By on August 22, 2012

Writing this series has made me start paying more attention to types of vehicles I’ve long overlooked. Say, the early Nissan 300ZX, or the Mazda-based Mercury Capri. Then we’ve got the beat-up work trucks that still roam the streets in large numbers but are finally dying out, e.g. the Dodge D-100 and the late-60s GM C-series. Today, it’s the turn of Ford’s workhorse from the darkest days of the Malaise Era.
The F-150 has evolved very slowly over the decades. The 6th-generation F-Series truck weren’t much different from those that came before and after.
These gauges should look familiar to anyone who has ever driven any American Ford product built between about 1975 and 2000.
This yard has plenty of older F-100s and F-150s, but something about this ’79 grabbed my attention first.

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46 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1979 Ford F-150...”


  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    I wish full size pick ups would go back to a more sensable size like thet were in the 70′s/80′s

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Me too. They are rediculous land barges and have the price tags to match. The midsized trucks, with the exception of the tacoma, are pathetic jokes.

      • 0 avatar
        wstarvingteacher

        I don’t see a way to load the picture of my s-10 with the 1500 pound round bale in the bed so I’ll just say that it can. Not all mid sized trucks are pathetic jokes. I have a 7 foot bed, very strong rear springs, a 4.3 v6 and a good transmission. It cannot do what my old Fords and Chevys did but it sure does a lot. Furthermore, it does it at 22mpg. They did it with 8-12.

        What more would you have it do to avoid being called a pathetic joke.

        btw, I also had an 81 Datsun that I sold firewood from. It was good for more than a ton with it’s little Datsun trailer. If you haven’t actually tried to do something with them don’t believe everything you read on the forums.

      • 0 avatar
        nickoo

        wstarving teacher, the s-10 hasn’t been offered for nearly 8 years now.

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        The S-10 was also classified as a compact pickup. The first advertised and now classified ‘mid-size’ was the Dodge Dakota in the mid-’90s.

    • 0 avatar
      car_guy2010

      I wish more trucks were the same size as my ’97 Ford Ranger. It’s not that much better on gas but it’s still going with 146k miles.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @N8iveVA, F-150s have grown 7″ from brake pedal to back of cab and that was much needed. If you’ve ever had to drive a pre ’97, you know what I mean. You couldn’t even recline seat or find any real comfort. The steering wheel was so close, you could steer with your elbows. In short, they sucked. A truck should be at least as comfortable as a cheap car. There’s another 7″ of front overhang for the sake of aerodynamics.

      The few extra inches are no big deal especially when we’re talking extra or crew cab trucks. Otherwise, new trucks have the same width and girth as ’70s and ’80s.

      • 0 avatar
        Broo

        However, modern ones have the bed floor so high off the ground it’s useless for anything but towing.

      • 0 avatar
        ptschett

        It matters when the new truck is too long to fit where you want to park it. In the complex where I live, the garages are about 229″ long inside. My Dakota extended-cab fits fine at 219″ overall length, and a ’95 F-150 at 221″ would be fine too. But a new Chevy or Ford 1/2 ton extended cab is 230″+ and you can’t close the garage door. The only late-model full-size extended-cab owners that can shut their doors are the guys with Rams, they’re slightly shorter… but it’s a tight squeeze, no room for length-increasing accessories like a grille guard.

    • 0 avatar
      wstarvingteacher

      Since you are talking new ones, I cannot disagree. Don’t intend to buy a new one but did look at stats on the Tacoma and the frontier. Doesn’t seem to be much separation there. What do you see as the major difference that puts the Tacoma out front? Confess to bias as I have been a Nissan fan since 1981.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      The Internet (which is never wrong!) suggests a ’79 F-150 was about 76-79 inches wide.

      Edmunds says the modern F-150 short cab, short bed is 79″ wide.

      Now, a modern pickup is likely (as DenverMike said) longer, and for good reason – but it’s not really any wider.

      (I found it hard to get good measurements of length accounting for the bed size for the old trucks, but I suspect they’re a good foot longer now, from the fragmentary information I found. Possibly more.)

      They also *look* bigger now because of a “taller” sheet metal design, and because the 4×4 is so popular – and thus you see so many very tall ones with off-road suspensions.

