Select Your Vehicle
Classic Truck History Part 4: Ford Pre-F Series

Classic Truck History Part 4: Ford Pre-F Series

Posted by Jil McIntosh on Jul 28th 2020

Ford’s Pre-F-Series Trucks

Henry Ford’s first car was a motorized buggy he built in his workshop in 1896. When he made his second, a wealthy businessman rode in it and then formed the Detroit Automobile Company, putting Henry in charge of creating cars for him to sell.

That included a “heavy delivery vehicle,” but one of these trucks, and a handful of cars, were all the company made before it folded.

Henry founded his own Ford Motor Company in 1903, and along with cars, offered light delivery vans based on car chassis. Those with a curved front roof were called “C-Cabs” for the shape of the driver’s compartment.

The famous Model T arrived in 1908 and was offered as a delivery van until 1913 when the company started mass  assembly-line production that didn’t include commercial vehicles. But many customers bought Model T chassis and had outside companies make truck bodies for them – a common practice with most auto manufacturers at the time.

In 1917, Ford added the Model TT, a one-ton version of its car chassis. The frame and springs were stronger, the wheelbase was two feet longer, and the rear rims wore solid rubber tires. But you still had to have a body made for it.

Then, on April 15, 1925, everything changed when Ford announced its first “Model T Runabout with Pick-Up Body.” It was the first light-duty pickup truck from the factory. The base price was $281; adding an electric self-starter and demountable wheels were $366.

The pickup was an option on the Runabout, a car with a single bench seat and flat rear deck. For the truck, the deck was swapped out for a pickup box. The engine was a 176.7-cubic-inch four-cylinder that made 20 horsepower.

The ready-made pickup was popular, and over three model years, Ford sold more than 137,000 of them. But the Model T, little changed over the years, was losing sales to more stylish competitors. Production ended in May 1927. It was replaced with the 1928 Model A, a spectacular new car that also came as a light-duty pickup, and the heavier-duty Model AA. Its all-new four-cylinder engine displaced 200.5 cubic inches and made 40 horsepower.

Ford introduced its first V8 in its cars in 1932 and added it to its trucks later that year – a 221-cubic-inch powerplant making 65 horsepower.

The company’s light-duty trucks were fairly close to its car designs until 1938 when they got completely new cabs, an oval grille, and on heavier-duty trucks, a redesigned chassis. Ford also introduced the industry’s first factory-built, lower-priced cab-over-engine (COE) truck.

It was back to passenger-car styling for 1940, with the wipers now mounted on the cowl, rather than hanging above the windshield – a first for a major truck manufacturer. The trucks got new front-end styling again for 1942, with an upright “waterfall” grille, just in time for auto factories to switch over to military supplies for World War Two.

Ford kept that design on the trucks it made for the military, and then on its civilian trucks when production resumed for model-year 1946. It stuck around through 1947 and was finally replaced in 1948 by an all-new truck lineup called the F-Series.

Here are some other interesting tidbits about Ford’s early trucks…

- In 1909, shortly after the Model T’s introduction, Ford stopped building every other model. Until 1927, every Ford factory worldwide made nothing but Model T cars and trucks.

- “Any color the customer wants, as long as it is black” has long been credited to Henry Ford about the Model T, but it’s very unlikely he said that. Before 1914 and after 1925, it came in several colors. The 1926 Model T truck box was black if you ordered it separately to put on your car, but if you bought a factory-built pickup, it came only in green. The following year, you could also get the truck in black, blue, or brown.

- Ford’s 1938 pickup was the first truck with a rear-hinged, front-opening hood. Up until then, you lifted the centrally-hinged hood panels from either side.

- Ford’s 31 millionth vehicle was a 1946 half-ton pickup, built on May 3, 1945. Automakers always arranged for their “milestone vehicles” to be cars for their advertising, but postwar car production was still two months away.

Restoring an early classic Ford truck is relatively easy. There were 15 million Model T cars and trucks built and a good chunk of those are still around, so virtually every component is available today as a reproduction Ford truck part. The early trucks are also popular as hot rods, making them easier to drive in modern traffic. Sedan deliveries, which were cars with closed-in van bodies, have a dedicated following all their own. Finding classic Ford truck parts is even easier. Collectors Auto Supply has thousands of Ford truck restoration parts and automotive restoration supplies. Check out our home page to begin your search.