Classic Ford trucks from the 1950s hold a special place in the hearts of collectors. Ford's 50th anniversary led to a series of design changes, some good and some bad. Trucks from the later part of the decade are valued more for their 1950s designs, while the earlier trucks sport engines that are popular for restoration.
Ford's golden anniversary in 1953 saw the introduction of a redesigned line of F-series trucks. In addition to changes to the truck, the name was also changed from the F-1 to the F-100, which is still used today. From 1948 to 1952, Ford trucks were knows as "Bonus Built." That changed in 1953 to the "Economy Truck Line." Ford trucks also sported a new emblem in 1953, a gear cog that was bisected by a lightning bolt below the Ford script. In 1953, the first Ford truck with an automatic transmission appeared, the F-100.
An Engine Retires
In 1954, Ford ended production of its famous Flathead V8 engine. It was replaced by an overhead-valve V8, commonly called the Y-Block Engine. This redesigned engine had 239 cubic inches, the same as the flathead, but offered 15% more horsepower.
The Flathead was the first production V8 engine developed in the United States. It has a reputation for reliability, and was named one of the 10 best of the 20th century by Ward's AutoWorld Magazine. If you're interested in factory restoration, look for a Ford truck with this engine. Hot rodders are fond of it as well, because it can be modified for overhead cam operation, yielding additional horsepower.
Tandem rear axles for heavy-duty Ford trucks were also introduced in 1954. The automatic transmission became an option in the F-250 and the F-350 during this year.
A grille change was introduced in 1954. The new grille sported a pair of vertical guards and the V8 badge. In 1954, Ford also introduced a V6 engine with 223 cubic inches and 115 horsepower, up from 215 cubic inches and 101 horsepower in earlier models.
In 1957, a car-truck hybrid was released. This new body style was called the Ranchero. It was based on a two-door station wagon, and combined Ford's 1957 car styling with the utility of an open bed, instead of a closed cargo area. Although the Ranchero is less popular among collectors than Chevrolet's similar El Camino, it's light weight, low center of gravity and roomy engine compartment make it a great truck for customization and hot rodding.
Ford did little with their truck line in 1958 and 1959, concentrating instead on their car lines. The design of these late '50s Ford trucks wasn't as appealing as their earlier models, and their increasingly large size made them unsuitable for hot rodding. They do possess reliable engines, however, and they're relatively easy to find in working condition. As project trucks for customization or factory restoration, these Ford models are good for beginners.