      But actual growth in the dimensions that matter for parking and driving the things? They don’t seem a lot less sensible than the trucks of the 70s and 80s – especially if you get a standard cab, short bed, 2×4 configuration like the “generic truck” of the 70s.

      • 0 avatar
        AmcEthan

        I do yard work and we have a 1978 f250 ranger extended cab long bed with the 460 with a 6bbl and the truck is huge, but my daily driver, a 1998 f150 extended cab long bed 5.4, when lined up, my dd is about a foot and a half longer and about the same width. it gets better gas mileage but has half the power and isnt as coumfy inside. newer trucks are too big.

  • avatar
    Boff

    An uncle had an F150 Custom of about this vintage when I was a kid. My Hot Rod-reading self excitedly asked: “Custom…does that mean souped up?” My uncle replied: “No, that means ‘base’”. My illusions about automobile marketing were forever shattered…

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      I’ve wondered about that too, was Ford encouraging the owner to add their own customizations? “Custom” was changed to the much less colorful “XL” in the mid-late 80′s as I recall.

    • 0 avatar
      markholli

      “My illusions about automobile marketing were forever shattered…” Hahaha.

      I grew up thinking “Genuine” meant fake because it seemed like I only saw it printed on the cheapest, most fake-looking leather.

  • avatar
    jjklongisland

    Look its Uncle Jessie’s Pickem up truck. Log sheep to bo beep, you got your ears on…

  • avatar
    Benya

    A coworker of mine has a 1977 F250 Highboy that I have entertained the thought of making him an offer on. I’m not sure why I need a truck, but I’m sure I could make use of it somehow. And I’ve never driven anything older that I am.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on whether this is a good idea or not?

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      It’s an excellent idea. 70’s high boys are awesome trucks if you can find one in good shape. Bring extra money for gas.

      • 0 avatar
        Benya

        I know it has 142,000 miles and is battleship gray. It has no hope of passing emissions, but he has a guy. And it has bad needle bearings in the front knuckle. He doesn’t drive it very much anymore since his dog died.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      You’re not sure why you need a truck, but you want to buy yourself a 9mpg heap of junk?

    • 0 avatar
      cheyenps

      I won’t say it’s a great idea (it’s an old, malaise-era truck after all) but will tell you that I had more fun in my ’78 version of that truck than in any vehicle before or since.

      My newer trucks are quieter, more reliable and ride better, but the rugged simplicity of that truck (and the remarkable competence of the PT 4wd system/limited slip differential) got me and my travel trailer back in to places I’ll probably never see again.

      9MPG is a small price to pay, IMHO.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    man, check the gigantic A/C compressor.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Might have been the Custom, but someone got A/C and AM/FM radio. The radio could be from a later Ford, but I imagine A/C wasn’t too common.

    That steering wheel was in every Ford truck almost until the airbag mandate along with the IP.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      AC was pretty common when made available and it was a godsend in a lot of places, especially farming areas from Texas to the Dakotas. It was part of a package in the late ’70s, and when the Cali state highway department (CalTrans) bought some F150s for the San Diego district, some nut in Sacramento tried to delete the AC, arguing it didn’t get that hot there. They had to be reminded that the district included 4,000 square miles of the Colorado Desert west of the Salton Sea and the Sonoran Desert east of it.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    There is sure a lot less that goes wrong with these trucks. You pay for that with Gas. The 73 that I owned invokes constant memories. With 100 miles per day I couldn’t handle the gas bill. It went to a youngster that fell in love with it and kept trying to beat me up with logic and money. It had a 289 where a 302 was supposed to be and I imagine that it’s still running.

    Backwards operating floor shift made it thief proof.

  • avatar
    skor

    I remember a friend’s father owned a 79 with the 300 I6 mill…one of the best truck engines every made. For all I know, that thing is still running.

  • avatar
    PhilMills

    My dad had two of these – a ’77 and a ’79. I have fond memories of riding from Colorado to Michigan in the back of the ’77 with a cargo shell on top and a couple of foam mattresses in the bed. I lost my favorite Hot Wheels car down the gap between the bed and the cab on I-80.

