The History of the Ford F-600by 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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