by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide
For car enthusiasts, the 1970s could best be described as the "Forgettable Decade." Government-mandated safety, emissions, and fuel-economy standards hit automakers -- including Ford -- with a triple whammy, forcing them to rethink strategies that had served them well in the 1960s. "Performance" became a dirty word, bigger was no longer better, and styling was often sacrificed to safety. As a result, very few cars from the 1970s excited the senses.
Not so, however, in the world of trucks. Because many of the government standards either didn't apply to trucks or weren't as strict, these beasts of burden didn't fall prey to the forces that beleaguered their automotive brethren. This might be one reason trucks gained so much in popularity over the decade.
A new Ford truck plant and a restyled Ranchero highlighted 1970 for Ford.
1970 Ford Trucks
Ford greeted the 1970s by opening a new truck plant near Louisville, Kentucky. Although it was officially called the Kentucky Truck Plant, it was quickly dubbed the "Louisville Plant" because its main claim to fame was as the point of assembly for Ford's new Louisville Line of trucks, also known as the L-Series.
These heavy-duty Ford trucks replaced the short conventional N-Series, along with the bigger F-Series and related tandem-axle T-Series. The Louisville Line thus encompassed a wide range of models serving the medium-, heavy-, and extra-heavy-duty truck ranks, and would go on to become one of the most popular series of trucks Ford ever produced.
About the only other news for Ford in 1970 was a redesigned Ranchero, which adopted the look of Ford's new midsize car line, which added a Torino derivative. Ranchero GT got Laser Stripe side decoration, while a new Squire model replaced that with a woodgrain appliqué.
1970 Ford Ranchero Squire
An all-new styling theme for the Ford Torino family of midsize cars also translated into new looks for the 1970 Ford Ranchero pickup truck. Pointed front-fender tips, a sharp full-length midbody crease, and an egg crate grille were key elements of the new design, although hidden headlamps were an extra-cost option.
Base, 500, and GT Rancheros were continued from before, but the Squire -- generously decked out in simulated wood trim -- was new to the line. A trio of 429-cubic-inch V-8s now topped the engine roster in place of 390- and 428-cid mills.
1970 Ford F-100 Ranger XLT
The gradual push toward comfort and luxury in light trucks gained added momentum at Ford with the arrival of Ranger XLT trim for certain F-Series models. XLT equipment bested Ranger gear with items like a woodgrained tailgate appliqué, full-length lower-body moldings, cloth-and-vinyl upholstery, carpeting, and other conveniences. This 1970 Ford F-100 Ranger XLT also sports an extra-cost vinyl roof covering.
1970 Ford F-Series Ranger 4x4
The 1970 Ford F-Series Ranger with four-wheel drive rode high off the ground. A chrome front bumper was newly standard on Ford pickup trucks.
1970 Ford LNT-800
A new L-Line truck family replaced the Ford N-, T-, and largest F-Series truck models. The 1970 LNT-800, shown here, was the lighter of two gas-engine, "short-nose," tandem-axle models.
1970 Ford C-900
In 1970, the heavy-duty gas-powered C-900 version of the Ford Tilt Cab truck was revived after 11 years.
The Ford Bronco was updated with a heavy-duty axle in 1971.
1971 Ford Trucks
Other than minor trim updates, the 1971 Ford truck lineup was little-changed from 1970. Ford concentrated instead on its new subcompact Pinto and a redesigned Mustang.
Ford's 1971 light-duty truck offerings
A group portrait of Ford's 1971 light-duty truck family includes, clockwise from left, a Bronco sport-utility, a long-wheelbase Econoline Club Wagon, the bread-and-butter F-Series pickup (here an F-250 Camper Special), and a sporty Ranchero GT.
1971 Ford Bronco
Among the more substantial improvements made in the 1971 Ford truck family was the new heavy-duty axle fitted to Bronco sport-utility vehicles. The 12.7-gallon fuel tank, first used only on 1970 models with evaporative emissions-recovery systems, was another new across-the-board addition, and front bucket seats were standardized during the 1971 model year.
