Ford just built its 40 millionth F-Series pickup: How it all got started

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The shiny new Iconic Silver Ford F-150 Tremor rolled off the assembly line at the Dearborn Truck Plant just like any other pickup truck on any other day.

But this beast on Wednesday happened to be the 40 millionth Ford F-Series built since the beginning of time. Or 1947 to be precise.

Yes, you read that right: 40,000,000 after 75 years of production. This is America's bestselling truck for 45 years — and bestselling vehicle for 40 years now.

A 2022 Ford F-150 Tremor rolls down the assembly line Wednesday at the Dearborn Truck Plant. It was the 40 millionth F-Series vehicle built since 1947.
A 2022 Ford F-150 Tremor rolls down the assembly line Wednesday at the Dearborn Truck Plant. It was the 40 millionth F-Series vehicle built since 1947.

Ford is shipping the truck by rail to Texas, along with other Ford vehicles, and delivering the F-150 Tremor to a buyer there in February.

"It's the 40 millionth F-Series, not a museum piece," said Mike Levine, Ford North America product communications director. "It needs to go to work because that's what our trucks do."

The purchase price on this loaded truck: $72,150 total.

That includes the base price for an F-150 Tremor ($50,375), plus the Tremor series package that includes a 36-gallon fuel tank, remote start, 360-degree camera system, LED side-mirror spotlights, power sliding rear window and wireless charging pad ($13,590), options including a trailer tow, twin-panel moon roof, partitioned lockable storage, Bang & Olufsen sound system and Pro Power onboard ($6,130) and delivery fees ($1,695).

How times have changed.

The F-Series began with the Model Year 1948 F-1 that started at $1,239 or $14,333 now, according to the CPI inflation calculator.

That first generation pickup included two doors, not four, and had no air conditioning, air bags, automatic emergency braking, navigation or any digital connectivity. It had a smaller wheelbase, wheels and body.

Now a basic 2022 F-150 XL begins at $29,900 plus $1,695 in delivery fees.

"A postwar worker finding themselves teleported from a Bonus Built 1948 F-1 into an entry level 2022 F-150 XL would have thought today's truck was from Buck Rogers," Levine said. "And driving an F-150 Tremor would be another level of science fiction beyond that."

A vintage Ford advertisement for the 1948 F-1 pickup truck, the first in the series, says, "Bonus Built."
A vintage Ford advertisement for the 1948 F-1 pickup truck, the first in the series, says, "Bonus Built."

This F-Series milestone signifies the reality that this pickup is a poster child for North American culture, said Jonathan Klinger, vice president of car culture at Traverse City-based Hagerty, a specialty insurer of collector vehicles.

Lifestyle image

“It’s a lifestyle image,” he said. “They’re very comfortable, capable vehicles. That’s what they’ve evolved into. But they were built to work hard on the farm, railroad yards, lumber yards. Any sort of creature comforts in those days were secondary. You had your work truck and then your family car. That’s what you took to church on Sunday. That was the nice vehicle. Now they’re one and the same.”

Jonathan Klinger, vice president of car culture at Hagerty, the world's largest insurer of collector vehicles, is pictured at his home in Traverse City on July 2020 with his unrestored 1950 Ford F-3.
Jonathan Klinger, vice president of car culture at Hagerty, the world's largest insurer of collector vehicles, is pictured at his home in Traverse City on July 2020 with his unrestored 1950 Ford F-3.

A lot of his family members still farm, including a cousin in northern Illinois with thousands of acres of wheat, corn and soybeans.

“He and his wife both drive crew cab F-250s,” Klinger said. “One is the nicer one that doesn’t do the brunt of the field work but does see time in the field. When they go on a trip, it’s a comfortable vehicle where the kids have room in the backseat. It has evolved into a multipurpose vehicle that’s comfortable, big and gets respectable fuel economy. A lot of people don’t buy them as a workhorse but there are a few times a year when they want to haul or tow or put something in the pickup truck.”

A 2022 Ford F-150 Tremor rolls down the assembly line Wednesday at the Dearborn Truck Plant. It was the 40 millionth F-Series vehicle built since 1947.
A 2022 Ford F-150 Tremor rolls down the assembly line Wednesday at the Dearborn Truck Plant. It was the 40 millionth F-Series vehicle built since 1947.

Not like the Model T

Matt Anderson, curator of transportation at The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, said, “The original F-1 from 1948 feels like the dawn of the realization that the truck can be designed for people and not just cargo. It was a truck that had a personality of its own. It wasn’t adapted from a car like the Model T or Model A pickups."

Going to church

Ford built its 400 millionth vehicle at the end of December, which makes the F-Series 10% of all Ford production in its 119-year history, said Ted Ryan, Ford archivist.

“I get goosebumps,” he said.

"The F-1 was the first postwar designed and built vehicle for Ford. After we restarted production after World War II, we continued to build the 1942 Ford. But the F-1 was the first designed from scratch after the war," Ryan said.

"Its brochure reads like today — it talks about quiet comfort, tow capacity, the amount of material you can put in the pickup truck bed," he said. "Back in 1948, it was farmers and cattle ranchers. They weren’t driving a pickup around the cities the way we see today. In the mid-1970s, Ford redesigned the vehicle and it became the F-150 you’ve got today.”

A 2022 Ford F-150 Tremor rolls down the assembly line Wednesday at the Dearborn Truck Plant. It was the 40 millionth F-Series vehicle built since 1947.
A 2022 Ford F-150 Tremor rolls down the assembly line Wednesday at the Dearborn Truck Plant. It was the 40 millionth F-Series vehicle built since 1947.

The F-Series always has been, and continues to be, a golden goose.

In 2019, the iPhone generated $55 billion in revenue compared with $42 billion for the F-Series. The F-Series generated more revenue than the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA and NHL combined — which was just $40 billion.

The F-Series truck franchise is a highly profitable company all by itself.

In a decade

Maeva Ribas, director of The Carlab, the advanced product design consulting firm in Orange, California, said the production numbers are jaw-dropping.

A 2022 Ford F-150 Tremor with a 1950 Ford F-1 on the day Ford built its 40 millionth F-Series vehicle, which will be sold to a buyer in Texas. This photo was taken on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. Ford noted the 1950 and 1948 models are similar in design.
A 2022 Ford F-150 Tremor with a 1950 Ford F-1 on the day Ford built its 40 millionth F-Series vehicle, which will be sold to a buyer in Texas. This photo was taken on Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. Ford noted the 1950 and 1948 models are similar in design.

“We’ll be talking again about the F-150 in 10 years with a new record," she said.

Ford listens to its buyers and the sales reflect that fact, Ribas said.

Not only did Ford collect 200 hours of video and more than 8,000 photographs documenting F-150 life and how to make everything just that much easier, the teams shadowed customers around the clock for months as part of the 2021 F-150 design.

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“There’s a reason why they’re the bestselling vehicles. Ford is keeping up not only with the demand but they don’t rest in terms of design. Whether it’s the center console that can be turned into a workspace now, or tucking down the shifter. They’re listening and executing. That’s the key. If anyone could be coasting, it’s really them. And they’re not.”

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: phoward@freepress.com or 313-618-1034. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Ford builds 40 millionth F-Series pickup at Dearborn Truck Plant

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