Deciding which Ford model is best is like deciding which star in a galaxy is best. There are just too many to count. We’re talking about every Ford car, truck, SUV and crossover — and the various models, limited editions, special trims and body configurations — built since the company’s inception in 1903. We can give you two numbers: 50 million and 350 million: The 50 millionth vehicle Ford built was a 1959 Galaxie; the 350 millionth vehicle Ford built was a Focus. Which were the best vehicles from each decade in Ford’s 116-year history? We gave it a go….
1900s: Model T
Ford Motor Company sold its first Model A on July 23, 1903. By the beginning of October, the company had already turned a profit of $37,000. But it was 1908 when things really cemented the Blue Oval’s legacy as an automaker. That’s the year the Model T was launched. The car was basic — that’s a compliment — and affordable, and maintenance was simple. It was also a rugged and durable machine, which was important in an era when the U.S. had fewer than 20,000 paved roads. Vanadium steel alloy was used for the sensitive parts. About 15 million Model Ts were built before production ended in May 1927.
Details About the Model T
The Model T was a significant vehicle for Ford for many reasons beyond being the first true hit for the automaker. In 1913, Ford innovated the assembly line process for the T, cutting chassis assembly down from 12 1/2 hours to 1 1/2 hours, which changed the face of automotive manufacturing. The T’s 3,000 parts became broken up into 84 manufacturing steps. By building the T quicker through the integrated moving assembly line, the price tag dropped from $850 to less than $300.
1910s: Model TT
Ford made its first truck available to consumers on July 27, 1917, to meet consumer demand for a utility vehicle that could haul a large number of goods. Called the Model TT, it was (unsurprisingly) based on the Model T, including borrowing its cab and engine. This 1-ton pickup had a reinforced chassis and rear axle that made it sturdier than the cars.
Details About the Model TT
The Ford Model TT truck cost $600 and 209 were sold in the first year. Marketing efforts were focused on rural areas, but it turned out Henry Ford had underestimated where customers were. Around 1.3 million were sold by 1928.
1920s: Model A
By the 1920s, Ford and the Model T had competitors, so the final production of a T took place on May 26, 1927. Ford closed plants worldwide and devoted the next six months to improving its factories and designs. In 1928, a new car was introduced: the Model A, a nod to the Blue Oval’s first car, the 1903 Model A. It was the first Ford with the Blue Oval logo.
Details About the Model A
The Model A was available as a coupe, roadster, sedan, truck and more. Ford sold more than 5 million Model A cars by 1931 — no small feat considering these were the early years of the Great Depression.
1930s: 1932 Ford
Henry Ford decided to give America what it wanted — more power — and put his team to work figuring out how. When the secret project was finally revealed — the Ford team had worked on it in Thomas Edison’s old lab — it turned out to be the flathead V-8 engine, then called the Model 18. The engine appeared in the 1932 Ford, aka the Deuce. This was a major event in automotive history because Ford had figured out how to manufacture the first affordable eight-cylinder engine for the masses, rather than something only for the rich and their luxury cars.
Details About the 1932 Ford
The Deuce’s flathead engine stayed in production for more than 22 years. Powerful enough for racing, the engine utilized a groundbreaking kind of steel that was stronger and lighter than what was being used previously. It debuted with 65 horsepower. It’s still a beloved engine within the hot rod and custom community.
Ford unveiled a new generation of truck in 1948 with its F-Series — originally called the “Bonus Built” line. Ford had sold more than 4 million trucks by 1941, so there was plenty of demand. Production of consumer vehicles was temporarily halted during World War II but picked back up again when the war ended. The F-Series borrowed design cues from existing Fords.
Details About the F-Series
A number of configurations were available within the F Series, from the half-ton F-1 all the way up to a 3-ton F-8. In 1953, Ford introduced the second-generation F-Series, including the F-100, which replaced the F-1. The F-Series was part of Henry Ford’s plan to offer a heavy-duty frame that could fit a bed. That idea worked then and now; as of November 2018, the F-Series had been the bestselling pickup in the U.S. for 36 years, Business Insider reported.
In 1954, Ford began crash testing its cars, but there was an even bigger milestone that year when the sleek Thunderbird debuted. Its genesis could be traced to World War II when American servicemen got a look at European sports cars and came home with a lust for them. Ford rival General Motors was first to the market with its 1953 Chevy Corvette. The response to the Corvette? The T-bird, a year later.
Details About the Thunderbird
The new Ford Thunderbird was cushy and comfy and boasted a powerful V-8 engine and manual transmission — plus those instantly legendary porthole windows. Four years later, a four-seater hit the market. The T-bird was discontinued in 1997 due to lousy sales, but Ford tried again in 2002, going old school with its looks (and those windows) for the ultimate throwback nostalgia feel. The car went out of production in 2005, but the 1950s lasted a long time for this iconic car.