    The ’77 got outfitted with a 460ci Lincoln and would move pretty good. It was my dad’s snowplow truck, but was only 2WD. Whenever it snowed my little brother and I would have to go out and help dad load concrete blocks, lead bricks and buckets of bolts into the bed before we could get our ride to school. I also have the childhood memory of dad changing out what felt like an endless stream of power steering pumps on that truck. The amount of maintenance that my childhood self felt dad had to do all the time put me off Fords for years afterward.

    The ’79 was a dog – underpowered. But the vinyl bench seat meant I got to slide my girlfriend on over to my side of the cab real easy-like and ride with my arm up on the back of the seat in the sun going back and forth to college.

    Trucks of that vintage were wonderful because you could actually use them as trucks and not give a rip about whether you’re going to scratch the paint climbing up on the roof to get a tarp fixed down better.

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      “Trucks of that vintage were wonderful because you could actually use them as trucks and not give a rip about whether you’re going to scratch the paint climbing up on the roof to get a tarp fixed down better.”

      You can do that today.

      You just have to want to treat your truck like a truck – I suspect plenty of people who had a new ’77 truck tried to avoid scratching the paint, too, at least for a few years.

  • avatar

    Yes, I agree with you writing post needs lots of attention and knowledge of vehicle and Ford F-150 is classic cars of late 1970.I think your junkyard has great collection of cars.

  • avatar
    brett_murphy

    I always liked that the “Ranger” used to be a trim level on the full sized trucks. I looked high and low for one that wasn’t either a basket case or heavily modified (and expensive) when I was truck shopping.

    I wound up with a 1992- a generation later than I wanted, but it has somehow managed not to rust at all.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      The ’92 to ’95 were the best years. Ford has reasoned that men ows would now feel secure in the manliness with a truck instead of a sedan for work and family. Engine options were the I-6, 302 5.0L and 351 5.8L V8s, which by this point were nearly bulletproof. Seats were large and comfy, gauges were actually from that decade, power windows were now on the first option pack, and they were affordable, unlike the cement-mixers for sale today.

      • 0 avatar
        360joules

        I agree, especially in regard to that huge in-line six. My father was a commercial contractor and put over 400,000 thousand miles on his 93 with the I-6 & austere/base model interior without a single component failure. It was well-maintained but never babied, often with a full bed and pulling a large utility trailer with huge loads of debris and supplies in the summer heat of Phoenx, Arizona. His purchase of that truck coincided with his rise from small jobs to large multi-million dollar projects and was his talisman. He was disdainful of the “Texas Cadillac” trucks.

  • avatar
    jgcaulder

    I sold a 1978 F150 Custom a year ago. Loved it, despite the lack of A/C and the huge holes in the floorboards. It got awful gas mileage, but was strong as an ox with the 351M under the hood. Bought an 1988 model recently because I missed the old ’78 so much! This one is a Lariet and much better equiped.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    I’ve never been able to stop likening the front of vehicles to faces (childish I know), so to my eyes that old F150 with the headlight out looks to me like a battered and aged pugilist with a swollen eye.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I wonder what made it die. I’ve seen trucks in that shape and worse being driven on a regular basis. F150/Ranger tales will get many responses to this column. Thanks Murilee.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      The long bed and body rot I suspect. This generation of F150 in short bed and Bronco form is popular with off-roaders due to the solid front axle and ability to fit 33″ tires stock. Subsequent generations of F150s are equipped with the infamous and much maligned twin tractor beam front suspension. I have a feeling most of it’s parts will live on.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I’ll play. The state of the master cylinder combined with the front end damage says brake failure. Throw in $4 gas combined with $300/ton ferrous scrap, and you’ve got a truck worth more dead than alive.

    • 0 avatar
      BMWnut

      Could have been that bashed in headlight.

  • avatar
    patman

    A certain box truck rental company still had tons of this generation F150 on the lots for local only rentals in the mid to late 90′s with a few soldiering on beyond the millennium. I think they had the FE 360 and they definitely had floor shift 4 speed manuals – they were really 3 speeds with a super, super low granny gear in place of 1st. They were brutish, crude machines compared to their modern replacements but they still earned a few dollars and had a knack for staying on the road cheaply enough to avoid the scrap yard or sell off.

