by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide
The Ford Motor Company proved its ability to adapt during the difficult post-Depression years of the 1930s. The innovative Ford trucks and cars made during this time managed to remain fairly priced -- an act of flexibility that helped Ford survive the decade.
The Thirties dawned in a dismal state as the Great Depression took hold. People were out of work, standing in breadlines, and money to buy anything -- let alone new cars and trucks -- was scarce. Profits made during the Roaring Twenties seemed to disappear overnight, and many automakers didn't weather the financial storm.
Ford trucks of 1930 featured revised styling and sleek looks.
Ford managed to survive, of course, partly due to its sheer size and depth of resources. But the company helped its own cause by not resting on its laurels, instead bringing out better-looking, better-performing vehicles offered in a greater variety of models. And steady price cuts didn't hurt, either.
Styling changes to the 1930 and 1931 Model A cars and Model AA trucks made them look fresh, and several special models were added to widen the make's appeal. But this turned out to be just a warm-up for what was soon to come.
During these years, chief rival Chevrolet offered a six-cylinder engine, which was considered a competitive advantage over the four-cylinder found in the Model A. So when Henry Ford began brainstorming a successor to the A, he decided to trump Chevrolet with a V-8 engine.
The Ford trucks of 1930 featured revised styling and sleek looks. Read about the Ford trucks that kicked off the decade in the next section.
1930 Ford Trucks
Ford trucks in 1930 were updated with sleek style changes. Several special models were also added to widen the make's appeal.
1930 Ford vermillion red pickup truck
First offered on trucks for 1930, Deluxe trim included stainless-steel radiator and headlights, which really helped dress up this Vermillion Red Ford pickup. Broad whitewalls and a chromed spare-tire cover didn't hurt either. Regardless of body color, the fenders -- which trailed back farther in front for 1930 -- were always black.
1930 Deluxe-trim Ford Sedan Delivery
A restored Deluxe-trim Ford Sedan Delivery shows off the side-hinged rear door that provided easy access to cargo.
1930 Ford wood-bodied Station Wagon
Ford wood-bodied station wagons could seat up to eight passengers.
1930 Ford AA dump truck
A rare 1930 AA dump truck on the standard 1311/2-inch wheelbase shows off the steel disc wheels adopted by heavy-duty Ford trucks during the 1929 model year, as well as the available dual rear wheels. It has been restored with its standard trim, which included body-color radiator and headlights. Power comes from a 200-cubic-inch, 40-horsepower four-cylinder engine similar to that used in contemporary Model A cars, but it's mated to a four-speed transmission (vs. a three-speed) for a wider range of gear ratios.
1930 Ford Deluxe Pickup
An unusual truck based on the Model A (1031/2-inch wheelbase) chassis was the Ford Deluxe Pickup, featuring a high-walled cargo bed integral with the cab. Chrome rails were fitted to the top of its wood-lined bed. Many were used by General Electric to promote refrigerator sales, but the body style would be discontinued after 1931.
Ford trucks in 1931 featured more sleek styling. Check out the Ford trucks of 1931 in the next section.
1931 Ford Trucks
Ford continued to offer sleek, updated styling on its 1931 trucks. Deluxe-trim models were popular this year as well.
1931 Ford Model A postal truck
A restored 1931 Model A postal truck carries its original California license number. Note the sliding side door, which has been left open.
1931 Ford Model A Deluxe Delivery
This 1931 Ford Model A Deluxe Delivery was restored to resemble a New Era Dairy truck the owner's father had driven in Herrin, Illinois, after World War II.
1931 Ford Model AA
This restored 1931 Model AA carries the weight of 72 five-gallon glass bottles. It's mounted on the longer wheelbase (157 inch) AA chassis that joined the standard 1311/2-inch AA chassis for 1930. The long-wheelbase version could carry bodies up to 12 feet in length; previously, the standard chassis required aftermarket frame extensions for bodies over nine feet.
Ford introduced a new V-8 engine in 1932. Read about the Ford trucks of 1932 in the next section.
1932 Ford Trucks
During the early 1930s, chief Ford truck rival Chevrolet offered a six-cylinder engine, which was considered a competitive advantage over the four-cylinder found in the Ford Model A. So when Henry Ford began brainstorming a successor to the A, he decided to trump Chevrolet with a V-8 engine.
When it was introduced in March 1932, the V-8-powered Model 18 was a sensation right out of the gate. A four-cylinder version, called the Model B, was also offered, since it was felt many people would be attracted to its greater economy -- and lower price. But so popular was the V-8 that the four-cylinder would quickly fade from the scene.
The problem with introducing a car in 1932 was that this was the worst year of the Great Depression. Not many people were interested in buying a new Ford, V-8 engine or no. Yet the powerplant gave the low-priced car an upmarket feature not offered by rivals, which undoubtedly helped sales.
