By on June 26, 2020

ford

The hazy year of 1981 brought the world many things, among them, yours truly. It was also a year that sent bullets flying through the air towards several world figures; a year that saw interest rates soar to new heights (while horsepower values fell to dismal lows), and brought what was arguably the last year of true classic rock.

In the background, New Wave ominously gathered strength.

Also gathering strength? The Ford F-Series’s popularity, as the model line donned the hat of best-selling vehicle in the U.S. that year. The F-Series traces its lineage to the Truman administration, and we now have a new generation to ooh and aah over.

That’s the new 2021 F-150 pictured above, by the way. Identification can be a problem, so Ford saw fit to ensure following drivers have no misconception about what’s driving in front of them.

With the latest Ram 1500 and now the fourteenth-generation F-150, the Chevy Silverado truly becomes the ugly duckling in the full-size class. In this writer’s eye, Ford really got the design right, ensuring no prospective buyer steers clear of the dealership due to design disagreement. Ford’s efforts to turn this generation of F-150 into a workshop (with mobile generator), home, and office, is similarly commendable.

And yet nostalgia is a powerful thing. There exists among some people a desire to get back to basics, return to the past, and live and let live — possibly with the lever of a three-speed column shift in their hand. So this becomes our question today.

Taking into consideration design, emotion, and personal preference, which generation of Ford F-Series pleases you the most? For yours truly, it has to be the sixth-generation model — a classic pickup once seen everywhere, built from the 1973 to 1979 model years. This was the first F-Series this writer ever laid eyes on, and was the one that seemed indestructible in TV shows and movies of the ’70s and ’80s. My dad owned one. It remains, in my mind’s eye, the truckiest of all trucks. Nothing touched it in terms of purity of mission. No one can fault the design. I love it.

Out for a walk the other night, I happened across one parked in the city; from it emanated an aroma of various essential fluids, wafting in all directions in the still, humid air. It was an intoxicating scent.

Runner-up for me would be the following generation, built from 1980 to 1986. A new, more modern Ford for the ’80s, this generation put on a fresher face while keeping some of the old hardware we now pine for. I’d avoid the 255 Windsor model of my birth year, as would anyone else, and the weakened frame compared to later years of that generation would be food for thought. Still, it was a Ford pickup you could get with an inline-six base engine and three-on-the-tree manual. Amusingly, a buyer could spring for three Ranger trims (Ranger, Ranger XLT, Ranger Lariat) and an Explorer trim during the first two years of production.

Nice things are nice, and it certainly looks like the latest F-150 has what a lot of buyers crave. Perhaps I’ll soon lust over a base XL with optional PowerBoost. Maybe I already am. But for today’s question, we imagine many of you will think to the past.

Which generation of Ford F-Series tickles your fancy more than any other?

[Images: Ford]

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58 Comments on “QOTD: The Greatest Generation?...”


  • avatar
    MiataReallyIsTheAnswer

    ’81 was also the year of my first car, a 2-door Buick Skylark with but 30k miles, that ALWAYS needed something. A/C, radiator, alternator, power steering stuff, starter, gaskets, seals, you name it. A 30k mile car today wouldn’t need anything for another 100k miles. The worst of it was ’81 was the first year for computers in cars, which if I had known would have had me shopping late 70s iron.

    As for F-series, I like the late 80s square ones with flush headlights. But as a Bronco :)

    The only F series I ever bought new was a 2005.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      I had an 81 Skylark.
      With a factory popup sunroof.
      That leaked.
      After the third warranty visit to the dealer for this, the service manager handed me a new rubber weatherstrip in the GM packaging, and said, “you’re an engineer, maybe you can fix the damn thing”.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I know I’m going to get blow-back, but the 10th gen (jellybean) F series was my favorite. Ford was trying to be truly innovative with a truck that broke all the prior molds. It was also the first truck to offer four full sized doors on a crew cab and was the basis for the modern day full size luxury SUV Navigator/Expedition. I had one, I liked it and I still do