  • avatar
    typhoon

    I had a ’79 much like this one in good shape a few years ago and gave it to my brother. It was an old fleet vehicle for the Las Cruces public school district, so it’s pretty basic (certainly no air conditioning); white exterior (with fleet number and insignia still faintly visible), blue interior with fake wood trim. Rebuilt 351M, three-speed automatic (no overdrive). It’s actually his daily driver now.

  • avatar
    brapoza

    I consider myself fortunate to own a 1994 XLT with 48,000 miles that was originally owned for 16 years by a retired gentleman who had no real use for it so he kept it in the garage and drove it in nice weather about 2000 miles a year. Not a ding or scratch on it except for the stainless steel trim panel on the tailgate which is out of production. I’ve been trying to find a nice one with no luck. Any of the B&B have an idea of where I might find one? I’ve been looking in local junkyards to no avail. Truck gets 16 mph with a 302 if you coast a lot.

  • avatar
    corvair66

    My dad used to have a 1978 F250, which was the same style as the 1979 but with round headlights. 400V8, 4WD, with truck 4 speed (three road gears and one stump puller low gear) “super cab”, long bed. It was painted Ford “competition red.” A total beast. In spite of its size and the size of its engine it did manage to get about 12mpg highway.

    I lament the state of trucks nowadays of all sizes. You can’t buy a full-sized pickup for under $23,000 or so, and they have become such suburban status symbols with overblown macho styling that appear to be a substitute for men with undersized endowments.

    There are no sensible compact pickups anymore like the recently departed Ford Ranger. I had a 1989 Mazda B2200 pickup. It was a sturdy and nice driving truck, it was a base stripper model with manual everything (though it did have power assist brakes as all vehicles with disk brakes must). I purchased it new in 1989 for under $6800. Even in 2013 dollars, that would be about $12K now. In an era where less money buys so much more car (at least among compact and mid-sized sedans) than it did in the 1980s, the bloating of trucks is a disappointment.

    I know the actual size may not have increased much in the full-sized trucks (as has been discussed here), but the fru fru has increased (and thus increasing the $$) and the higher beltline and higher floor just makes them look so overblown.

    Once upon a time, trucks were less expensive than most cars because a truck was a truck and not a poofed up status symbol. Sure, you could option your truck to the hilt, but few people did since most people wanted their trucks to be… well trucks.

    I recently saw a Chevy 1500 (back before all Chevy full size trucks became called “Silverados” which used to be a name for the top of the line trim package for Chevy trucks). I’m not sure what year the truck was, but it was probably from approximately 1990. It was a 2WD, no-frills. It must have come from the desert southwest as it had no rust (I live in Boston) and its paint job had the look of being sunbleached especially on the hood and roof. It was low enough to the ground that I could see over the cab roof. Though this generation is not my favorite of Chevy trucks, style-wise, I felt joy leap in my heart. A blessedly real pickup truck from a recently bygone era when trucks were simply trucks

  • avatar
    throwbackguy76

    “Uncle Jesse’s truck” was a 73 or 74 if memory serves and also a long bed. The Fords from 73-79 are referred to as “groovesides” and the rectangular headlamps were first available on the 78 high trim models then on all of the 79s. The restyled 1978 bolder grilled fronts were sold as the “Louisville line.” I would not consider this the “Malaise Era” when it comes to domestic pickups. Dodge Club Cabs and Little Red Wagons, Ford Camper Specials and Supercabs, and GM 3×3 Duallys and Heavy Halfs are all of this mid to late 70s era. My dad had a 79 Ford F150 Regular Cab Long Bed with a 302 and AT AC. It was comfortable enough but not a “Cowboy Cadillac” by any means. Ford “downsized” their trucks for 1980 with the more squared off look that continued to the late 90s. “Custom” as a base designation for Fords goes back to at least the 50s cars. I had a summer chemical plant job in 1978 and the new 1978 Chevy base model plant truck was a “Custom Deluxe” with the metal fendered and wood strip floored bed and the only option was auto trans (not AC) but at lease they had vent windows! The straight 6 used oil from day one and the speedo read 45mph at what seemed to be about 60 mph really. These trucks were a lot simpler and still not covered by a lot of the regulations affecting cars of the same era. Today they are still great hobby projects.


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