1971 Ford LTS
The Ford LTS truck's setback front axle allowed it to carry a greater percentage of the total load in addition to providing a tighter turning radius.
1971 Ford W-Series
A nicer interior was among the changes made to Ford's 1971 W-Series truck tractors.
The compact Courier was Ford's latest truck innovation in 1972. Learn more in the next section.
1972 Ford Trucks
The Ford Ranchero truck underwent another update for 1972, but that wasn't the biggest Ford truck news that year. The biggest news was something small: the Courier.
Supplied by Mazda of Japan, the Ford Courier was a compact pickup truck with a four-cylinder engine, intended to compete against the increasingly popular small pickup trucks from Toyota and Nissan.
1972 Ford Bronco
Until the Ford Courier started coming over from Mazda in Japan that spring, Ford's smallest and lightest truck offerings for 1972 were the wholly redesigned Ranchero and the carryover Bronco. Broncos with the Sport option package (shown here) featured bright trim inside and out, plus fancier upholstery.
All Ford Broncos also got bigger brakes in 1972. With tightening exhaust-emissions standards, the 302-cid V-8 became the base engine for California-bound Broncos, although the 170-cid six was still available there as a special-order item.
1972 Ford Explorer
The extremes of the 1972 1/2-ton F-100 range: a full-dress Ford Explorer with lots of bright trim and colorful upholstery...
1972 Ford Custom
...and an all-business entry-level 1972 Ford Custom.
1972 Ford F-250 4x4
Four-wheel-drive Ford F-250s got a beefier Spicer front axle for 1972.
1972 Ford W-Series
The W-Series truck remained Ford's "big dog." New Owner-Operator option groups with comfort and appearance features were created to appeal to independent truckers.
Redesigns ruled for Ford in 1973, with F-Series, W-Series, and Ranchero all receiving alterations.
1973 Ford Trucks
The 1973 Ford truck model year brought a redesign for the Ford F-Series trucks, which included longer cabs and restyled exterior body panels. Ford also took this opportunity to update the extra-heavy-duty Cab-Over-Engine (COE) W-Series by rounding its corners to make it more aerodynamic. And Ford's Ranchero got a restyled front end, which incorporated the five-mph bumper mandated that year for its automotive counterparts.
But perhaps the biggest news of 1973 didn't come out of a Ford plant. In October of that year, the Oil Producing Export Countries, thereafter better known as OPEC, restricted the flow of oil to the United States, thus triggering America's first energy crisis. This would end up having far-reaching effects that went well beyond simply boosting the price of gas, as it prompted the government to enact Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for vehicles that remain in effect today.
A selection of Ford's 1973 light trucks
Ford's domestically built light trucks for 1973 included, clockwise from left, the Bronco, F-100, and Ranchero. The Bronco carried on in much the same form as it had since its 1966 introduction, but the F-100 had an all-new cab design and front sheetmetal, while the Ranchero featured a frontal facelift and -- thanks to its passenger-car ties -- an energy-absorbing front bumper.
1973 Ford Ranchero GT
The 1973 Ford Ranchero GT featured a new bodyside striping design, plus white-letter tires (in place of whitewalls) as standard equipment. Body-color racing mirrors, high-back bucket seats, and a 140-horsepower 302-cubic-inch V-8 engine were other basic features of this sportiest of the three Ranchero pickup truck models.
1973 Ford F-Series
The new 1973 Ford F-Series cab design incorporated behind-the-seat storage for incidental items.
1973 Ford Bronco Ranger
The Ranger trim package for 1973 Ford Broncos added fancy appointments inside and out, plus an external swing-away spare-tire carrier. The 200-cubic-inch six became the new base powerplant for Broncos.
1973 Ford F-750 Stake Body
Medium-duty Ford F-Series models like this F-750 Stake Body shared the light-duties' cab, but with a few detail alterations. Medium-duties had their own grille and fender styling, and incorporated some revised wheelbase lengths for 1973.
To combat competition, Ford introduced a SuperCab option for F-Series pickup trucks in 1974.