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    The sixth generation isn’t a bad choice at all, Steph, and I think it’s my choice, too. It is the ultimate development of the platform and design introduced in 1965 (with Twin I-Beam front suspension). The sixth-generation truck was also the first F-series to come with disc brakes. I prefer them with big, inline sixes. Anything from the fourth through the ninth generation look like proper F-150s in my mind. But I also love the look of the second-generation F-series truck from the 1950s, which was an F-100.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    “In the background, New Wave ominously gathered strength.”
    Ominously? New Wave kicked the overblown, overly grandiose “arena” rock of the late 70’s to the curb, and created a musical genre that was danceable, and a polar opposite of disco.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Every generation thinks their music is the best. If you happen to be a late Gen-Xer though, you are correct.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Pfft! Boomers wrote the music book

        mic drop

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          The sound of the mic hitting the floor sounds better than most of that self important drivel that generation made though there was some good rock in the 70’s. Thanks for Yoko Ono I guess so I can be reminded that Courtney Love isn’t the worst nor least talented individual to break up a band and then pick up a microphone.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            The boomer generation 1944 to 1964

            Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Elvis and Yoko’s husband and his mates would like a word with you

            … and who peed on your Wheaties today?

      • 0 avatar
        CaptainObvious

        Born in 1964 – technical a “boomer”.

        • 0 avatar
          Arthur Dailey

          The Boomers had the best music because they had the greatest variety. Rock & Roll, Rockabilly, Doo-Wap, Motown, Folk, Soul, British Invasion, Anthem Rock, Prog Rock, Heavy Metal, MOR (Sinatra, Bennett, Tom Jones), the Memphis Sound. They all vied for a place on the charts, at the same time.

          Boomers also got to ride in, drive and eventually own, 50’s fin and chrome, domestic land yachts, full size wagons, muscle cars, pony cars, full size van conversions, PLCs and malaise era Broughams. All of which were different enough that a 7 year old could identify the year and model of each vehicle that drove past.

          But we also did a lot of idiotic things that we now realize should not have been acceptable.

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            Meh. Rock and Roll, Alternative, New Wave, Metal, Hair Bands, Grunge, Hip Hop, BritPop and cars that didn’t start melting rusting back to mother Earth 6 months after you drove them off the lot. The 90’s were the last great decade.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            “But we also did a lot of idiotic things that we now realize should not have been acceptable.”

            Yep, we now know to NEVER take the brown acid

            ;-)

          • 0 avatar
            Art Vandelay

            The white album is clearly racist.

  • avatar
    spookiness

    I like the mid-90’s generation, the one just before the jellybean generation. To me it is a good combination of retro and contemporary elements. Creature comforts, smooth styling, decent interior design, but still manageable size and load height, excellent visibility, and you could still get the straight-six in its last iteration with fuel injection, or if it is your preference you could have gotten the last pushrod V-8 I think. This is a theme of mine- I tend to like the last model year or two of vehicles just before they transition to a redesign, and when shopping for used vehicles in the past that’s what I always gravitate towards.

  • avatar
    Imagefont

    I had a ‘76 F250 extended cab with an 8’ bed. I paid $500 for it and immediately rebuilt the engine and the transmission. First thing I did when I bought it was to set off a bug bomb inside, close the doors and came back the next day – roaches gone. 16” wheels, tires held 80psi. It had electric fans operated by toggle switches and a switch to control the valve to the second fuel tank. The entire electrical system was “custom”. Originally two tone brown and tan, it had been painted black and all the paint was flaking off in layers. I drove that he’ll wagon all over the country. People just got out of my way, they were afraid. It was awesome.

  • avatar
    Dan

    None of them. I didn’t look twice at trucks for most of that time, they were tools for farmers and I wasn’t. The only one I did like was the 94 Ram, and I liked that one enough to completely write off everything else.

