What are the Ford Free Wheeling Trucks?

What are the Ford Free Wheeling Trucks?

Last Updated June 17, 2024 | C.J. Tragakis

Offering a blacked-out grille, custom interior, “trick wheels,” and very often some distinctive, bright “rainbow” pinstriping (typically contrasted against black exterior paint), Ford’s Free Wheeling trucks were a sleek series of cosmetically enhanced vehicles with lots of ‘70s style. Offered in a limited run in a wide variety of formats from 1977-1981, these vehicles are now a rare find that often catch the attention of classic truck enthusiasts.

1978 Ford Free Wheeling F100

The Free Wheeling (or sometimes “Free Wheelin”) package was a unique and relatively rare limited edition run. Available on the F-100, F-150, Bronco, Econoline van, and Courier, a variety of Free Wheelin’ packages were available for a five-year stretch that began in the late ‘70s. And they certainly look the part. There was even a Free Wheelin’ Ford Pinto Cruising Wagon, with a similarly ‘70s paint scheme.

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While the bright colors and adventurous-sounding name might sway consumers to think of these special edition vehicles as being more recreation-focused, the upgrades were only cosmetic in nature.

1979 Ford Bronco Free Wheeling

Ford Free Wheeling Trucks Exterior

There were many exterior variations of the Free Wheelin’ vehicle series, but one common factor was the blacked-out grille. This added a stealthy look to the front that let the optional rainbow pinstriping stand out even more. While these stripes did not come on all variants of the Free Wheeling package, they’ve come to define the visual style of the special edition and were heavily featured in the advertisements and brochures.

1981 Ford Courier Free Wheeling

In addition to the black grille, there were black headlight surrounds, black side mirrors, a black front bumper, and black trim around the windows. Some models of the F-100 and F-150 pickups included an orange rectangular insert on the back of their tailgate.

The other very notable exterior feature was what Ford called “trick wheels” in their commercials. This generally just meant some unique wheel covers, but the upper-level Free Wheelin' package generally offered white alloy wheels that were completely different than the regular models' wheels.

1977 Ford F-100 Free Wheeling

Other exterior trimmings were more subtle and varied heavily depending on the model year and the exact package. Many of the Free Wheelin’ trucks were actually far more subtle than the rainbow-pinstriped ones featured in the ads. They could be had with more traditional colors and pinstriping that wouldn’t look out of place on a worksite or farm. Not all colors for the regular models could be had with the Free Wheelin' package, however.

The Courier added a black GT bar, front push bar, and very interesting deluxe wheel covers. This made the tiny truck look a whole lot cooler (we think), while also increasing the appearance of ruggedness and size.

Ford Free Wheeling Trucks Interior

The dressed-up interior of the Free Wheeling vehicles varied a bit, so we’ll mostly focus on the Ford F-100 and F-150 trucks. There weren’t any additional features, per se, but the upholstery and colors were upgraded from the standard models. Most noticeable is the orange dash trim and red-orange piping on the seats. The seats are a unique light grey color with black accenting. The door pockets are in matching grey material with the orange accent piping as well.

1978 Ford Free Wheeling Brochure Interior

Ford called this a “dazzling” interior, and it certainly has a far-out vibe. Today, enthusiasts seem to mostly revere this rare F-series cabin. It’s nothing over the top, so the worst you could probably say is that it’s just a bit too showy for what is ostensibly a working truck.

For 1980 and 1981, the last model years of the Free Wheeling Package, the following two packages were available for the F-100 and F-150 pickup trucks:

Free Wheeling “A”:

  • Pinstriping (with tri-color option on styleside, Deluxe Tu-Tone on flareside)
  • Blackout grille
  • Blackout headlamp doors
  • Sport wheel covers

Free Wheeling “B”:

  • All features from Free Wheeling Package “A”
  • Fog lamps
  • Bumper guards
  • Handling Package
  • Bright rear contour bumper
  • White-styled Steel Wheels (in place of wheel covers)
  • Soft-wrap steering wheel
  • Sports Instrumentation Package (with tachometer, trip odometer, ammeter, and oil pressure gauge)

For 1981, the Bronco offered a similar line-up of Free Wheeling equipment, with a few small differences:

Free Wheeling “A”:

  • Pinstriping along the bodyside, hood, tailgate, and window edges (tri-color tape stripe or chromatic tape stripe optional in place of the pinstriping)
  • Sport wheel covers
  • Bright bumpers (standard with Ranger XLT trim)

Free Wheeling “B”:

  • All features from Free Wheeling Package “A”
  • GT Bar
  • Fog lamps with covers
  • Bumper guards
  • Handling Package
  • Soft-wrap steering wheel (standard with Ranger XLT trim)
  • White-styled Steel Wheels (in place of wheel covers)
  • Sports Instrumentation Package (with tachometer, trip odometer, ammeter, and oil pressure gauge

While the Free Wheelin' trucks don't offer any tangible benefits over the regular models, their cool style and relative rarity do make them a bit of a cult classic. If you’ve got a Ford Free Wheelin’ F-series or Bronco, or another classic Ford truck, check out our wide selection of parts and accessories to find everything that you need for your next project or upgrade.

1978 Ford Trucks Free Wheeling Brochure

1978 Ford Free Wheeling Flareside

1978 Ford Free Wheeling Brochure

1981 Ford Free Wheeling Bronco Truck

1981 Ford Free Wheeling B Package

1980 Ford Free Wheeling Flareside Truck

1978 Ford Free Wheeling Trucks Brochure

1980 Ford Free Wheeling Econoline

1980 Ford Free Wheeling Econoline Cruising Van

Image Credit: Ford | PaintRef.com | Project Bronco

Sources: Factory Literature Library,Fordification | 1979 Free Wheelin' Bronco Brochure, Project Bronco | Curbside Classic Outtake: Free Wheelin', The Truth About Cars |

This article was researched, written, edited, and reviewed following the steps outlined in our editorial process. Learn more about CJ's editorial standards and guidelines.