Ford celebrates 100 years of truck-building history

PMV Middle East charts the history of Ford pickup trucks, and the journey from the company’s earliest workhorses to today’s range of popular F-Series models

The original Ford Model TT from 1917.
The original Ford Model TT from 1917.
The Ford Model TT long chassis in 1921.
The Ford Model TT long chassis in 1921.
A Ford Model T Runabout in 1925.
A Ford Model T Runabout in 1925.
The Ford 2017 Ranger Wildtrak in the UAE.
The Ford 2017 Ranger Wildtrak in the UAE.
The Ford 2017 F-150 Raptor with its EcoBoost engine.
The Ford 2017 F-150 Raptor with its EcoBoost engine.

On 27 July, Ford Motor Company marked 100 years to the day since it produced its first truck, the Model TT, based on the hugely successful Model T car.

The year was 1917, and nine years on from the release of the Model T, and Ford’s customer were demanding a vehicle that was tougher and more capable than anything that had gone before.

Ford responded by developing the Model TT, which was able to haul a payload of one tonne and was originally sold as a chassis only, with buyers supplying their own body.

Ford went on to sell almost 1.3 million units, until it was replaced in 1928 by the Model A and AA pickup, paving the way for its growth into the world’s leading supplier of pickup trucks.

Years later, the Ford Motor Company of Australia received a letter from a farmer’s wife asking for a vehicle that she and her husband could take to town on weekends, but which could also carry a load.

So in 1934, Lewis Bandt, Ford’s only Australian only vehicle designer at the time, developed the utility coupé, or ute – a product now synonymous with Australia.

“With vehicles such as the early utes and pickups, Ford began changing the perception of trucks,” says Robert Kreipke, Ford’s corporate historian.

“Whereas at one time trucks were considered purely work tools, Ford began to evolve them into a much more balanced vehicle for both work and recreational use.

“These trucks provided inspiration for the later development of vehicles such as the F-Series and Ranger, which have been hugely successful across diverse markets all over the world.”

In 1941, Ford temporarily put a stop to all civilian vehicle production and began producing the first ‘general purpose’ vehicles – GPs, or jeeps – to assist the Allied effort in WWII.

In the aftermath of World War II, Ford then refocused its attention on North American truck design, and 1948 saw the introduction of the company’s first purpose-built truck platform, the F-Series.

Its trucks were now available in eight sizes, from the half-ton capacity F-1 to the three-ton capacity F-8 – the F-Series – which is now the best-selling pickup range in the USA.

In fact, the F-Series has currently outsold other pickup brands in the USA every year since 1977, and has been the country’s best-selling range outright for 35 consecutive years.

Since 1977, Ford has sold 26 million F-Series trucks in the USA, which, placed bumper-to-bumper, would stretch for a distance of 145,000km, or more than three-and-a-half times the circumference of the Earth.

In 1982, the company introduced its first compact pickup truck, the Ford Ranger, in North America.

The Ranger is produced at Ford’s Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria – which underwent a $9.5m upgrade earlier this year – and is exported to over 148 markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Today, the Raptor is Ford’s ultimate off-roader, leveraging all the latest advances in engine efficiency, suspension and smart technology.

In 2009, Ford also introduced the hybrid F-150 SVT Raptor, while its 2017 F-150 Raptor is powered by a high-output 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine.

This year, the company has also revealed the F-150 Police Responder – the industry’s first pursuit-rated pickup and, with 375 horsepower and 637Nm of torque, more power than any other pursuit-rated police vehicle.

Capable of speeds up to 160 km/h, the F-150 Police Responder features a powerful and efficient 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine and Ford SelectShift 10-speed transmission, plus four-wheel drive for all-terrain police performance.

Over the course of the century, Ford trucks have been used by farmers, soldiers, contractors, race drivers and thrill seekers, but it all began with the first Model TT to roll off the assembly line in 1917.

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