Henry Ford made his third vehicle, a truck, 109 years ago. It predates the Ford Motor Company by three years. So it's safe to say that "Ford" and "trucks" have a long relationship. Successful, too. Through 2007, the F-Series has outsold all cars or trucks in America for 26 consecutive years. For trucks only, it's 31 straight years.
Ford trucks have even played a role on the world's automotive sales "stage." F-Series is one of Ford's two former all-time best-selling models. The first, the Model T, the most important car in history, was dethroned by Volkswagen's original Beetle. F-Series briefly reclaimed the crown for Ford before being overtaken by the current king, Toyota Corolla.
Early cars were hand-built "toys" for people with money, but trucks were around carrying ice, produce, lumber, you name it. Ford, which had made cars accessible to everyone, didn't build a Model T with a truck chassis until 1917. And Ford's first "finished" pickups (the aftermarket had handled that task) appeared in 1925.
Except for World War II, when every American automaker produced military vehicles and equipment, Ford has made pickups ever since, from the 1928 Model A Open Cab and the 1932 Model B to today's F-Series and Ranger. Ford's light trucks also include SUVs. Once SUVs are set aside, the post-WWII story of Ford trucks is mostly the history of the F-Series.
Launched in 1948, with models ranging from the F-1 (half-ton), F-2 (three-quarter-ton) and F-3 (one-ton) to the F-8 (three-ton), the current numbering system arrived in 1953 when the F-100 half-ton started a 30-year run. The '57 Ford trucks sported a more modern look by lowering hoods and eliminating running boards and rounded fenders. The first four-wheel drive came along two years later. In 1965, Ford pickups introduced twin I-beam front suspension, the Ranger name (on a styling package) and the first four-door. The 1970s brought extended cabs and, of course, the first F-150 (1975).
The more aerodynamic 1980 models also offered more creature comforts. Two years later, the "FORD" letters long attached to truck grilles gave way to Ford's blue ovals. Of more importance, an all-new Ranger compact pickup debuted. It was America's best-selling small truck in the 1980s and early '90s.
The F-Series kept plugging away - it was the first pickup with standard rear ABS (1987), for example - and selling. The 2004 Motor Trend Truck of the Year had "plugged along" so well that it offered 46 cab/chassis/bed configurations and five distinct interior designs.
The 2009 Ranger, made in Ford's St. Paul plant, whose closing has been pushed back to 2011, is available in four versions, from the XL ($15,835 starting MSRP) to the FX4 Off-Road ($23,965 MSRP). Ford also sells seven 2008 and seven 2009 Super Duty 250 and 350 models (that's 28 total models).
Ford's "stallion" remains the F-150, with 17 models on today's market. Ten are 2008s ($17,700-$36,875 MSRP), including the 60th Anniversary Edition. The all-new 2009s come in seven trim levels, starting with the XL ($20,345 MSRP) and ending with the Platinum ($40,440 MSRP). They feature three V-8s, topped by the 5.4L model, and can tow up to 11,300 lbs. properly equipped. Trailer Sway Control is standard and the transmission's Tow/Haul mode automatically compensates for altitude, grade and load during heavy towing.