Crucial Cars: The Ford F-150

From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can't live without. For this first installment, we hitch a ride with the workhorse of the ages: The Ford F-150.

 
 

Ford F-150 232 consecutive years as the best-selling vehicle in the U.S.

37 years as the top-selling truck.

A major redesign for 2015 that has tongues wagging.

Why do so many truck buyers have a love affair with Ford’s F-150 and Ford trucks in general? Perhaps because like most F-150 drivers, these trucks just work. And that’s not to say that other trucks don’t, because I’m certainly not trying to start a war of words among my fellow truck drivers and loyal Ram, Silverado and Tundra enthusiasts.

The Ford F-150 is the workhorse of choice for countless professionals and weekend warriors alike who need dependable towing and hauling power for a reason. Consider the 2000 F-150 as an example. It’s 5.4-liter V-8, 16-valve, fuel-injected engine delivers 205 horsepower at 4,950 RPM and 255 foot pounds of torque at 3,700 RPM, for a maximum towing capacity of 7,500 pounds – more than enough to get most jobs done. Couple that power with its hefty size – a 3,923-pound curb weight and a 5,600-pound gross weight and a nearly 120-inch wheelbase – and you have a towing and hauling machine that can stand up to tough conditions and looks good doing it. Those good looks are courtesy of periodic F-150 body redesigns that refresh its image without losing the iconic body style that makes it instantly recognizable.

Ford’s continuing success with its F-150 can be traced, in part, to its experience designing and building trucks that drivers want. The F-150 wasn’t Ford’s first pickup. That honor falls to Ford’s 1925 Model T and the more than 33,000 Model T “runabouts” it built with a pickup truck body and sold for $281.The F-150 name didn’t arrive on the scene until 1975, following the F-100’s introduction in 1953 and the F-series creation in 1948 with the F-1 half-ton pickup. Those early F-series pickups were available with just two engine options – a 95-horsepower, 226 cubic-inch, inline six or a 100 horsepower, 239 V-8.

Changes in options through the years helped keep Ford’s  F-series fresh, with perhaps one of the biggest changes occurring in 1959 with the availability of four-wheel drive. That’s such an important feature because for many early pickup-truck drivers, they drove a truck for one reason – they had to. Whether they made their livelihood in farming, construction, or some other industry that required hauling or towing, those early trucks were, undoubtedly, work trucks.Ford F-150 1

Contrast that with today’s pickup owners. While many still choose the F-150 for work, countless others drive it because of the convenience and flexibility it offers – a car-like ride and interior with heated seats, 360-degree cameras, power moon roofs and LED lighting that can still haul and tow when needed, and do it in style. Yet another reason many drivers choose the F-150 and tend to hang onto them is that they’re easy to work on, particularly with a little guidance from the pros when you need it, and the continuing availability of parts and accessories for it.

What has people talking about the latest F-150, however, is Ford’s introduction of an all-aluminum cab, front-end, bed and tailgate. This aluminum body, still resting on plenty of high-strength steel in the frame and underbody, helps the F-150 shed 700 lbs. and increase its fuel efficiency. Anticipating truck drivers’ and F-150 lovers’ wariness about aluminum’s perceived strength in a truck that’s supposed to be Ford-tough, Ford’s been positioning the 2015 as being built with “military-grade aluminum alloy and high-strength steel,” and having undergone more than 10 million miles of brutal testing in real-world conditions before the first truck rolled off the assembly line.

The 2015 F-150’s new, 8-inch “productivity screen,” which provides a steady stream of data about the truck’s performance and driving conditions, is a far cry from early truck drivers’ understanding of productivity , but then again, they were more accustomed to throwing wood in their truck bed, instead of polishing it inside an air-conditioned cab.2015 Ford F-150 2015 Ford F-150

Rest assured, Ford’s got it right with their new F-150. After all, they have the pickup truck experience as well as the incentive and pressure not to disappoint millions of die-hard Ford fans. No one at Ford really wants to be “that guy” responsible for breaking a 37-year tradition as the top-selling truck, even though there are probably an equal number of loyal Chevy and Dodge fans just waiting for that to happen.

Which truck do you use?

Are you an F-150 fan? Or, do you drive a Ram, Silverado or Tundra? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Editor's note: You can lighten your load by shopping Advance Auto Parts for your Ford F-150 needs.  Choose parts, accessories and more—all at a superior value. Get your order fast—buy online, pick up in-store, in 30 minutes.

Last updated June 8, 2017

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