QOTD: 1997 Ford F-250 Seven Lug Wheels – Marketing BS or Engineering Brilliance?

Ford F250 1997 wheel 2

(Submitted by Keith B.)      So seriously, what the heck is the story here? Wheel bolt patterns for passenger cars and light trucks have been pretty consistent over the past sixty years or so. 4 lug, 5 lug, and 8 lug are especially popular configurations. 6 bolt patterns seem to have become increasingly popular in recent years as well; I think the first vehicles I noticed them on were compact Japanese pickups (Nissan, Toyota, etc). GM also went to a 6 lug on their half ton trucks sometime in the 80’s I believe. But 7 lug wheels?

Ford F250 1997

In 1997, Ford decided to get creative. With the release of their new F-150, Ford began the process of creating two separate platforms for their light duty trucks. With the Super Duty trucks a couple of years away, the ¾ ton and 1 ton models were still based on the age old platform that was first produced for the 1980 model year.

And this is where things get a little strange. Alongside the newly redesigned F-150, there was a new “light duty” F-250. This truck was badged as simply the F-250, while the older design ¾ ton got new badges that specified it as a “Heavy Duty” F-250. This makes it really easy to tell if an F-250 of that generation is a ’97 or ’98 model. Simply look for the model badges that say “Heavy Duty” on them. Prior to 1997, there was no need to call it Heavy Duty, since there was only one F-250 in the lineup. The heavy duty F-250 came with 8 lugs, along with a full floating rear axle and was available with the Power Stroke diesel.

Anyway, back to the newly created “Light Duty” F-250. The most interesting detail to me on these trucks is the odd-looking 7-lug wheel bolt pattern. Why 7-lugs? Seriously, why?

I suppose it was an effort to convey the extra strength and capacity of the F-250 over the F-150 (5 lugs), but also to show that it wasn’t quite as tough as the Heavy Duty F-250 (8 lugs). They may have also wanted to show superiority over competitors’ trucks that had “only” 6 lugs.
Seriously though, creating a unique bolt pattern for one vehicle in Ford’s extensive lineup seems a bit, well stupid to me. I’m sure the aftermarket wheel manufacturers were cursing under their breath as well.

During this same time period, the choice of wheel lug patterns between manufacturers was all over the place. As far as half ton (or light duty ¾ ton) pickups went, Ford was running both 5 and 7, Dodge ran 5, Chevy and Toyota ran 6. Nissan and Toyota were also running 6 on their small pickups.
Then, in 2004 when Ford brought out the next generation F150, they switched over to 6 lugs. I don’t believe there was a light duty ¾ ton. If you upgraded, you went right into the Super Duty series of pickups. Interestingly enough, Toyota switched to a 5 lug pattern for the fullsize Tundra in 2007, though the smaller Tacoma stayed with 6.

Ford F250 1997 wheel 1

So, dear readers, what do you think? Was the 7 lug concept purely a marketing idea or was it some engineer’s brilliant idea?