    In modern times I like my 2016 a lot, enough I’ll likely replace it with another one, and simultaneously don’t love it at all. For all of the things it gets right I can’t get over that everything that isn’t load bearing is made of aluminum foil or plastic and feels like it. Just like everything else the past 10 or 15 years.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I don’t know if I have a specific “generation” to talk about, but for me the 4.9L inline-6 will always be “the Ford engine”.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Ford has done it once again, they made the last generation look better because the new “generation” is awful. That front end is a mess and makes the Silverado look graceful and upscale. The middle of the “all new” truck is exactly same. The rear has a new stamping in the tailgate that is cartoonish. But hey, at least the 2008 Focus fender vents are back!

    Inside, you have nothing of any real substance. A bigger screen running terrible infotainment software, a seat that reclines back like numerous other manufactures, and a folding shifter handle which will break and is pointless.

    It’s amazing to see that Ford has given up on trucks. They are a truck brand and this was supposed to be an all new truck yet its a mild refresh that’s essentially taken the last truck and vajazzled it.

    • 0 avatar
      eng_alvarado90

      I’ve been wondering why you always spread disbelief and disagreement with everything Ford releases despite your nickname being EBFlex. Did you own an Ecoboost Flex?
      I believe it’s a pretty cool vehicle despite not fitting my needs in any way.

      Did you have a bad experience with one (or more) of their car(s)?

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        “I’ve been wondering why you always spread disbelief and disagreement with everything Ford releases despite your nickname being EBFlex. Did you own an Ecoboost Flex?”

        I spread the truth. Plain and simple. And yes I did own one as well as many Fords. Most were garbage, I liked the Flex though.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      I dunno. I don’t think any Ford truck has been as ugly as the current generation. The new one is at least a slight improvement to my eyes.

      The current Silverado may be the most ugly vehicle ever made. But they’re all still too big as far as I’m concerned. YMMV.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        The Silverado looks far better than this F150. It’s hideous. Granted the Silverado has a very busy front end but at least it’s not a sloppy design (the HD is a different story).

        This F150 has headlights from a Kia, fender vents from a Focus, and way too many grilles that are just awful. Nothing cohesive about the design. It’s not surprising though as Ford has, without a shadow of a doubt, the worst body designers in the industry. It’s like they allow 1st year high school CAD students to design their vehicles.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          I know Silverado fanboys and they all hate the new Silverado. They’ve had plenty time to let it grow on them and it ain’t happening.

          Yeah no one’s in love with the new F-150. It’s change for the sake of change, a lateral move, but no better or worse then the current.

          Just admit you’re Silvy_Z71, we won’t judge.

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    I only have owned one truck and it was a 1985 F250 2wd longbed extra cab 6.9 diesel.

    Bought off a workmate to tow a 5th wheel, it served me well right up to the day I sold it, the day before we moved out of the state.

    By then it had cancer in the cab corners, paint was gone, the new headliner I put in in 1997 was in tatters, but it was snapped up by a rancher in central california who put it to work that very afternoon hauling a trailer load of hay.

    I liked the expansive car-like dash, comfy captain’s chairs, and the way it got down to business hauling my Kubota home in 2015, then hauling off at least 60,000 pounds of excess topsoil as I regraded and excavated for a deck and new driveway.

    It was an honest truck that was my DD for 5 years, carried up to 4400 pounds at a time, brought home countless amounts of building materials, landscaping gravel, and in 23 years the only driveline work I had to do was a rear U joint many years ago.

    I sold it May 28 and miss it already, but it wouldn’t fit in my new neighborhood so it was totally fine that it lives on in a ranch in Coalinga.

    No pretenses, but a great straight-up design that the big 3 need to come back to.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Any. All. Depends.

    What a question. It’s like asking which is your favorite nationality of bikini models.

    My ’92 square body F-350 XL crew 4X4, everything manual, transfer cases to windows, 351 Windsor, X-forestry dept truck, SNUG Top, if I had to pick a forever truck. Parts are everywhere simple EFI, virtually unbreakable. It could be easily upgraded/restored to Lariat trim, there wasn’t much difference.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I don’t need the “F-150” stamped on the tailgate to tell me the truck in front of me is blocking my forward vision, and more importantly, its driver can’t see me behind him unless I drop back 20 car lengths or so, or ride the lane lines on either side so he can see me in his side mirrors.

