Trucks have been a part of Ford’s range nearly as long as they have been building cars, and in 1953 the company decided to replace its ageing F-3 pick-up truck with an all-new model, the F-100. With an updated chassis, and increased dimensions it was well received and sales were strong from the outset.
With a very utilitarian design and fit for purpose interior, seats and dashboard, few would think that the F-100 was destined to become such an American icon, while a definite step up from its predecessor in terms of interior trim and ride quality it was still no boulevard cruiser. Despite its humble roots, the F-100 has become a desirable classic, modified, restored, raced and coveted as if it were an Italian sports car. There are die-hards out there who wouldn’t drive anything else.
Perhaps it was the styling that attracted fans of classic trucks to the F-100, its cab forward design and rounded edges have a unique appeal. Today, there’s a thriving community of F-100 enthusiasts and with over 505,000 built during its four-year production run there are many trucks still on the roads today.
Which one to buy?
The F-100 was designed as a rugged workhorse and as such a standard one is very basic inside and out. When one of the optional extras is an interior light, you know you are in for a back to basics experience! This has not stood in the way of customisers and modifiers who have over the years installed every imaginable combination of running gear and interior trim, making for some very interesting cars. Pricing varies wildly as condition, originality, level of customisation and rarity all play a role in the truck’s value.
If you’re looking for a more original truck then it’s worth taking a look at some of the changes that took place over the years. Power outputs of both the six-cylinder and V8 models continued to rise over the years, culminating in the four-barrel carb 167bhp V8 available from mid-1954 onwards. Two other versions of the V8 were offered, however many trucks have been converted over the years to the more powerful setup, or even totally different powertrains altogether.
For 1956 the F-100 came standard with a wraparound front windshield, a highly sought after option is the ‘full wrap’ rear windshield option and 6200 trucks were so equipped.
The rarest F-100 is a standard one, as there are so many modified trucks out there. Searching for one that has been converted to a spec of your liking rather than looking for an original one is the easiest choice.
Performance and specs
1954 Ford F100
Engine 3818cc, 12-valve in-line six-cylinder
Power 115bhp @ 3900rpm
Torque 195lb ft @ 1200rpm
Top Speed n/a
0-60mph 17.7 seconds
Fuel consumption 20mpg
Gearbox Three-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
Parts are available through a number of specialists and F-100 dedicated car clubs, most specialised components and spares will need to be sourced from the US though. Issues relating to original components and running gear are less pertinent here than with other classics, as due to the wide availability of aftermarket parts the vast majority of F-100s are significantly different from the day they rolled off the production line. Nevertheless, there are certain items to be aware of and general areas to inspect before a purchase.
• The new overhead valve Y- block V8s were a major improvement over the stalwart flathead V8s they replaced. Early versions did however suffer from oil starvation to the rocker shafts.
• Rust occurs in all the usual places, and can be especially prevalent in the wheel arches and footwells. Most trucks have been resprayed so check these areas over to ensure that no corrosion has set in on the body panels under the new paintwork.
• Gearboxes were sturdy and with synchromesh on all forward gears. Three-speed manuals were standard, however a four-speed manual with a low first gear was optional and these units can suffer from excessive wear in the lower gear.
• Suspension mountings and bushes should be checked over as these can crack and perish over time, a very hard ride on standard wheels and springs may indicate that the dampers also require replacing.
1953: F-100 launched with 3.5 litre six-cylinder or side-valve V8 engine options and with totally redesigned body and chassis over the previous generation F-3. New overhead valve V8 also introduced shortly after along with the automatic gearbox as an option
1954: Six-cylinder engine increases in capacity to 3.8-litres, and power steering introduced.
1955: Minor changes to grille and exterior trim
1956: Major changes to body style for this model year including vertical windshield pillars, wraparound windshield and back window (optional). Seatbelts became an optional extra, while electrical systems and battery were upgraded from six-volts to 12-volts. Vacuum operated windscreen wipers were replaced with motor driven wipers
Clubs and websites
• www.midfifty.com - US-based parts specialist for the Ford F100
• www.restoreyourford.com - Useful resource for Ford F-100 restoration
• www.fordf100club.com.au - Huge Australian Owners club and forum for Ford F-100 enthusiasts
Summary and prices
There is a very wide spread between a running condition truck that needs some work and one that has had a no expenses spared restoration. Rusty lawn ornaments start at £ 2000, topping out at over £100,000 for the genuine showstoppers.
A good example will set you back around £20,000-£30,000 today, but the majority of F-100s reside in America, so a trip over should be factored in if you want to increase your chances of finding the right one.
There have been many trucks before and since the iconic F-100, but none have managed to capture the public’s imagination in quite the same way. Over time morphed from being a tough load lugger into a platform for self-expression, with only the basic but curvaceous body shape remaining constant. Whether you find one of the few originals or a nicely modified one, the F-100 is the sort of classic that will reward you with its honest character and retro charm on every drive.
Words: John Tallodi