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From the side, the F-150 features a new profile that will carryover to the rest of the F-Series lineup. It consists of a waterline from front to rear, and is used as a visual body separation around the exterior. It will help when differentiating between the models, such as with the addition of a two-tone paint treatment or other visual cues.

The other feature that instantly identifies the new F-Series from the side is the drop in the beltline at the driver’s door. Even the Super Cab features the dropped styling cue. The glass is also nearly flush with the doors, and the doors sport pull-through type door handles for easy access, even when the grabber is wearing thick work gloves.

The new F-150 features four doors standard on all models, and the rear-swinging access doors on all but the SuperCrew provide good access to the rear cabin space, but more about that later.

The good news is that there are no exterior handles or visible hinges on the rear doors for a cleaner look. To finish the side view, bench-shaped or tubular running boards are available.

Behind the passenger cabin is a new box design, which comes in a variety of configurations.

The Styleside box is available in three lengths: 8, 6.5, and 5.5 foot, the latter of which helps with garagability. The new 6.5-foot Flareside box is available on STX, XLT, and FX4 models, and features SMC exterior panels with interior steel. Black footpads and outside cargo hooks finish the Flareside box package. The badge on the rear also steps up from 5 to 9 inches, and is proportional to the new, larger tailgate. For 2004, the beds have been enlarged by 2 inches, with an inch added at the bottom and another at the top. The total cargo volume of the 6.5-foot box is 65 cubic feet, which is almost 12 percent better than the ’03 model, 13 percent larger than the Chevy Silverado, and a whopping 42 percent larger than found inside the Tundra’s cargo box.

And while a larger box means a bigger tailgate, lifting and dropping the gate is easier than ever, thanks to the new Tailgate Assist feature. Tailgate Assist is a first in the segment, and it works so well, expect to see it on all new Ford products with a tailgate. A torsion bar is built inside the tailgate, and is designed to twist as the gate is lowered or raised, bearing some of the weight. Instead of the usual 34 lbs of effort required to lift the gate, the Tailgate Assist limits it to around 18 lbs of effort; and it works exceptionally well, making the tailgate feel as if it’s made of aluminum instead of steel. Because Ford listens to its current owners, the tailgate is still completely removable, too.

Although a lot of the styling was done with computer-aided design, Ford designers still work in clay in order to get a feel for what the truck is like in a three-dimensional setting and to evoke an emotional reaction. Clay models help the designers win final approval from the executives, and a lot of time is spent on making them look as good as possible. The clay models are dressed in Dynoc, a kind of clay wallpaper that simulates the final paint. It allows the designers and the internals a chance to get a more realistic feel for the product, as well as decide which colors to offer when the truck goes into production. You can see how easy it is to cover the clay with the Dynoc for a “finished” look.

Making a clay model takes time and money, and some manufacturers have stopped making them altogether to save a few bucks, instead relying solely on CAD. But for Ford, because of the importance of the F-Series, there was no question that clay would be used for both the exterior and interior design studies.

Interior Styling, or, Alright, Who Kidnapped the BMW Designer?

Whether or not you think the exterior designers went far enough with the F-150’s new body, that won’t be the question with the interior. The 2004 F-150 is available in Regular Cab, SuperCab and SuperCrew models, which means there will be plenty of room inside whether you use it alone or with the gang.

Looking more like a luxury vehicle than a truck, the inside of the F-150 is stylish, contemporary, and striking. Ford describes it as modern, precise and industrial. Jim Smithbauer, who, as the design manager for appearance and craftsmanship played a big role in creating the new interior, felt it was about time the interior of the truck received as much attention as the exterior. Truck drivers put an average of 45,000 miles a year on their trucks, and were looking for a pleasant environment as well as good comfort.

”People are spending more and more time in their trucks these days both for work and personal use, but have just come to expect that they have to live with a basic interior. Our inspiration was that a truck can be comfortable but still be a Tough Truck,” said Smithbauer.

“The interior of this truck really elevates the standard in the pickup world,” he continues. “The FX4 and Lariat will wow truck customers. Details like the flow-through console and the floor shifter will change people’s expectations of comfort and refinement possible in a truck.”

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