Ford Truck History (1953-1956)
Article by Mark Trotta
The first restyling of Ford's F-series truck included an expanded cab, new grille, and a longer hood that flowed into the front fenders. There were many other changes from the first F-series truck that went beyond just the face lift.
1953 Ford F100
For the second-generation F-series, Ford expanded the truck's wheelbase, fitting longer front and rear leaf springs to improve ride quality while still maintaining hauling ability. The front suspension was redesigned, now set further back to allow a tighter turning radius. A new cargo bed, measuring 6 1/2 feet by 20 inches, would be used all the way up into the 1980s.
Starting in 1953, F-series trucks added "00" to the model designations; thus the F-1 became the F-100. Engine choices were the same as last years; buyers could choose either the OHV 215ci six-cylinder or the 239ci flathead V-8. Eight-cylinder trucks featured a chrome V-8 emblem in the center of the grille, while six-cylinder trucks had a chrome three-pointed star.
Cab improvements included a wider, more comfortable seat, sound deadener in the doors, and a large, one-piece curved windshield. The rear glass was also enlarged. Inside, a redesigned instrument cluster was easier to read. Dash switches were relocated, bringing them within easier reach.
Although most early Ford F-series trucks left the factory with a column-shifted, all-synchromesh three-speed transmission, a three-speed manual with overdrive or a four-speed manual with low first gear were available. Also offered was the "Ford-O-Matic" option, the first time a Ford truck was available with automatic transmission.
Ford's 50th Anniversary
To commemorate Ford's Golden Anniversary, all 1953 models had "50th Anniversary 1903-1953" spelled out in small letters around the circumference of the steering wheel horn button. Sales for the F100 pickup in 1953 was 116,437.
1954 Ford F100
Updates for 1954 included a redesigned grille, new exterior paint colors, and minor trim changes. Aside from the standard 215-cid straight six, a higher-compression, 115-horsepower 223ci six-cylinder was offered at extra-cost. But the biggest news was the availability of Ford's overhead-valve V-8.
Overhead Valve V8
After 22 years in production, Ford's venerable flathead V-8 was gone. In its place was a new OHV V-8, already in use in passenger cars. The Y-Block displaced the same 239 cubic-inches as the flathead by way of a 3.50" bore x 3.10" stroke. Power output was 130-horsepower, an increase of 15% over the flathead's 106-horsepower.
Although superior to the flathead in all areas, the early Ford Y-block's weak spot was lack of oil to the rocker shafts. This was due to the path the engine oil traveled: from the pump it went to the crankshaft bearings first, then to the camshaft bearings, then to the rocker shafts. By installing a remote copper line from the oil pressure port on the outside of the engine up to the rocker shafts, the situation was remedied.
Production total for 1954 F-series Ford pickups was 101,202.
1955 Ford F100
Highlights for Ford Motor Company this year included a redesigned car line and the introduction of their new personal-luxury car, the two-seat Thunderbird.
Changes were minor on 1955 Ford trucks, most notably a revised grille and new exterior trim pieces. Power brakes became optional, as did a new custom cab truck option, featuring chrome "Custom Cab" door emblems. Engine choices remained the same as the previous year.
The model year 1955 saw an industry-wide switch to tubeless tires. Although Ford truck sales were the highest since 1929, they were still second in sales behind rival Chevrolet.
1956 Ford F100
In an effort to match the sales of the new Chevy Task Force Pickups that had debuted in 1955, F-Series trucks were revamped for the 1956 model year. Along with a new grille, the most noticeable change was the "Full Wrap" windshield, which extended over to the door posts, increasing the field of vision.
A Full Wrap window was also available for the rear window, and today is one of the most sought-after options on old Ford pickups. 6,200 F100's originally came with the larger rear glass.
By increasing engine bore to 3.62" and stroke length to 3.30", the Y-Block now displaced 272 cubic-inches. Three versions were offered: a light-duty with a 2-barrel carb, a heavy-duty with a 2-barrel carb, and a heavy-duty with a 4-barrel producing 167-horsepower.
Vacuum-style windshield wipers were discontinued in favor of more reliable electric motor wipers. Another improvement for 1956 Ford trucks was an upgrade from 6 to 12 volt electrical systems.
The 1956 F-100 featured a restyled dashboard designed to improve driver's visibility. Also new was Ford's "Lifeguard Steering Wheel", whose deep-dish design put a greater distance between the center hub and driver's chest. Other safety items included new door latches and optional seat belts.
Over 137,000 F100s were produced in 1956, the last year of the "fat-fender" Ford trucks.
Early Ford F-series have been, and continue to be, one of the most sought-after classic American trucks. They're also a great choice if you're looking to restore an old truck.