Ford had originally planned for the V-8 to be used in cars only, not in trucks -- odd, since it would seem to be a natural for heavy-duty haulers. But this plan quickly changed when truck buyers began clamoring for the new engine.
1932 Ford Station Wagon
At about 800 Depression-era dollars, the Ford Station Wagon was an expensive proposition when a Fordor sedan started at $540, but the wagon seated eight vs. five for the sedan.
Ford flathead V-8 engine
Star of the 1932 line was Ford's new flathead V-8. Displacing 221 cubic inches and producing 65 horsepower, it was offered alongside an improved four-cylinder, now rated at 50 hp.
Prototype of Ford Open Cab Pickup
Thanks in part to a wheelbase stretched nearly 3 inches to 106, Model B pickup beds grew more than 10 inches in length for 1932 to nearly 70 inches. Shown is a prototype of the Open Cab Pickup, of which few were built.
Although Ford cars underwent radical new styling, few Ford trucks received the same attention in 1933. Read about these 1933 Ford trucks in the next section.
1933 Ford Trucks
Nineteen thirty-three was a big year for Ford milestones. The company celebrated its 30th anniversary, along with the production of its 21-millionth vehicle. Ford was also a major participant in the "Century of Progress" exposition held in Chicago that year, and Henry Ford proudly opened his Greenfield Village complex in Dearborn. This multifaceted display was his salute to American history and the American way of life in its earlier days.
1933 BB Stake truck
Note this 1933 BB Stake truck's rounded-off grille and arched headlight bar. Its rear leaf springs are also inverted and centered over the axle in what we'd now call "normal" fashion.
The economy finally began to slowly improve in 1934, and Ford took notice. Read about the Ford trucks of 1934 in the next section.
1934 Ford Trucks
Due to low demand, 1934 was the last year not only for the four-cylinder engine, but also for open-cab Ford trucks. Since both of these represented the least-expensive alternatives, it was a subtle signal that the economy was finally beginning to improve.
1934 Ford pickup truck
Ford trucks didn't share the car line's sleek 1933 styling alterations, but did get a thicker grille housing and lower headlight bar, as shown on this little-changed '34pickup.
1934 Ford pickup truck
Ford's V-8 had grown so popular that the four-cylinder engine was fazed out during the model year, as was the roadsterlike Open Cab body for trucks.
1934 school bus
The Ford Model BB chassis saw varied uses, as evidenced by this 1934 school bus.
1934 Ford Model BB with Stake Bed
Carrying its original oak Stake Bed is a V-8-powered 1934 Model BB on the standard 1311/2-inch-wheelbase chassis.
1934 Ford 157-inch chassis
The longer 157-inch chassis hosted this Texaco tanker. A full load of fuel doubled its 7500-lb curb weight.
Ford trucks finally got a facelift in 1935. Check out 1935 and 1936 Ford trucks in the next section.
1935 and 1936 Ford Trucks
The year 1935 turned out to be a great year for Ford. Both Ford cars and Ford trucks featured engineering improvements and new styling, and customers responded. When the tally was counted at the end of the year, more buyers chose Fords -- both cars and trucks -- than any other make.
1936 Ford pickup
A 1935 redesign for the Ford truck line brought a more curvaceous grille, skirted fenders, and laid-back windshield, which left them closer in appearance to contemporary Ford cars. A little-changed 1936 Ford pickup is shown. Note the difference in fender contour compared to that of the Sedan Delivery above.
1936 Ford Sedan Delivery
As before, the 1936 Ford Sedan Delivery was based on the car line, and thus carried the fuller fenders and tapered headlight housings of Ford's passenger vehicles. A side-hinged rear door gave easy access to cargo.
1936 Ford Panel Delivery
Unlike the Ford Sedan Delivery, the Ford Panel Delivery was truck based, so it carried truck styling -- along with dual side-hinged rear doors, a larger cargo compartment, and higher payload capacity. This 1936 Ford model is nearly identical to the redesigned 1935 Ford. The chrome grille identifies it as a Deluxe version.
Ford trucks in 1937 offered better fuel economy but little change in terms of styling. Read about 1937 Ford trucks in the next section.
1937 Ford Trucks
Despite the success of the V-8, Ford was sometimes criticized for not offering an "economy" engine. So in 1937, the company responded by adding a radically downsized V-8. Whereas the original (which continued) displaced 221 cubic inches and produced 85 horsepower, the new V-8 was sized at just 136 cid with a rating of 60 hp. While the difference in power between the two didn't look like much on paper, in reality, the smaller engine was just too small, and like the four-cylinder that preceded it, was soon dropped.
