(first posted 7/6/2013) In the 1960s, Ford leveraged its considerable reputation for quality trucks into an entirely new line—the N-series. These trucks slotted between the “conventional” light-to-heavy duty F-series trucks and the cab-over (COE) C-series trucks. The N-series had a shorter wheelbase than the F-Series, thanks to a cab mounted higher, partially above the rear of the engine compartment. The result was more room for the truck’s body/bed, better visibility, and tighter turning radius. The cab itself is sourced from the F-series. The N-series is sometimes referred to as the “flat-nose F-series” due to the fact that the similarities between the two series end at the cowl.
Flat-nose indeed! While the N-series is not a C.O.E., a casual observer could be forgiven for mistaking it as one. And though the N-series appears to have a flip-front clip, engine access is actually accomplished via two large bat-wing doors! Pretty neat, unless you’re actually having to work on that engine buried down there somewhere. There’s a reason fiberglass flip-fronts became popular.
The above illustration of a ’65 also makes it clear why Ford made a design change for ’66. The cab just had too little headroom! ’66-’69 N-series trucks had a raised roof version that allowed much more headroom for the driver. Our feature vehicle, though, can be pegged as an earlier ’63-’65 model, also known as the “flat roof” N-series. The heavier-duty F-Sseries trucks got the additional headroom too.
Here’s a ’66 Diesel N-series showing that raised roof. Nice color! Maybe drivers were hitting their head from the rough ride when they were running empty?
An early example of an N-series, while a solid seller in its day, is a pretty rare find. N-series trucks started with the Medium Duty N-500 (20,000lbs GVW), and N-600, with engines from the 155hp 223ci (1965) or 240 cid six (1966 on) straight-sixes.Optional were the 300 cid big six, and the 330 cid FT V8.
Next up were the Heavy Duty versions. Gas engine models N-700 and N-750 used 330, 361 or 391 versions of Ford’s HD FT V8. Diesel N-6000 and N-7000 used a Ford-built 330 cid diesel six.
Above that were a raft of even higher capacity models, which in the N-Series spanned from the N-850 through the N-110. The gas engine versions with Ford’s Super Duty V8s sported the chrome “Super Duty” script on its front fender. The mega-block V8s came in 401, 477 and 534 cid versions, fed by a giant Holley four-barrel carb.
Diesel models had engines from Cummins and Caterpillar on tap. While we can’t determine which of those SD gas engines our feature truck is equipped with, they are all stout options for a medium-duty single-axle truck. If it were a diesel, the letters D-I-E-S-E-L would be spelled out in the ovoid hole above the “FORD” lettering—not to mention a huge air cleaner hanging off of the passenger side. Further, our feature truck has a prominent “V-8” badge on the prow.
The N-series was offered in a plethora of wheelbases, from 121 inch tractors to 212 inch straight trucks. Our feature truck falls somewhere in between those two numbers, and is fitted with a modest grain box. It’s probably an N-850, as that was the lightest chassis to offer the Super Duty V8s. I suspect that it has been repainted in snazzy black at least once; it actually looked very fresh when I first spotted it a few years ago. Needless to say, it doesn’t appear to have moved since then, and the paint is starting to oxidize on the hood.
For those of you who were extant in the 1960s, do these trucks still ring a bell? They sure appear to have been fairly prevalent in their day, serving as everything from fire trucks to trash compactor trucks, with a whole lot of dump and grain trucks in between. I think they are quite a handsome vehicle, and “honest” in a way that Ford had a real knack for in the 60s and 70s especially.
Postscript: The N-Series was made through 1970. In 1971, the new Louisville line, which came in both long and short nose versions, replaced it.