In 1975, the popular Ford F-150 was introduced as a sort of heavy-duty half-ton utility, designed to meet tightening American emission standards. It had more robust springs and axles than the Ford F100, allowing it to tow and haul slightly more than the truck on which it was based. This model quickly became a top-seller and made the Ford F-150 a popular work tool among ranchers and tradesmen. RHD models were built in Ford’s South American plant, but for the most part, the technical specs were based on the American models.
A redesigned Ford F-150 debuted for 1980 with a modern look (‘square’ was popular in the 1980s), and an independent front suspension to improve handling. Now more civilized, the Ford F-150 offered a wider range of engines, along with more car-like interior trim. The SuperCab model featured a 3-person bench, or a pair of jump seats, allowing plenty of room for workers and cargo. The middling ‘Ranger’ trim was dropped in 1982, and the trim designations were renamed XL, XLS, XLT, and Lariat. Fuel injection was also introduced in this generation, with the 1985 EFI 5.0L V8.
The year 1987 saw the introduction of a brand new Ford F-150, which had a sleek, aerodynamic face, standard rear ABS, and one of the nicest interiors ever seen to date on a large utility. By 1988, all models had fuel injection, and lots of work-ready packages were becoming available (more robust axles, cooling systems, etc.). The front and rear of the F-150 received a facelift for 1992, and a new instrument panel helped keep Ford’s utility abreast of the times. Numerous special editions were also introduced during this generation, including the luxury-themed Eddie Bauer and hot rod F-150 Lightning.
Starting in 1996, the completely redesigned Ford F-150 shed its boxy styling for modern lines and an extended cab (called SuperCab) with rear-hinged half-doors. All the available engines were replaced with new, more powerful mills (4.2L V6, 4.6L V8, and 5.4L V8), and the hotrod F-150 Lightning had a supercharger bolted to the top of its 5.4L V8.
A Ford F-150 Harley Davidson edition was launched for biker blokes to tow their toys. It had a special black leather interior with embossed HD logos, unique chrome alloys, and an appropriately loud exhaust. The Ford F-150 King Ranch edition was also available with special two-tone paint and saddlebag leather seats. Unlike most big utilities, Ford’s was able to be both a luxury vehicle and a workhorse. Most of these special editions were imported directly from America and converted to RHD in Australia.
The Ford F-150 was redesigned again for 2004, and the standard cab versions now had a small clamshell door behind the main door to allow access to a storage area behind the seats. Engine choices were the same as before, and a stronger chassis/body structure allowed this to be one of the safest full-size utilities to date. Numerous special editions were also available.
For 2009, the world got yet another new F-150, but this version had a lot more technological advancements than all the previous generations combined. The frame for example, was made with high-tensile steel, to make it both lighter and stronger. A fuel-efficient twin-turbo V6 (dubbed EcoBoost) offered the torque of a V8, with the fuel economy of a V6. The new ‘Coyote’ 5.0L V8 could electronically change its camshaft profile. And when properly equipped, this generation of the (half-ton) Ford F-150 could tow as much as 5125 kg.
The 1975 to 1979 Ford F-150 was powered by an 87kW 4.9L I6, a 94kW 5.0L, a 107kW 5.9L V8, a 116kW 5.8L Windsor V8, or a 126kW 6.6L V8. The 1980 to 1986 Ford F-150 was available with an 82kW 3.8L V6, an 86kW Windsor 4.1L V8, a 91kW 4.9L I6, a 99-138kW 5.0L Windsor V8, and a 101-110kW 5.8L Windsor V8.
The more modern 1987 to 1991 Ford F-150 ditched carburettors for fuel injection and simplified the powertrain choices. The base engine was a 123kW 4.9L I6, and there was also the popular 138kW 5.0L V8.
The 1992 to 1996 Ford F-150 got a 108-110kW 4.9L I6 or a 138-153kW 5.0L V8. The Lightning model got a 180kW 5.8L V8, and 1997 to 2004 models traded their antiquated powertrains for an entirely new generation of engines. A 151kW V6 replaced the old inline 6-pot as the base engine, and a 160-172kW 4.6L V8 replaced the 5.0L. The top engine became the 175-190kW 5.4L Triton V8. A supercharger was fitted to this engine for the Lightning / Harley Davidson models, and it produced between 250kW and 280kW.
The 2004 to 2008 Ford F-150 used the same engines, and the only notable power difference was the in the 5.4L, which now produced 220kW.
The completely redesigned 2009 Ford F-150 initially got 185-218kW versions of the 4.6L V8 and 230-240kW 5.4L V8s. Later models got a 225kW 3.7L V6, a new 270kW 5.0L V8, a 306kW 6.2L V8, and the top engine became the 272kW twin-turbo 3.5L EcoBoost V6.
As with all Ford F-Series utilities, the F-150 was available in a myriad of trim, box, and chassis combinations. Until 1982, the base model was called ‘Custom,’ and it had a vinyl bench seat, rubber floor covering, and very basic trim. The Ranger and Ranger XLT offered much nicer interior and exterior trim, while the top-spec Lariat offered fabric upholstery, woodgrain trim, and a unique exterior appearance. In 1982, those trim designations were changed to XL, XLS, XLT, and Lariat.
In 1995, the Eddie Bauer became the top-trim, with its standard leather upholstery and two-tone paint. And the SVT Lightning became the ‘hooligan special,’ with its monotone paint, 17-inch wheels, sport suspension, and powerful 351 Windsor V8.
After the next redesign, new trims were added, including the sporty STX, off-road-ready FX4, the blacked-out Harley Davidson edition, and cattle ranch-themed Ford F-150 King Ranch. The 2009 redesign brought about even more new models, including the 2WD FX2, and the luxurious Limited and Platinum models, which came with unique leather interiors, power-deployable side steps, and HID headlights.
The Ford F-150 competes with other American utilities like the Chevrolet Silverado and Dodge Ram/Ram 1500. The Toyota Tundra can also be considered competition, but the Ford F-150 is the utility for those who like Ford products.