This is a pickup truck. But it’s also a line in the sand. And that’s because loyalty is a funny thing. Pledging your support to a single idea through thick and thin is an inherently illogical thing to do. And yet so many of us cling to loyalty, like sloths on our favorite branch of the virtue tree. William Bennett writes in his Book of Virtues that “real loyalty endures inconvenience, withstands temptation, and does not cringe under assault. Yet the trust that genuine loyalty tends to generate can pervade our whole lives.” All rationality supports our choosing the best option available to us regardless of our preconceived notions or personal preferences. I still go to the deli that’s a little further away from my apartment than the one that’s closer and more reputable. This truck is like that deli. This is a 1970 Ford F100 Sport Custom.
All that philosophizing deserves a little context, doesn’t it? Okay, how’s this for a grand claim: this vehicle, in all its forms and generations, is by far and away the best selling vehicle in all of North America. They consistently sell over 800,000 of these things per year. That’s more than one truck per minute. That’s more than Chevy and GMC’s trucks put together. Why is that? What makes the F-Series the Hamilton ticket of the automotive world? The answer, in case it wasn’t obvious from my elaborate setup, is loyalty.
There’s a war raging in the pickup truck world. And not one of sales figures, because that’s a battle Ford wins as convincingly as Indiana Jones wins sword fights. No, this is a much older, much more subjective war. It’s a war between Chevy and Ford. Ford fans and Chevy devotees never quite could see eye to eye, with both being so deeply entrenched in brand loyalties that they refuse to acknowledge that anyone on the other side is worth talking to. The big rivalry is between the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Camaro, but the battle was fought on all fronts, including, unsurprisingly, pickup trucks. The F-Series was Ford’s poster child for the war. And this is its fifth generation.
The fifth-gen F-Series was essentially just an extensive reskin of the fourth generation, with which it shared a platform. That meant a more squared-off design as well as some new trim levels and engine options. Overall, the truck became more comfortable to live with on a daily basis, which was not a particularly high bar to clear, as pickup trucks of this era were about as comfortable as being pepper sprayed. Part of that movement was due to Ford’s use of a twin I-beam front suspension system. Without wanting to get super technical, this setup combined traditional, tough-but-hard-riding truck suspension (I-beams) with less-robust-but-smoother car suspension (independent suspension). This, I think, was the beginning of a larger trend toward pickup trucks becoming luxury vehicles. The fifth generation F-Series exists at a nice juncture though: not too dressy, but not a total nightmare to live with either.
This particular F-Series is the F100, which means it’s the entry-level F-Series. If you had some extra cash to burn and needed more capability, Ford would also sell you an F250 or F350. The F100 came in a couple different flavors as well: this is a Sport Custom, which was the second-cheapest. The top-of-the-line model was the Ranger XLT, which gave you nicer interior trim as well as a woodgrain effect on the tailgate (it was the seventies, cut them a break). As for engines, you could pick from two different inline 6 cylinders developing around a 160 horsepower, or a couple V8s developing anywhere from 205 to 255 horsepower. Transmissions included a three speed manual which was attached to the steering column (colloquially known as a “three on the tree”).
So Ford won the sales battle handily, but did it win the war of loyalties? Like so many great rivalries, it doesn’t really matter. Would we still watch Game Of Thrones if the Starks and the Lannisters decided to put aside their differences and get along? Would Stephen Colbert have become as culturally fundamental without Bill O’Reilly? Of course not, and Ford and Chevy are just the same. There are great stories on either side of the aisle, and at the end of the day I like to believe that’s why we’re all here: to learn, to debate, to share ideas, influence one another and to (hopefully) come to some greater understanding of ourselves. Bennett says “our loyalties are important signs of the kinds of persons we have chosen to become.” I assume, of course, he was talking about pickup trucks.
- The fifth generation F-Series remained in production in Brazil until 1992, and spawned some weird, Brazil-exclusive special models– an idea which Ford of Brazil had apparently been toying with for awhile.
- A four-wheel-drive F100 was also available, which had chunkier tires and a much higher ride height.