Ford F-150: The New American Idol
Don’t play king of the hill with Ford unless you’re sure you’re going to win.
Every year, trucks keep trying to climb the hill and bump the F-Series off the dirt mound, but despite different door layouts, a variety of powertrains, myriad suspension setups and numerous drivetrain configurations from other manufacturers, no one’s be able to unseat the champ.
As of January 2003, the F-Series has been the best-selling truck in America for 26 years, as well as the best-selling vehicle in the country for 21 years. The F-Series makes up 23 percent of Ford Motor Company’s total U.S. sales, and accounts for nearly 28 percent of the Ford Division’s total sales. Over 27.5 million F-Series trucks have been sold to date.
If you think Ford is going to lie down and let the others climb up and over, you’re seriously mistaken. To prove that it intends to hold onto every truck title in the U.S., Ford has introduced the 2004 F-150, and states that it represents a “whole new era of Built Ford Tough.”
Exterior Styling, or, Familiarity Breeds Contentment
Ford has built its truck reputation on being Ford Tough, and for many, that toughness comes across in the exterior design treatment. We all remember seeing the bold, brawny Tonka truck concept, and also recall Ford hinting that some of the Tonka’s styling cues might carry over to the ’04 model.
What the final product turns out to be is a design that Ford calls tough, but not brutal like the Tonka was. Since styling appeal involves a lot of personal taste, the majority should like it since it follows the lead of many other Ford designs, where evolution wins over revolution.
The new F-Series is more contained and restrained than expected, especially after the impressive introduction of the Tonka, but it is appealing nonetheless. Designers used cues from the previous F-150, Super Duty, and Tonka to create an exterior that is more aggressive than before, yet still clean in its execution.
“We definitely wanted to push the design to a new level, to move the excitement needle up a notch. The result is a shape symbolic of F-150’s strength but with an underlying tone of sophistication that really gives this truck aspirational qualities,” said Pat Schiavone, design director for Ford Trucks.
There are no Hot Wheels add-ons and overdone body cladding here, nor is there an abundance of chrome or fancy geegaws. The styling is purposeful, clean, and contemporary.
Going over the design, the first thing you notice is that the badging is considerably larger than before. The front blue oval has been bumped up to nine inches, making it larger even than any of BillyJoeBob’s belt buckles. The surface of the oval contains a subtle crown, designed to add a three-dimensional effect. With the larger badge comes a larger package overall. The truck has a 1.6-inch wider track front and rear for a total of 67.0 inches, and the circular wheel arches easily accommodate the standard 17-inch wheels and tires, or the 18-inchers standard on the Lariat model.
The front end features an inverted trapezoidal grille with an “up and over” surround that is incorporated into the raised-dome aluminum hood. The hood creases and the dome effect are intended to signify the tremendous power waiting in the engine bay of the new truck. The headlight package features large, quad circle-style lamps with clear composite lenses. The fit and finish on the front end is impressive, and speaks to Ford’s attention to build quality and detail. The F-150’s front bumper is either body-color or chromed, depending on model offered, and features large, integrated fog lamps in most of the two-wheel drive models, or tow hooks on the four-wheel-drive versions.