Simanaitis Says

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LET’S CELEBRATE one of the most successful vehicles in the world, the Ford F-Series pickup.

The timing seems right: At the recent North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the 2015 F-150 displayed its all-new aluminum body. John German of the International Council on Clean Transportation shares a view that this new F-Series represents a significant change, not just in materials, but also in vehicle design and manufacturing. (See And, to conclude on a classic note, Gooding & Company is offering a 1949 Ford F-1 Half-Ton Pickup at its Amelia Island Auction, on March 7, 2014.


2015 Ford F-Series, exhibited at the 2014 NAIAS, Detroit.

Success of the Ford F-Series is evident: It has been in continuous production for more than six decades. For 43 of these years, the F-Series has been North America’s best selling pickup truck. In fact, for the past 32 years, it has been the best selling vehicle of any type.

The 2015 F-Series, its 13th generation, retains a truck-conventional body on frame layout. However, its frame has a dramatically greater percentage of high-strength steel, rising from the previous generation’s 23 percent to 77 percent. Many of the frame elements are fabricated through a roll-forming process that’s said to maintain the material’s strength and minimize weight.


An F-Series body-in-white; for 2015, largely of aluminum atop a high-strength-steel frame.

The 2015 Ford F-Series’ body, getting all the attention—not to say competitor pot-shots (of envy?), is 97-percent aluminum. One of its few non-aluminum elements is the firewall, of “Quiet Steel,” specified for its sound-deadening qualities.

Combined, these materials reduce the weight by about 660 lb., more for Supercab versions, less for the base cab. John German observes that this equates to a 12-13-percent reduction in mass, compared to those of 2014 counterparts. He notes that this is the largest percentage weight loss he has ever seen from a high-sales-volume vehicle.

Ford is using this lighter weight to downsize the F-Series’ engine lineup. Four choices are retained, but the base 3.7-liter V-6 is replaced by one of 3.5 liters offering increased performance. Also, there’s a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost (turbocharged) V-6 along with the existing 3.5-liter Ecoboost V-6 and 5.0-liter normally aspirated V-8.

Recognizing aluminum’s premium cost, German cites the economies of scale as one reason that Ford chose it for the F-Series. Also, Alcoa and Ford’s other suppliers have optimized fabrication techniques.


An aluminum door panel displays the engineering wizardry of F-Series design.

German also observes that ICCT has been predicting these lightweight breakthroughs, largely as a result of enhanced computer-assisted engineering.


As computers become more sophisticated, so too do computer-aided design and computer-aided engineering. Image from

Computer-aided engineering, CAE for short, has dramatically reduced the time and effort of initiating, developing and verifying new designs. German’s ICCT report cites recent studies of lightweight vehicle designs that suggest weight could be reduced by 15 to 30 percent—at low, if not zero, cost and with no impact on safety.

Concludes German, “The 2015 F-150 is significant because it demonstrates in practice what those studies argued in theory.”

The original F-Series, the F-1, made its debut in January, 1948, as the Ford Bonus-Built line. Available in eight different weight ratings, it could be fitted out as a pickup, panel, cab-over, traditional truck or school bus.


1949 Ford F-1 Half-Ton Pickup, offered by Gooding & Company at its Amelia Island Auction. This and other F-1 images from Gooding & Company  (

A neat example of the breed is being offered at Gooding & Company’s Amelia Island Auction, March 7, 2014. This 1949 F-1 Half-Ton Pickup is in factory-correct Ford Arabian Green with tan upholstery.


The F-1 was a Ford Bonus-Built truck.

Gooding also notes this F-1’s  “very rare” factory-original options including a heater, defroster and fresh-air ventilation, a far cry indeed from the posh pickups of today.


Pickup trucks were a trifle austere in those days. The floor shift stirred Ford’s Synchro Silent three-speed.

Just the thing to garage next to a 2015 The Future of Tough F-150. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2014


  1. William Rabel
    February 25, 2014

    I remember when I was a little kid, our gardener drove an F-1, although I only knew that it was a Ford, and it had those cool nostrils on the hood.

  2. Bill Urban
    February 26, 2014

    There are truck cabs, and then there are truck cabs. Many LARGE trucks have aluminum and fiberglass cabs to save weight, and all cabs are air suspended. But Volvo cabs for the global market are constructed of high strength steel for crash worthiness, and still achieve a competitive tare weight. They exceed the 50 year old Swedish Crash test for truck cabs (after 2,200 lbs on a 10’ pendulum impacts the driver side A-pillar and the rear cabwall, and with another 2,200 lbs. on the roof, driver door must open.) There is no heavy truck crash test standard or cab test in the U.S.

  3. Bill Urban
    March 9, 2014

    Correction: I understated it. In fact the Swedish truck cab test requires that same cab to withstand a 15 M tonnes static load on the roof, simulating a loaded, overturned truck. And this is after the A pillar and rear cab wall tests.

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