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Too hard to pick. My Super Duty is much more capable and comfortable than the Bull Nose and Dent Side truck that preceded it.

    However I certainly have a soft spot for the Dent Sides and that is what I think about as an “old Ford truck” now.

  • avatar
    eng_alvarado90

    My favorite is the 9th gen which ran from 92-96. The last one to be powered by the legendary 300, 302, 351 engines. And who wouldn’t want to have an optional 460 available on heavier duty models? The 7.3 Powerstroke was also born with this generation. I believe this was the golden age for the F series as dar as powertrain is concerned, they were still as rugged as the previous gens but still have some creature comforts and passive security systems to make them daily drivers nowadays. The perfect blend for me.

    Runner up would be the 12th gen because it brought the Raptor and overhauled powertrain choices to new levels. Yes, I’m an EcoBoost believer but also love the Boss and Coyote engines. As equally impressive: no aluminum panels to worry about.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Any generation without a 4-foot-wide “F-150” stamped into the tailgate. I can’t get over just how horrible that looks.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      It’s the same as the 80’s. You don’t want the F O R D stamped tailgate? No problem, the XLT has a nice brushed aluminum piece.

      Same with this one

      “Yes, I agree, it is ugly. Here, allow me to show you the King Ranch or Platinum as you are obviously a man of taste”

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        Yeah, the aluminum one on the Platinum and Limited is marginally less bad, although the “L I M I T E D” lettering strewn all over the Limited makes up for it.

        I’d pay extra to just get the exterior appearance of a Lariat with the body-color package, but with the stamped F-150 filled in and most of the badges shaved.

  • avatar
    RSF

    My favorite F150’s are 2011-2014. I know the 2009-2010 are included in this generation, but in 2011 the 5.4 was finally replaced. These trucks seem to be the current high point for overall F150 quality. Every one I’ve owned or ridden in has been completely free of squeaks and rattles, and they are completely reliable (at least with the 5.0).

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Don’t forget the 4.6 V8, especially the 16 valve It’s one of the most reliable, highest mile V8s of the modern era. It’s not riproaring or flame throwing, but quietly soldiers on, all around us.

      You don’t even know it, but it’s very possibly the most common/popular V8 on the road today.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      RSF – Statistically, the 2010 MY was the most reliable. AS a rule, the last year of any drivetrain or body will be the most reliable. The initial EB3.5’s had intercooler condensation issues. In many respects the EB3.5 has been more durable than the 5.0. There was a while where the 5.0 was prone to burning valves on one cylinder.

      My 2010 F150 has been good. IN 10 years it has needed 2 front axle seals, a rear pinion seal, 2 rear shocks, 1 coil pack, 4×4 engagement solenoid and is just started on it’s 3rd set of brakes. It will be on it’s 4th set of tires soon.

  • avatar

    14th generation Ford F150 and Zombies will be the last generations because, don’t complain later that I did not warn you, end of the world is upon us, repent while you can!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @DenverMike–Isn’t the 4.6 the same engine used in the Crown Victoria, Grand Marquis, and the Town Car? If so this is a great engine but eventually there will be fewer V8s offered and more turbo V6s and 4s in half tons. The CAFE standards will force many manufacturers to abandoned V8s entirely.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      There’s also lots of Mustangs, Expeditions, Econolines, Explorer/Aviator/Mountaineers, Sport Tracs T-Bird/Cougars, Continentals, with the 4.6 V8 plus MK VIIIs. Yeah not to mention various Aston Martins, Panoz, MG X-Power, Land Rover, Koenigsegg, Marcos Mantis, Mangusta, and Jaguars.

      There’s probably a few I’m forgetting. I realize there’s CAFE/EPA/emissions reasons all great engines age-out, plus the Eurofucation factor. And warped economy test-cycle that favor turbos.

