Curbside Comparison: 1966 Ford F-100 and 2016 F-150 – Just How Much Has Changed In 50 Years?

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It suddenly popped into my head the other day that my truck is 50 years old this year. Wow; half a century old, and it still starts and hauls every time I need it to. In fact, it hasn’t needed any repair in some ten years now (knock on wood). I promise a very full write-up on the role it’s played in my life, soon.

Unlike just about any other vehicle made for 50 years, these two pickups have a direct lineage and fundamental similarity. So how about we do a bit of a comparison. Since the issue of the apparent increase in the size of newer trucks often comes up, we’ll start with that, and also look at them in terms of features, performance and even their pricing.

Since mine is an absolute stripper, let’s see how it stacks up to a totally base 2016 XL with regular cab and 8′ bed, starting with size:

pickup comparo 1

The new trucks sure look big, what with their tall front ends and imposing heights. But the actual growth over 50 years has been quite modest: about a foot in overall length (assuming that an optional bumper on the ’66 would be about 6″ long), 5″ in height, and 2″ in width. Weight on the new truck is some 700lbs more than the ’66, but has come down some in this generation thanks to its aluminum body construction. But given the vastly greater content, complexity, capability and comfort of the 2016, that’s a reasonable number. There’s very little more to my ’66 than a frame, bare steel cab, bed, axles, engine, transmission and driveshaft. And a steering wheel.

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The tailgate height is a serious issue with me, as I haul and shovel out materials regularly. In fact, hauling stuff, which implies loading and unloading, is what I bought it for and still use it for almost exclusively. And the difference in height (10″ for a new 4×4) means I’ll never have any use for a new one, and why I’ll probably keep mine running as long as I’m running. I can shovel right out the back comfortably, and still hop in the bed without some fold-out step or such.

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Without having all the dimensions at hand, it’s quite obvious that all of that growth in length has been in the cab, to the benefit of greater interior space. The hood length actually looks to be shorter, which makes sense since there’s only V6 and V8 engines that have to fit. And the longer wheelbase allows the rear wheels to be located relatively further back for better weight distribution, both empty and especially when loaded.

Load capacity has been substantially improved. The 2016 LX with the 3.5 is rated for 1910 lbs of cargo, and 5,000 lbs of towing. The ’66 is rated for either 1045 or 1345 lbs, depending on whether it originally came with 7.75 15 or the optional 8.15 15 tires. A genuine half-tonner, although I haul two tons (or more) in it regularly. That does mean it’s riding on the rubber pads on the axles, and not the springs anymore, though. Towing? Well, I towed about 7500 lbs a couple of times, pulling an excavator on a trailer, but I’ve given up that kind of craziness in my more recent years. There’s no doubt that the 2016 can handle bigger loads and towing with much greater ease and safety.

Pickup comparo 2

A lot more has changed under the sheet metal. The standard 3.5 V6 engine is more than twice as powerful as the ’66’s 240 six. Having driven a U-Haul Transit van with this same 3.5 V6 and 6 speed automatic recently, the comparison is night and day, and it would be plenty powerful for all but the biggest jobs. Of course, more powerful engines are available.

I couldn’t find any performance stats (like 0-60) for the non-Eco-Boost 3.5 V6, but I’m guessing it’s around 8.5-9 seconds. The ’66? Add ten seconds to that. Seriously.

Fuel economy? The 2016 is EPA rated at 18/25/20 combined. I assume 20 mpg shouldn’t be too hard to hit with a bit of gentleness. My truck? I stopped tracking its consumption decades ago, as I use it almost exclusively for very short trips. But based on prior experience, about 13-15 mpg would be about right in normal driving, with higher teens possible on the highway at moderate speed, thanks to its overdrive. Not a huge improvement, but then the new truck does weigh 700 lbs more.

In terms of handling and especially brakes, the comparison becomes irrelevant. They just couldn’t be further apart, given the slow and heavy steering on my truck, as well as the crappy little drums borrowed from a Ford Galaxie. Never mind the shot shocks and creaky springs.

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And there’s no point in comparing interior comfort, noise and convenience. My truck is absurdly noisy, since it has zero insulation, there’s holes in the floor (thanks to water trapped under the rubber floor), the windows rattle since the stuff in the channels is long gone, and the engine and drive train are all highly audible. A radio would be quite useless.

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So now, to the pricing:

The 2016 F-150 XL with regular cab and 8′ bed has an MSRP of $26,730. I suspect one could get one for a few thousand less with a bit of effort (or not).

My ’66 F-100 with the 8′ bed listed at $2,121  ($15,653 adjusted). That’s quite a bit less, but the 2016 has vastly more content and features, even as a stripper. But just for fun, and because I found an options list with prices for the ’66, let’s add any and all options that would make it as closer to the 2016’s standard features (rounded to the nearest full dollar):

352 CID V8 208 gross hp (about 170 net hp):   $128

3-speed automatic:  $213

Air conditioning (dealer installed)  $382

Power steering:  $108

Power booster for drum brakes:  $45

Rear bumper:  $22

Armrests:  $10

Tinted glass:  $15

Laminated glass for side windows:  $6

Right side outside mirror:  $5

AM manual radio:  $51

Foam cushioning for seat:  $22

Right side sun visor:  $5

Padding for sun visors:  $5

Transistor ignition:  $65

Two-speed wipers:  $5

8.15 15 8PR tires  $51

Total options:  $1138

Total price:  $3259 ($24,052 adjusted)

That does bring it mighty close to the 2016’s asking price ($26,730).  But those options don’t begin to account for all of the other technology and features in the new truck. Well, fifty years of progress should amount to something, even if these two trucks are still quite similar in many ways; more so than just about any two other vehicles fifty years apart.