1974 Ford Trucks
While most of Ford's focus was on a smaller new Mustang for 1974, trucks were not completely ignored. New for the F-Series that year was its first extended cab, which allowed buyers to carry extra passengers or more cargo inside the cab.
1974 Ford F-Series SuperCab
Ford responded to Dodge's pioneering 1973 extended-cab pickup with the SuperCab, which joined the F-Series roster in June 1974. The 22-inch-long extension was large enough to accommodate an optional forward-facing bench or side-facing jump seats.
1974 Ford F-Series
Now that there were two kinds, "conventional" pickup trucks became known as regular cabs. F-Series styling was carried over unchanged from 1973.
1974 Ford Econoline E-300 Camper Special
Recreational-vehicle alternatives from 1974 on one-ton chassis included an Econoline E-300 Camper Special with an integral motor home body...
1974 Ford F-350 Super Camper Special
...and an F-350 Super Camper Special with a removable camper unit.
1974 Ford Bronco
The 1974 model year marked the last in which the original Bronco would be offered with a six-cylinder engine.
An expanded and larger Econoline series, as well as a new Ford F-150 pickup truck were introduced in 1975.
1975 Ford Trucks
It was the Ford Econoline's turn to shine for 1975, sporting its first redesign since growing larger in 1968. But what would turn out to be an even bigger event -- although it was hardly that at the time -- was the introduction of a "heavy 1/2-ton" Ford F-Series pickup truck. Called the F-150, it was intended to be a gap-filler between the F-100 and F-250. But what it ended up being was the first of what would eventually become America's most popular vehicle.
1975 Ford Econoline van
A bigger, brawnier Ford Econoline family was launched for 1975. Mounted on a separate frame for the first time ever, new E-Series vehicles were available on longer wheelbases of 124 and 138 inches. Gross vehicle weights rose across the board, too, which showed in new nomenclature. The Ford E-100 was joined by the E-250, E-350, and an all-new E-150 version.
1975 Ford F-150
The F-Series pickup line changed little for 1975, with one exception: added was an F-150 model, which was intended to split the difference in payload capacity between the F-100 and F-250. Although hardly a major event at the time, the Ford F-150 would eventually take over from the F-100 as Ford's base full-size pickup, and it would go on to become the best-selling vehicle in the United States.
1975 Ford Bronco
Bronco likewise received few changes for 1975, though front disc brakes were made available late in the model year.
Ford caught on to the latest craze by introducing Cruising Vans for 1976. Learn more in the next section.
1976 Ford Trucks
Customized vans were trendy back in the mid 1970s, and Ford decided to cash in on this youth-market phenomenon by introducing some factory-customized models for 1976. Ford basically did what a private owner might do: add custom wheels and exterior decoration, and upgrade the interior with fancier seats and trim. Ford called these custom Econolines Cruising Vans, a very appropriate title.
On the large side of the truck ledger for 1976, Ford also offered a new Louisville model called the LTL-9000. This new premium model was basically a long-nosed version of the regular L-Series truck.
1976 Ford F-100 Ranger XLT
The first styling facelift to the 1973-generation Ford F-Series light-duty trucks showed up for 1976, when a new grille and squarish headlamp bezels appeared. F-100s with four-wheel drive, like this long-bed Ranger XLT, came with a standard 360-cubic-inch V-8 engine and four-speed transmission.
1976 Ford F-100
The short-wheelbase F-100 Flareside returned after a three-year hiatus. A pinstripe option package was added midyear.
1976 Ford F-150 4x4
Four-wheel-drive Ford F-150s were initially offered only in long-bed form (shown), although a short-bed version was added midyear.
1976 Ford Courier
The Mazda-built Ford Courier got a revised grille and a three-inch-longer cab that allowed for more seat travel.
1976 Ford LTL-9000
The Ford L-Line grew with the addition of the LTL-9000 truck. This new linehauler, distinguished by its lengthened nose, came with a Cummins NTC-350 diesel engine and 10-speed Fuller Roadranger transmission as standard equipment.
After 60 years in the trucking business, Ford's F-Series became the #1 seller in the United States in 1977.
