The History of the Ford F-600

by John Cagney Nash

Ford’s F-series has been in continuous production since 1948. All the vehicles in the line are full-size trucks, and the chassis has proved a popular platform onto which numerous modified bodies have been fitted, a process properly called upfitting. The F-600 platform has seen duty in an extraordinary variety of applications: as fire engines, as flatbed haulers for heavy construction machinery and pretty much everything in between. The best-selling model of the series is the F-150, the lightest variant, which holds numerous records for sales.

Post-World War II

Between 1946 and 1968, the manufacturer’s sales territories in Canada were limited to either Ford or Lincoln-Mercury, not both. Dealerships were geographically located so that potential customers seldom had access to both. Through this period, the same trucks were offered as both Fords and Mercuries; the only differences were the exterior and interior badging, the style of the grille and the trim.

First Generation

The first generation of F-series trucks hit the market in 1948 for a four-year run. From inception, the F-6 model was part of the F-series lineup. The 1948 F-6 was a 2-ton truck that left the factory in two variations, with a conventional bed and as a school bus. Its gross vehicle weight rating was between 14,000 and 16,000 pounds, depending on appointments. The F-series replaced earlier Ford trucks that were built on car chassis, and as a consequence of using truck platforms, the cabs were far more capacious. Initially, a foot-pumped windshield washer was offered as an option, as was a taillight on the passenger side. Halfway through the run the grille was redesigned from being a sequence of horizontal cross-members, with the headlights recessed in the fenders, to a single aerodynamic bar supported by three uprights. The series offered a choice of seven engines and six transmissions.

Second Generation

The line acquired its now-familiar “00” designation in 1953, with the F1 becoming the F-100. Second-generation F-series trucks saw production between 1953 and 1956 in the U.S.; during this run a 6-series was not produced. After the run ended in the U.S., the tooling was moved to Brazil, where three trucks were produced until 1962; of these, the F-6 -- now the F-600 -- was the largest. For the U.S. second-generation models, luxuries like a radio, sun visors and automatic transmission were offered, and in 1956 the first seat belts were made available.

Third Generation

The third generation of F-series trucks hit the road in the U.S. in 1957 for a three-year production run. In 1960 the tooling was once again relocated to Brazil, where the Series III-style truck was made from 1962 until 1971. As with Series IIs, only the F-100 through the F-350 were produced at home, with the heavier trucks -- including the F-600 -- being manufactured in Brazil. The series saw two major innovations: The tradition style of pickup bed, with separate fenders, was complemented by the arrival of the smooth-sided design more familiar today, and an in-house four-wheel drive train replaced the previously outsourced equipment.

Fourth Generation

Between 1961 and 1966, the fourth generation of the F-series, no F-600s were produced; the marque was still being manufactured in Latin America using third-generation tooling. In the U.S., however, the brand saw some innovation: Unibody trucks were offered for the first time, where the cab and the body were integrated; the experiment only lasted from 1961, when the series was introduced, until 1963. Twin I-beam, coil-sprung front suspension was introduced in 1965, which was also the first year a four-door crew cab was available.

Fifth Generation

In 1968 federal law mandated that all automotive manufacturers fit side marker reflectors or lights; Ford incorporated reflectors into the F-series hood emblems. The same year saw changes to much of the interior trim. The fifth-generation models have earned a reputation for both durability and simplicity of design and are perhaps the most preferred F-series generation with restoration enthusiasts. The F-600 continued to be manufactured in Brazil.

Sixth to Eighth Generations

The sixth-generation trucks were produced between 1973 and 1979, seventh generation until 1996 and the eighth generation until 2004. Since 1999, F-250 and larger models have been referred to as Super Duty; the Super Duty is not made with the F-600 designation, although there is an F-550 and an F-650. The 1999 model year, then, was the last for the F-600. The 1973 to 1999 period saw many significant cosmetic and mechanical F-series advancements: In 1973 the widely-spaced “FORD” letters appeared on the grille, to be later replaced by the blue oval; trim levels began to be referred to by names rather than codes, such as “Lariat” and “Ranger;” round headlamps were changed to an oblong design; extended cab and then super-cab versions were offered; galvanized body panels were introduced; lush interiors became available to attract urban purchasers, then special editions -- such as Eddie Bauer, Harley Davison and King Ranch -- were introduced. Exterior styling became progressively more aerodynamic.

About the Author

John Cagney Nash began composing press releases and event reviews for British nightclubs in 1982. His material was first published in the "Eastern Daily Press." Nash's work focuses on American life, travel and the music industry. In 1998 he earned an OxBridge doctorate in philosophy and immediately emigrated to America.

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