Family Ford: The 6th Generation F-Series Pickup Turns 50

Since 1977, the Ford F-Series has been the best-selling pickup line in the United States, and since 1981, it has been the best-selling vehicle overall. With a solid 40-year track record, clearly there is a lot to love about this pickup.

The F-Series has a special place in my own family’s history, too. My dad is a self-taught handyman as well as an avid outdoorsman, so having a truck around the house to haul supplies, hardware, and camping equipment has always been a necessity. A couple of his prior Ford pickups were in this story.

Some of the most iconic images of one of dad’s pickups came from a set of photos that were taken in the early 1980s when my family lived in Richmond, Utah. Included are some shots of dad’s lifted silver 1979 F-150 4×4. I was a toddler riding around with a red BMX bicycle with training wheels on it at the time.

This truck came from the sixth-generation F-Series which debuted exactly 50 years ago in December 1972 for model year 1973 and ran through 1979. This body style became known to enthusiasts as the “dentside” era because of its characteristic body line. Even though the chassis from the previous generation was retained, design engineers made some changes including moving the fuel tank to below the bed instead of inside the cab.

The front fascia was reworked in 1978 to incorporate a larger grille, and the headlights were moved outward. The shape of the headlights was used denote trim levels, since Ranger, XLT, and Lariat were given rectangular headlights while the lower-trim Custom had round headlights. The following year, all models received rectangular headlights. That was also the last year of the generation before Ford moved to a new “Bullnose” era of 1980 and the popularity of the F-Series ramped up to its current success which has been sustained for over 40 years since.

Dad’s pride and joy was a Ranger-trim shortbed regular-cab pickup with red pin striping that color-coordinated with the cloth bench on the interior. Power under the hood came from a 351cid Cleveland V8 mated to a four-speed manual transmission, which was Ford’s largest engine for the generation. Other lower-output powerplants were offered including straight-six variants in 240cid, 260cid, and 300cid as well as a 302cid V8.

Amenities on dad’s truck were otherwise relatively sparse — the truck had no air conditioning and no passenger sideview mirror, even. However, it was upgraded with off-road equipment including a lifted Rancho suspension, mesh headlight guards, mud flaps, and polished aluminum wheels on 35-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires.

Dad does not remember where this pickup ended up, but it has been off our family’s radar for nearly four decades, and unfortunately (since 17-digit standardized VIN sequences did not launch until 1981), we can’t track down a Carfax or Autocheck report to see when it was last saw any service or registration activity. Maybe someone out there has a clue if it’s still on the road.

In 2022, Ford sold a staggering 653,957 F-Series pickups, so its dominance in the marketplace continues. Someday, I would love to buy a pickup similar to the one that my dad owned. According to the listings on, there are some options out there. I’m sure many of our readers have a family experience revolving around a special Ford pickup. Do you? Please share it in the comment sections and let us know your story.

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