Debuting in 1975, the F-150 offered something new to consumers while also helping Ford out with some regulations. As the United States was still coping with the aftershock of the 1973 oil embargo and subsequent spike in gas prices, new federal standards were being enforced in terms of fuel efficiency and emissions. The souped-up and heavier F-150 pickup, with heavy-duty axles and springs, was Ford’s workaround to just skate clear of these tightened rules by falling into a vehicle class that was not as strict.
F-150 and F-100 Differences
At least, that’s how the story goes. Very few would doubt this logical conclusion, and the signs were all there. Ford obviously didn’t come out and announce this new strategy, but the numbers paint a telling picture of why these two similar trucks came to exist concurrently. When it comes to specs and cold hard facts, the 1975 Ford F-100 pickup had a GVW range of 4,650 - 5,700 lbs. The F-150, on the other hand, went up to 6,050 lbs. This meant that it did not fall into the current government-defined class of “light truck," which was for vehicles under 6,000 lbs. The F-150 also did not require a catalytic converter and other emissions control devices like the F-100, which were quite expensive to develop and produce at the time.
The heavier springs made the F-150 a little bit tougher when it came to payload, but from a subjective standpoint, reportedly made the ride quality less smooth than the F-100. There are also some that say that the F-150 had a slightly thicker frame, which would be logical, but we are unable to confirm this through any official documentation.
Moreover, the F-100 could accept non-leaded fuel only, while the F-150 could accept non-leaded or “regular” fuel, which was a big deal back in the ‘70s when leaded gasoline was actually still used (and cheaper than unleaded). This put the F-150 in the same class as its heavy-duty F-250 and F-350 siblings. By 1979, only the F-250 and F-350 lacked the emission technology and unleaded fuel requirement.
The F-100 and F-150 typically came in nearly identical configurations, with the same paint, wheel, and interior options.
Another important difference to note, which may come as a surprise to many, is that the 1975 Ford F-150 did not offer four-wheel drive. Despite this, both the F-100 and F-250 could be had with 4WD. This changed later down the road as Ford reorganized their configurations, and by 1977, the F-100 was not available with 4x4 while the F-150 and F-250 could add it as an option. For some years (such as 1978), power brakes were standard on the F-150 but optional on the F-100.
Engine options were typically the same for the two trucks, but there were instances where slight differences existed. In 1977, for example, only the F-100 could be optioned with the 302 2-valve V8 engine. However, only the F-150 could be optioned with the much more powerful 460 4-valve V8 motor. The next year, in 1978, the F-150 added the 302 to its line-up.
While these two trucks were almost identical in terms of size, the F-150 actually sat a little bit taller (about an inch on average) than the shorter F-100, due to a different suspension set-up. And although the bed configurations were the same initially, the F-150 later changed such that it could not be had with a regular cab and the short bed; getting the shorter 6.75-foot bed required opting for the SuperCab.
F-150 and F-100 Similarities
Apart from these relatively minor differences, the majority of F-100 and F-150 traits and characteristics were shared. It’s important to remember that both the F-100 and F-150 were classified as 1/2 ton trucks (though some like to call the F-150 a “heavy half-ton”), contrasted with the 3/4 ton F-250 and 1 ton F-350. In fact, it can be extremely difficult to tell them apart at first glance. They came with the same interior styles and the same exterior configurations and colors. Engine options were generally almost identical.
Though the F-150 might be thought of as more rugged, the F-100 (shown here) offered virtually the same capability.
In 1975, either truck could be had as either a regular cab or super-cab body style, while only the F-250 and F-350 came as a crew cab. The F-100 and F-150 both came as a flareside or styleside, and overall dimensions and capacities were identical, apart from ride height.
Ford F-100: Discontinued in 1983 as Ford Shuffles their Truck Line-Up
The Ford F-100 was discontinued in 1983 (at least for the U.S. market) as it started to look a bit redundant next to the F-150 that offered everything its predecessor had, plus a bit more. For those wanting a more compact model for light-duty, the brand-new Ford Ranger joined the line-up in 1983, replacing the Courier. Previously used as a trim level, the “Ranger” moniker finally got its own model, which was unrelated to Ranger-trim pickups that preceded it. This was the first Ford-designed light-duty model in the line-up, as the Courier was simply a rebadged Mazda. The F-150 and larger F-series trucks have, of course, evolved over time to become the most popular vehicle sold in America. Though it’s a very different beast than it was back in 1983, the Ranger has come back to the U.S. market once again for 2019.
Image Credit: Ford | Mecum | Curbside Classic
Sources: Ford | Fordification