The Complete Book of Classic Ford F-Series Pickups: Every Model from 1948-1976 by Daniel Sanchez
Published 2014 by Motorbooks
240 pp., hardcover
Purchased new from a close out sale.
Pickup trucks are everywhere today. They’re very popular, and together with SUVs they’ve almost completely replaced station wagons and sedans on the roads. I’ve had 3 pickups myself, and I muse on the idea of getting a classic pickup if I ever was going to have a ‘collection’. So, as I enjoy pickups, and I love books that detail model histories, I grabbed The Complete Book of Classic Ford F-Series Pickups: Every Model from 1948-1976 when I found it at the bookstore.
The book itself is large and a little heavy, despite being only 240 pages. That’s because the pages are almost a cover stock, they have a high-quality feel to them and dimensionally it’s the largest book I’ve reviewed thus far. The type borders on large, though it doesn’t feel like it’s compensating for lack of content. There’s quite a lot of photographs, lots of corporate photos and official advertising, both in black-and-white and colour. Overall, it’s a visually appealing book.
The central theme of this book seems to be how Ford made a corporate decision to develop a new truck that would be car-like in terms of comfort, ride and economy while offering all the utility of a truck. The goal was to turn the pickup into a viable option as a second vehicle for families and a more desirable vehicle for farmers, tradesmen and anyone who’d use a truck. This idea comes up frequently through the book.
The chapters are (generally) divided by generations of the truck – 1948-52, 1953-56, 1957-60, 1961-66, 1967-71 and 1972-76. After a short introduction, each year is explained and there are info boxes detailing engine and transmission specs and production numbers for the 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton versions, as well as a separate option list. The text does a good job of detailing the design revisions for each model year, as well as mechanical options, horsepower and torque, trim levels, major engineering changes and pricing and production. In this respect, there’s some great information here.
Ford did innovate a number of changes that we see in the modern pickup. The all-steel Styleside (that is, non-fendered) bed, steel bed floor, the modern overhead valve V8 in pickups, as well as various ‘special’ models for contractors and campers. And this book illuminates well the year-to-year development of the F-Series.
I am, however, a little disappointed. For one, I encountered some production errors – typos, images with incorrect captions, a 1973 ad appearing in the 1967-71 chapter, that sort of thing. There’s also a somewhat common misconception repeated in the book. The author refers to Ford’s 390 cubic inch FE engine as a ‘big block’, more than once. Ford offered a number of FE engines in the F-Series, but despite a relatively large displacement, the FE, even at 390 cubic inches, is a medium-block.
I didn’t quite understand how or why the author made some decisions. I suppose that the word ‘Classic’ in the title is a qualifier, and the author arbitrarily established that 1976 was the cut off. But, there’s no explanation as the why 1976 is the last year for the ‘classic’ F-series. In fact, the 1977 model appears very similar to the 1976, and the 1978-79 trucks seem to be of the same generation. My own research shows the only major change between 1976 and 1977 was the end of the FE engines in favour of the 351/400 engines of the 335/Cleveland family, which doesn’t qualify as a real model update. Further, the 1972 model F-Series is obviously a 1971 with minor styling updates. Yet, the author broke out the chapters as 1967-71 and 1972-76, rather than starting the last chapter with the redesigned 1973. I’m not sure what criteria the author used to group them this way.
I enjoyed this book but I also feel it was lacking in other ways. I may have been spoiled by other books, but I noticed there are no pictures of any design proposals or mock-ups. There are no quotes from any engineers, designers or executives – in fact, no person was mentioned by name anywhere. Who were the people who drove the decision to make the F-Series more car-like? Who created Ford’s famous Twin I Beam suspension, or the Camper Special, or the Ranger and Explorer models? This information would have been interesting to know.
Further, it is fact that the Ford F-Series eventually claimed the top sales spot (and has held it for decades), but there’s no good explanation other than the author’s assertion that the increased comfort and wide range of options and models drove sales. There’s no in-depth analysis of what Ford offered versus Chevy/GMC or Dodge, so it’s hard to know what Ford did better than its competitors – better options? more models? better pricing? The author never says.
Finally, the focus here is squarely on the 1/2 and 3/4 ton versions of the F-Series. In the early chapters there’s mention of the larger trucks, the Big Job series. But there’s not much information on how the larger trucks eventually diverged from the F-Series line. I understand that really, the book is about light-duty trucks. It’s just that the early chapters make mention and then the subject is never revisited. Funny enough, I did learn about some lower GVRW models, such as the F-110 and F-260, which I’d never even heard of (this contradicts information on the internet that claims F-110 and F-260 denote the 4×4 version).
Despite my seemingly numerous criticisms, I did enjoy reading this history of the early F-Series trucks. I am a fan of these old pickups, especially the post-1967 versions. I found so much good info on options and trim levels, and lots of great pictures of these trucks. If you’re a fan of pickup trucks, specifically Fords, this won’t be the ultimate book in your collection, but it is definitely one you’ll enjoy having on the shelf.
Pros: good, straightforward historical account of almost 30 years of F-Series trucks; many great pictures from Ford’s corporate files
Cons: lacks in-depth information in terms of who was directing development; no comparative analysis of competitor offerings
Where to get it: Amazon, retail bookstores