Ford also entered the transit-bus business in 1937 with the introduction of the forward-control chassis, which placed the engine off to one side so the driver could sit next to it rather than behind it. The company also began offering trucks in fancier Deluxe trim.
1937 Ford Sedan Delivery
New styling that placed the headlights partially into the fenders graced the 1937 car line, as shown on this 1937 Ford Sedan Delivery. Harder to see is its split, vee'd windshield, another 1937 innovation.
1937 Ford Sedan Delivery interior
The 1937 Ford Sedan Delivery interior enjoyed increased room, as the newly available rear-mounted spare tire opened up space in the cargo compartment.
1937 Ford truck
All 1937 pickups had a V-8 engine -- along with the appropriate badge on the side of the hood -- but newly offered that year was a 136-cubic-inch 60-horsepower version that promised better fuel economy than its bigger 221-cid 85-hp brother.
1937 Ford truck
Trucks got a fuller grille and vee'd windshield for 1937, but didn't look anywhere near as modern as the car line.
1937 Ford truck interior
The interiors of 1937 Ford trucks didn't match the new styling on the Ford cars of the same year.
New Ford truck models made appearances in 1938. Learn about 1938 Ford trucks in the next section.
1938 Ford Trucks
Ford pickup trucks were fitted with a new cab, front-end sheetmetal, and bed for 1938, while 11/2-ton versions got a new chassis.
A further attraction was the debut of a truck that slotted between the light-duty car-based pickup and the heavy-duty 11/2-ton models. Rated at one ton, the new series was appropriately called the "One-Tonner." It would be followed by a Three-Quarter Tonner the following year. Also introduced by Ford in 1938 were the industry's first Cab-Over-Engine (COE) models.
1938 Ford pickup truck
Bulbous front and rear fenders marked the 1938 Ford pickup trucks.
1938 Ford pickup truck
The 1938 Ford pickup truck also got a new cab and pickup bed.
1938 Ford pickup truck
An oval grille was the final new touch to the 1938 Ford pick truck models.
Wrecker with Ford Cab-Over-Engine 1938 chassis and body
A wrecker sports the Cab-Over-Engine (COE) chassis and body Ford introduced for 1938. It provided for a shorter overall length with a given-size utility body -- which in this case was pretty short to begin with.
1938 Ford fire truck
This 1938 fire truck was used by Ford at its Rouge Plant in Detroit.
The final year of the decade marked a first for Ford trucks -- hydraulic brakes -- and other changes for Ford trucks. Read about 1939 Ford trucks in our final section.
1939 Ford Trucks
While the big news of 1939 was the beginning of World War II, which would have a profound effect on people around the globe, the big news at Ford Motor Company was the introduction of the Mercury.
Aimed at cars like Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Hudson, and Dodge, it gave Ford a competitor in the midpriced field. It also brought a larger V-8 engine of 239 cid and 95 hp, which would quickly find its way into Ford trucks.
Nineteen thirty-nine will also be remembered as the year Henry Ford finally buckled to buyer pressure and replaced his vehicles' old-fashioned mechanically actuated brakes with modern hydraulic units. Virtually all Ford's competitors had made the switch years before, and though Henry didn't trust the new systems, their absence on Ford vehicles was considered a safety detriment.
To close out this decade, it should be mentioned that Canada joined Great Britain in late 1939 by declaring war on Germany, and soon thereafter, the Ford Motor Company of Canada, Ltd., started producing military specification vehicles for the war effort. It was an omen of things to come for the parent company, as the United States would enter the war two years later.
1939 Ford COE Stake Bed truck
A 1939 Ford COE Stake Bed truck serves as a rolling billboard for a beverage company, spreading the word that Pepsi hits the spot, Nehi comes in your favorite flavors, and Set-Up's "Lithiated Lemon" makes for a good mixer. The truck was probably also handy for deliveries.
1939 Ford fire truck
A former Ford Rouge Plant fire truck -- similar to that shown on the previous page --was later used in Flint, Michigan, for awhile before being restored to its original glory.
1939 Ford pickup truck
Though it looked little different than its 1938 counterpart, this 1939 Ford pickup boasts the unseen advantage of hydraulic brakes. Most competitors had adopted them years before, but Henry Ford had steadfastly stuck with the old mechanically actuated brakes until public and dealer pressure forced his hand.
1939 Ford pickup interior
While car dashboards of the period began to show some semblance of "style," Ford truck dashboards remained as flat and featureless as ... well ... a board.
1939 Ford pickup truck
The styling of the 1939 Ford pickup truck closely resembled the 1938 model.
The 1930s started off as a tumultuous decade for the nation. By embracing flexibility and innovation, Ford Motor Company was able to survive the turmoil, and even managed to offer several memorable Ford trucks in the process.