1977 Ford Trucks
Nineteen seventy-seven marked Ford's 60th year in the trucking business, and the company made no attempt to hide that fact in advertising. Ranchero and Courier trucks were updated, and dress-up packages influenced by the success of the Cruising Van were offered on some other truck lines.
And at the end of the 1977 model year, Ford's F-Series pickup truck was christened the number-one-selling vehicle in the United States.
1977 Ford Bronco (restored)
With the sport-utility-vehicle market shifting toward larger models, the original-style Ford Bronco took its final bow in 1977. This preserved example has been converted to a pickup, a type not made by the factory since 1972.
1977 Ford Courier
The Ford Courier got new looks and the choice of a second model with a longer seven-foot cargo bed.
1977 Ford F-Series 4x4
Although touched on only lightly in the 1977 F-Series pickup truck catalog, four-wheel-drive models (including the Bronco) were attracting enough interest to warrant a brochure of their own, which included this image.
1977 Ford F-100 "Shorty Flareside"
A Ford F-100 "Shorty Flareside" with four-wheel drive shows off the flashy graphics and abundant accessory choices that were aimed at younger buyers who wanted to personalize their trucks. The 117-inch-wheelbase Flareside featured a 61/2-foot cargo bed.
1977 Ford F-600
The Ford F-600, which was available with a crew cab, took over at the bottom of the revised medium-duty F-Series when the F-500 was dropped.
Ford's Bronco received a 1978 redesign and the W-Series was replaced with the CL-9000s.
1978 Ford Trucks
The Ford Bronco underwent a major redesign in 1978, the first since its 1966 introduction. The new version was substantially larger, heavier, and better-equipped than its predecessor, and it proved more popular -- by a wide margin.
This was also the year Ford brought out a successor to the W-Series extra-heavy-duty trucks. These new Fords carried the CL-9000 designation and represented quite an improvement over the models they replaced.
Ford also celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1978 and made a special note of reaching that mark through a very successful national sales promotion campaign.
1978 Ford Courier
The 1978 Ford Courier compact pickup had a new grille design that incorporated the parking lamps. The XLT version flashed lots of bright trim on the outside and woodgrain accents on the inside.
1978 Ford Bronco
A new 104-inch-wheelbase Ford Bronco was derived from F-Series trucks. A 351-cubic-inch V-8 was standard, with a 400 cid available.
1978 Ford Ranger Lariat
The plush Ranger Lariat was the new top level of the Ford F-Series light-duty truck line.
1978 Ford F-600
This 1978 Ford F-600 crew cab was a hard-working medium-duty truck.
1978 Ford CLT-9000
The 1978 Ford CLT-9000 became Ford's top linehauler. The aerodynamic aluminum CL cab could be ordered with air springs to smooth out road shocks.
Ford ended the decade with a variety of trim and design options for its 1979 pickup trucks. See truck photos and learn more in the next section.
1979 Ford Trucks
Ford's 1979 model year brought a new promotional campaign for trucks: the famous "Built Ford Tough" slogan. It would also mark the end of the Ranchero, whose sales had dropped off in recent years.
But a far more historically significant occurrence of 1979 was our nation's second oil crisis, again triggered by events in the Middle East. In many ways it was worse than the first, with sharply higher gas prices being exacerbated by rationing in some areas.
1979 Ford Courier
A 2.0-liter overhead-camshaft four was installed as the new base engine in the 1979 Ford Courier.
1979 Ford F-150 Ranger Lariat
A 1979 Ford F-150 Ranger Lariat could get optional Combination Tu-Tone paint and bright box rails.
1979 Ford F-150 Ranger
A two-wheel-drive 1979 Ford F-150 Ranger XLT Super Cab shows its length.
1979 Ford F-100 Flareside
Rectangular headlights were extended to Ford F-Series Customs for 1979. This Ford F-100 Flareside shows the Free Wheeling stripe pattern.
1979 Ford Bronco Ranger XLT
The 1979 Ford Bronco Ranger XLT with Free Wheeling decor.
So far-reaching were the effects of the oil crisis that it triggered a serious economic recession, and would profoundly influence the design of vehicles -- including Ford's -- for many years to come.