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The beginning of a legacy: How the 1948 Ford F-1 changed the way people looked at pickups

People just don't buy trucks anymore at the volume they used to. Today, mid-sized, fuel-efficient sedans seem to get all the love from consumers, with contemporary buyers clamoring for high-mileage models from foreign brands. However, for much of the past century the best-selling vehicles on the road were domestic pickups.

For years, Chevy and Ford danced around the top spot in total sales, but as much as Chevy diehards hate to admit it, Ford was usually leading the march when it came to sales and popularity. The full-sized F-Series redefined what a pickup could be, as it took trucks off the farms and onto the streets, giving the brand market dominance for the better part of the last century. Appropriately called the F-1, the first F-Series pickup ushered in a new era for truck design.

Developed in 1948, Ford offered the F-1 as the first new truck design the company had come up with since the end of World War II – in fact, this model was the first new vehicle mass produced by the brand following the war.

The F-1's predecessor, the Model B, had been the bare-bones model from the brand since 1932, offering little more than a bed, a cramped cabin and a very low stance. Up until the development of the F-1, most trucks offered by Ford shared the antiquated look of the original one-ton Model-T truck chassis designed by Henry Ford back in 1917.

But the new F-Series trucks proved to be more than just eye candy, as they knew how to do a hard days work. Ford gave these pickups a stronger chassis than their previous truck models and let buyers choose between more powerful engines. Under the hood one could either find a 226ci inline six engine that produced 95 horsepower, or an even bigger 239ci motor that could push out 100 horses.

Ford brought style to a game that up until then had really only been about function when the F-1 was introduced. The interior of the truck was of a caliber not yet seen in these kind of work horses. For the first time, a carmaker incorporated a little bit of luxury into the cab of their pickups, making them significantly larger than models sold prior to the F-1 and dropping in "million dollar seats," as Ford advertised them, similar to those found in more premium sedans.

The carmaker even made driving a pickup easier for owners of the original F-Series, incorporating a wide one-pane windshield into the design. This was an important safety feature, as previous Ford pickups had much smaller two-pane windshields that made for dangerous blind spots. The rear window of the cabin was also larger, as earlier pickups offered drivers little more than a small peak into what was happening on the road behind them.

The company played up the revolutionary features of this class-leading model by advertising it as a new kind of pickup, which it truly was. The original ad campaign revolved around the slogans "Bonus Built" and "Built Stronger to Last Longer," precursors to the modern "Built Ford Tough" slogan used for the company's lines of trucks today.

Ford kept this delicate balance of comfortable cabins and quality craftsmanship for the next seven decades when designing successive generations of their F-series trucks. The most popular model, the F-150, has been the dominant pickup on the market for the past 34 years, and shows no signs of giving up its lead.

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