April 17, 1964, is a legendary date for muscle car lovers because that’s when the Ford Mustang famously debuted at the World’s Fair in New York. It was a success right out of the box thanks to its look, performance and price tag (starting at $2,300). Ford wanted the Mustang to be the “working man’s Thunderbird,” and it didn’t disappoint, landing on the cover of both Time and Newsweek magazines. The 1 millionth Mustang rolled off the assembly line less than two years after it debuted. Just how cool was this pony car? It made an appearance in convertible form in the James Bond movie “Goldfinger.” And we probably don’t even need to mention its starring role in Steve McQueen’s “Bullitt” in 1968.
Details About the Mustang
In 1969, Ford turned the “musclecar wars” up to an 11 with high-performance Mustangs, including the Boss 302, Boss 429, GT and Mach 1. The uber-performance Mach 1 had six engine options and stylish wheels among its offerings, which made it the fastback people wanted to own.
You could argue that a car that might explode when rear-ended is not the best vehicle in Ford’s history. But before reports of the Ford Pinto’s potential dangers hit the newsstands, most of the attention focused on it being a cheap (and quick) car. The two-door compact weighed 2,000 pounds and carried a $2,000 price tag, helping it compete against small, imported models that were popular during the gas crunch of the ’70s. Ford’s “Little Carefree Car” answered that call and sold more than 2 million units.
Details About the Pinto
The Pinto’s problems centered on its rear-mounted fuel tank and solid rear axle, which could come into contact in a rear-end collision and set the car aflame. Popular Mechanics reported that anywhere from 27 to 180 deaths were blamed on rear-impact-related fuel tank fires in the Pinto, though that rate wasn’t much different from rival cars based on the number of Pintos sold. In any case, the fix came with a 1978 recall and upgrade of all 1971-76 Pintos. But the damage (including some PR miscues on Ford’s part) had already been done. Nothing at that point, including another redesign, could shake the bad rep, so Pinto left the building in 1980. The Ford Fiesta was already the smaller answer anyway.
The first generation of the Ford Bronco SUV came out in 1966, so why not rate that one as best? Because with the third-generation Bronco in 1980, consumers gained a smaller and lighter model that featured a six-cylinder engine option and was built off the F-150 platform rather than the F-100. Ford also rolled out more than one Bronco: the even smaller Bronco II, based off the Ranger pickup, debuted in 1984. The 1980s were busy for the Bronco. The fourth-generation also debuted during the decade and featured a more aerodynamic design.
Details About the Bronco
Later generations of the Bronco included the Custom, XL, XLT, Lariat, Ranger and Eddie Bauer, the latter of which featured a two-tone paint scheme on some models and an outdoors theme inside. The Eddie Bauer model was available beginning in 1986 and started the trend of Ford offering the same trim in other vehicles. Production of the Bronco was halted in 1996 — two years after the infamous O.J. Simpson chase in the White Ford Bronco — but a new one is slated for 2020.
The Explorer SUV owned the 1990s for Ford. It arrived at the start of the decade and was built off the Ford Ranger pickup platform, just like the Bronco II. By offering both two-door (Explorer Sport) and four-door versions, Ford graduated many families from minivans to SUVs and created — with the Jeep Cherokee — a booming new market.
Details About the Explorer
Fun fact: This was not the first time Ford used the Explorer name. It also was used for a trim package for the F-Series. On the topic of trim: The Explorer also came in a two-tone Eddie Bauer model that survived into later generations.
Ford turned 1-century-old in 2003 but showed no signs of senioritis. Taking inspiration from the GT40, a four-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans during the late ’60s, Ford added modern touches to build a high-performance GT sports car that was introduced in 2004. The mid-engine two-seater had a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 that delivered 550 horsepower and a could go from zero to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. Hard to believe the same company responsible for the Pinto brought us something worthy of standing alongside Ferrari and Lamborghini.
Details About the GT
The 2006 Ford GT sold for around $150,00 brand new. A decade later the price had skyrocketed to $400,000 because of its popularity among supercar enthusiasts. Ford began work on a new, more aerodynamic model in 2013 that hit the market four years later.
2010s: Focus Electric
You might think of the Ford Focus as just a small economy car in the Blue Oval lineup. Not so. In addition to creating performance versions of the Focus, Ford also began pushing its electric-vehicle agenda with the Focus Electric. The electric version was available for the 2012 model year and had a 76-mile range. Later versions had ranges of more than 100 miles.
Details About the Focus Electric
Electric car consumers looking for convenience found it in the Focus Electric. Instead of having to charge the car at a charging station, you could charge it at home using a standard 120-volt outlet. You had to give yourself plenty of time, though: Ford said it could take around 20 hours to top off the battery using a wall current.
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