Ford’s all-new trucks for 1948 were redesigned to be improved and totally different than any truck before it. The new F-Series trucks were not only stylish, but also relatively comfortable and easy to drive. The public took note, making the new, modern F-Series pickups a sales success immediately upon their availability in January of 1948.
Even though the ’48 F-Series trucks were successful, Ford Motor Company was financially struggling at the time. Under Henry Ford and then his grandson, Henry Ford II, the company experienced fiscal inefficiencies that risked putting it out of business. To address FoMoCo’s financial woes immediately after World War II, Henry II brought on a team of ex-army statisticians known as the “Whiz Kids” who helped turn the Ford management team around. Still, the company was under intense pressure to make the introduction of the new 1949 passenger-car models as eventful and successful as the 1948 truck introduction.
While Ford put most of its postwar resources into the redesign of its passenger cars, the company still poured money into the development and production of the 1948 truck line to make it as revolutionary as it was. It even touted the F-Series’ cab as the “Million Dollar Cab,” presumably for the amount spent on its new styling and improved features. The investment paid off, and the newly designed F-Series was quite popular, allowing the automaker to grab much-needed market share during the increasingly competitive postwar period.
Thanks to its redesign and improvements, the F-Series trucks caught the public eye and brought a new wave of buyers into Ford dealer showrooms. Not only were the new pickups profitable, but they played a key role in generating public interest that carried over to Ford’s 1949 passenger car introductions. Most importantly, the high-style first-generation F-Series revolutionized the pickup truck market and created a whole new customer base within Ford and the automobile industry at large. Suddenly, driving a pickup truck was pleasant, and owning one was actually “cool.”
The 1948 Ford trucks were the first to bear the F-Series designation, which continues to this day. From the 1948 to the 1950 model year, the trucks were little-changed. With small tweaks each year, their popularity kept increasing as they helped to transform new-vehicle consideration among urban buyers and allowed Ford Motor Company to lead the industry in the manufacturing of pickup trucks. In 1950, F-Series truck production reached a then-record high of nearly 346,000 units, which included the half-ton F-1 all the way up to the extreme duty F-8. Of those 346,000 F-Series trucks built in 1950, some 230,000 of them were light-duty F-1 models. The record number of truck sales during the 1950 model year contributed to a 41-percent increase over the 244,613 units sold during the 1949 model year.
Focus on customer value and utility was now the new “mission statement” at Ford, and it was at the very heart of the new F-Series. Ford advertised these trucks as “Bonus Built” models that would outlast their competitors’ trucks. Function was not overlooked, and the new Million Dollar Cab featured improved roominess and driver comfort plus ease of maintenance while maintaining the utility that truck buyers expected. Sales show that the buying public overwhelmingly accepted the new design and supported the direction that Ford was taking with its light duty pickups.
As part of that Million Dollar Cab program, the doors were widened, ventilation and heating systems improved, and instrumentation redesigned for easier reading. New coil-spring bench seats were adjustable front to rear, and the seatback reclined independently from the bench seat structure. Ford also changed how the cab was attached to the frame to lesson road noise and vibration. New within the industry was a 90-day warranty on Ford trucks. The warranty was focused on parts; if a part broke, the company replaced it, although the owner was responsible for the cost of shipping and the installation of the part.
Of course, that special warranty has long-expired on the Ford F-1 pickup pictured here. Owner Alan Kalter bought this 1950 Ford F-1 pickup truck and then oversaw the completion of its full restoration.
“I had been looking for a factory stock 1948-50 Ford F-1 for about a year when a 1950 turned up online,” Kalter said. “There were a lot of modified Ford F-1 pickup trucks available, usually with Chevrolet small-block engines and transmissions. I came across this ’50 [and] after numerous emails and studying an assortment of pictures, I decided to purchase the truck with the intent of having it restored to factory-correct standards.”
As an F-1, Kalter’s 1950 Ford pickup has a half-ton capacity rating. Its wheelbase measures 114 inches and it carries a box with 45 cubic feet of usable floor space and the two-position tailgate. It also has a standard 3.92:1 semi-floating hypoid rear axle and a 20-gallon fuel tank. In 1950, Ford offered two engine displacement options: a 226-cubic-inch Flathead inline six and the optional 239-cid Flathead V-8. Kalter’s F-1 retains its optional 100-horsepower V-8, which is coupled with the standard three-speed manual transmission and a 10-inch clutch.
Midway through the 1950 model year, the shift lever in the F-1 of series pickup trucks was moved from the floor to the steering column. Kalter’s F-1 pickup is equipped with the floor-mounted shifter, indicating it was built during the early part of the model year.
Under strict orders from cost-conscious Henry Ford, the ’50 F-1 pickup was produced with only one taillamp, a single sun visor, one windshield wiper, a single exterior door lock and one exterior side mirror. Each of these features is located on the driver’s side, with the exception of the passenger-side door lock. Curb-side parking was the norm back in the day since federal motor vehicle safety standards dictated entering and exiting on the sidewalk via the passenger side of the vehicle, not the roadside. While in these ways a standard-equipped F-Series truck was quite basic, the company was happy to sell upgrades to customers. Optional were dual taillamps, twin sun visors, two windshield wipers and both door locks. Four-ply 6x16-inch whitewall tires were also an option, and Kalter’s F-1 is so-equipped.
“I imagine that over the years the truck was used as it was meant to be, as an all-around good workhorse,” Kalter said. “The truck was in exceptionally good condition when I bought it. Since that time, it has undergone an extensive frame-off restoration. I also decided to add many of the options available at the time, either from the factory or as typical add-ons in 1950, with all the parts being New-Old-Stock or new replacement stock.
“I have several automobiles in my collection, and I make it a point to drive each of them regularly -- but there’s just something special about getting in the driver seat of the F-1, grasping the large steering wheel, turning the key in the ignition, looking at the hood through the one-piece windshield and hearing the sound of the Flathead V-8 engine as it idles . . . [it] is something I much enjoy. Shifting through the gears can be challenging, as you must listen to the engine as it tells you the precise time to shift into the next gear. This truck runs as good as it looks!”
FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTOS COURTESY AL ROGERS / FREEZE FRAME IMAGE