debuted for the 1991 model year and has charged across America as the best-selling SUV in the country. In 1996, it even outsold all North American cars.
“Ford has continually expanded the definition of ‘truck.’ We put a wagon or a box on a longer chassis to haul everything from ice to car parts,” said Lyons. “Then, we began to see possibilities beyond the typical toughness needed at a worksite or a business. If a van could carry flowers, why couldn’t it safely transport children? Why couldn’t a pickup used for hauling bricks at a construction site go right home for use moving topsoil or towing a boat down to the water? Why couldn’t a military general purpose vehicle evolve into a FAMILY general purpose vehicle?
“The answers always came back the same: It COULD.”
At 85, there’s no sign of aging Ford’s truck lineup. The future holds promise for more practical, comfortable, efficient and versatile Ford trucks for industrial, commercial and recreational. Look for innovations like a more fuel-efficient hydraulic hybrid powertrain for commercial vans, quieter engines, smoother transmissions, evolving styling and more ruggedness among future improvements.
“Built Ford Tough isn’t just a slogan, it’s what we deliver,” Lyons said. Ford is the world’s largest producer of trucks. Two key vehicles in this lineup, the Explorer and the F-Series, are among five that will be available with a special Centennial Package to mark the company’s 100th anniversary in 2003.