      That’s alright. It’s getting to where you really just want to lease, abuse, neglect, drive it like it’s stolen and walk away.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        I’ve driven a few 4.6 V8’s in pickups and have never been impressed with them. They have less power than the 5.4 and are just as hard on fuel.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          It doesn’t set the world on fire (although Europe was glad to get it). Yes it’s slightly undersized for F-150s, which were the heaviest (and safest) 1/2 tons in the era.

          Some non scientific studies (of craigslist 1/2 ton finds) agree the 4.6 V8 equipped F-150s have the highest miles on average of any 1/2 ton.

          15.4 MPG is good enough for me (4-speed, 4X4 and 3.55 gears, slightly oversize tires). The only time I checked it was the first time I took it cross county, just to not run out in the middle of nowhere. But I held it at 80 MPH the whole time, light load.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    I learned to drive in our families ‘56 F100. The purchase price summer of ‘69 was 15 cords of wood, cut, split, delivered by me.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Agree lease if you are going to get one of the turbos and drive it like you stole it. Just don’t buy a used one because it is likely that who ever had it new drove it like they stole it.

    56 F100 a good old truck. My nephew is restoring my Granddad’s 63 IH 1000 step side with only 62k original miles.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      That’s awesome. I restored 72 F-100 with my nephew.

      If I gotta have something new, I’ll just lease a base/base regular cab F-150 V6. Yes 2wd. A long bed maybe.

      Otherwise I’ve got the old 4X4s for blizzards, off road, camping, etc. I’m not interested in owning anything new.

  • avatar
    Lichtronamo

    Hard to argue with the 6th generation. I was born in 71 so it was what I grew up knowing as. Ford truck. An uncle that was an Iowa farmer had a 7th generation that was as cool as his John Deere tractors in my mind. I have a 9th generation (Ford seemed to play loose with generational changes for 7/8/9 as they appear to be substantially the same truck). It’s a ‘92 Custom with standard cab (that is surprisingly small), 8ft. box, in-line 6, 5-speed manual, 2WD in white. Bought by my Dad in ‘94 for use on his rural property, it has only 60,000 miles. I inherited it and make great use of it as a wheelbarrow. I fitted Always get lots of comments from other pickup drivers about it whether they are in a Ford, Chevy/GMC, Ram or Toyota. It’s an honest work truck but that doesn’t stop me from thinking of a new F-150 some day.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    72 F100 is nice. My nephew has my old S-10 in his new car barn as well and I gave his wife my 2008 Isuzu I-370 crew cab. My nephew’s father-in-law gave him a fully restored 1941 John Deere tractor. My nephew put new tires on my 2008 Ford Ranger regular cab 2 wheel drive pickup I got for a little over 3k which needs a paint job and a rear bumper. It runs great with very little rust and only 101k miles.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    As a kid my dad had 60’s and 70’s era F250’s. I learned to drive on a 1970 F250 390 ci 4speed. 1st gear bull low. Shifting gears was like travelling to different time zones. The “throw” was huge. HIs last pickup was a ‘77. It didn’t look much different than the one’s pictured. Even the colour was the same.

    My favourite is the ‘79 but only in F250. I like the stance. An early ‘70’s highboy would also be on my fantasy list.

    All nostalgia aside, the newest generation will most likely be better than anything before it. I’d love an F350 Tremor 7.3 but even in XLT trim it is pricy.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Lou_BC–The F series along with Chevy and GMCs from the 70s and even early 80s have become more valuable and sought after by collectors. I learned to drive on my Granddad’s 63 IH 1000 3 on the tree when I was 15 on the family farm in Northern Kentucky during the Summer. Manual transmissions are much smoother on today’s vehicles.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Well let me say in the last 20 years manuals have gotten better but yes they are a unicorn. Regular cab have become a unicorn as well and even extended cabs are not as numerous on new trucks. The new Ford Maverick compact pickup to be released late 2021 will only have a crew cab and an 8 speed automatic.

  • avatar
    Super555

    What is the 2004 Super Duty considered? 10th gen?

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