DEARBORN, Mich.—It was nine years after Henry Ford’s Model T first rolled off the line that the fast-growing Michigan automaker introduced its first purpose build truck.
Resembling a glorified horse carriage, Ford unveiled the Model TT July 27, 1917, a few months after the U.S. had entered the First World War. 209 were sold in 1917 at a factory price of a mere $600.
The truck shared certain similarities with the Fordson tractor, also introduced in 1917. It could accommodate third-party beds, cargo areas and other add-ons. Above all else though, it was a utilitarian beast designed to get work done.
It changed the face of the auto industry, Ford says, as well as the very nature of American work.
Ten years later, the automaker has sold well over a million of its Model TT. In 1928 it replaced the inaugural truck with the Model AA, a more capable vehicle with a 1.5-ton chassis.
According to Ford historian Bob Kreipke, Henry Ford marketed the early trucks in rural areas.
“Model AA trucks in particular had a certain class to them,” he said. “Customers could use them on the farm, yet still take them to church on Sunday.”
A few years later, the AA gave way to the Ford BB, which was used for a wide range of applications, including as a mail and freight carrier, an ambulance and a stake truck.
A handful of updates led up to the Second World War and in 1948 Ford began work on what would become known as the F-Series. The first-generation F-Series included two separate classes of truck—one a half-ton, the other the much larger F-8 cab-over truck.
Ford says throughout the ’50s it was looking to shift its focus from utilitarian trucks to sportier vehicles, introducing two-tone paint, automatic transmissions and radios.
The rest is history.
In the coming decades Ford trucks would come to dominate the pickup market and in 1975, so the legend goes, a Ford copywriter penned the phrase “Built Ford Tough”—the three simple words that have become the brand’s mantra.
Today, the F-Series is among the most iconic vehicle class on the road. In the U.S., they’ve spend 40 consecutive years as the best-selling truck; in Canada, the streak stands at 51 years.