Posted to the Cohort by Tim Finn
As time goes on I keep finding old pickups to be more and more appealing. No, I don’t mean more appealing in comparison to new pickups (although there are advantages to each as we shall see); rather, I am finding these rugged and seasoned veterans to be more appealing than many cars of the same era.
Case in point is this 1970 Ford F-100. It is so much more interesting than any 1970 model Ford LTD, Torino, Maverick, Mustang, Falcon, or Thunderbird. There’s also a bunch of other models from other manufacturers that could be clumped into this category, also. But maybe that’s just me.
The utility of a pickup is eternal. Unlike passenger vehicles, in which the primary two-legged cargo will eventually gripe about the interior ambiance or exterior aesthetics, such never happens with a pickup. Regardless of what is being hauled, no matter how old the pickup, the cargo never complains.
Let me offer up a comparison…recently editor Jim Klein has provided reviews for both a new Toyota Highlander and a Ram 2500. As equipped, both had sticker prices just above the $50,000 mark. While too rich for my blood, and with both being available in less fancy trim for substantially less, one of those two is simply going to have a “sell by” date much sooner than the other. Mechanically both are good for a very long time, but one will maintain a higher degree of its usefulness and desirability much longer, if not indefinitely.
If told I had to spend such an amount on a new vehicle the decision would be easy. Let me put it this way: Few rejoice about riding in any aged passenger vehicle which has endured umpteen spills and spews in its primary cargo area. With a pickup, one can haul a half-ton of steaming fresh manure and all potential future unpleasantness is overcome with a mere garden hose.
Another great thing about an old pickup is how it always allows so much flexibility when out for a joyride. Taking a spin when you spot some much-needed massive treasure for sale? No problem. Even when that ride is purposely to a place having massive treasures, such as a flea market or swap meet, an old pickup provides an undeniable practicality factor – along with being able to haul back a not insignificant number of sizable parts for modifications and enhancements. A new seat, a spare transmission, a short block, and maybe a few fenders? No sweat as it will all fit in the back and there would still be plenty of room for groceries.
No matter how starkly an old pickup may be equipped, there is a certain intrinsic luxury in having such versatility readily available.
You can’t do similarly with very many old passenger cars, especially some of the sportier (read as dinkier and supposedly more desirable) ones. Having enjoyed the pleasures of a modest cross section of older cars, including a 1960 Jaguar XK-150S, their appeal is readily apparent. These cars also help project a certain image about the driver and these are the types of cars in which it is fun to drive through the business district of any town simply so you can see your reflection in the windows of the various store fronts.
These cars, especially convertibles, are immense fun. But immense fun is a phenomenon found in many other places, such as with other people’s children – and do you really want to be with them for more than a few hours? Fun with certain cars, just like fun with the children of others, is like milk and can quickly curdle.
And what does one use to haul home said “fun” car when it inevitably pulls a Rolls-Royce and has a failure to motivate? Odds are it will be a pickup. So skip the middle man and go straight for an old pickup for your fun ride.
Another luxury of old pickups is they are so malleable. Let’s suppose the engine, and let us presume there is a 302 in our featured Ford, decides it is time to retire to that big scrap heap in the sky. Not only are replacements often easily sourced, nobody cares if the replacement engine in your pickup came from a ’70 LTD or an ’89 Mustang. Or you replace that 302 with a 351 or 289 or simply decide to upsize to a 460.
Such flexibility certainly isn’t the case in many older cars, particularly those of the collector variety, as it won’t be “numbers matching.”. In a pickup, who cares? In many regards that adds to their appeal; the transmission can come from a ’76, the bed can be off a ’67, and the seat and engine can be anything that fits. A pickup is truly the mechanical version of Legos. If something works and fits it is right at home on an old pickup.
Since that “w” word has been mentioned, a word frequently and seemingly indiscriminately tossed at newer examples of Ford’s F-Series in the context of not doing any, let’s examine the specifics of not only our featured Ford, but the 1970 Ford F-Series as a whole. Then let’s spread out from there.
Oldcarbrochures.com is a terrific place to imbibe so many good details about nearly every car and pickup that was ever new. The site certainly delivers for the 1970 Ford F-Series; it was in one of these brochures where gross horsepower and torque ratings for the two sixes (240 and 300 cubic inch) and three V8s (302, 360, and 390 cubic inch) Ford offered for 1970 could be found.
Looking at the chart in the upper right of this particular brochure page, one can see where this F-100 has either a 4,500 pound or 5,000 pound gross vehicle weight (GVW) rating, a number revolving around the weight rating of the springs in the suspension. Deducting the weight of the pickup, driver, passenger, fluids, etc., it gives a payload capacity of 900 or 1,350 pounds which is again determined by the weight rating of the springs.
The stoutest 1970 F-350 had a GVW of 8,000 pounds with a desired load of 2,400 to 3,700 pounds.
We are now entering one of the few areas in which youth still has an undeniable advantage over age and experience.
A comparable new F-150 has a curb weight of 4,177 pounds. Sure, it’s heavier. The new ones possess more creature comforts (you appreciate air-conditioning in July, do you not?), safety items (drum brakes were standard in 1970 plus there was no such thing as ABS), and computer controlled muscle with the weakest engine available making 290 net horsepower. Like in humans, muscle has mass and this is where our comparable new Ford is a reflection of the improvements made over time.
How so? Our comparable new F-150, with the base 3.3 liter engine, has a payload of 1,950 pounds. That’s the same as an F-250 from 1970. Opt for the V8 with its “Max Payload Package” for 2020 and you can realize a payload rating of 3,270 pounds – firmly within F-350 territory from fifty years ago. The new ones are simply more capable.
Don’t believe me? Here’s where this information came from, using a regular cab, long wheelbase two-wheel drive example similar to what is pictured here.
However, it will be 2070 before these new ones have the character, panache, and general magnetism of our featured F-100.
This particular example is an exceptionally fine one, being in top-of-the-line Ranger XLT trim. For the time, this was as fancy as pickups got which is to say they were still pretty spartan. When Ford touts this trim level’s vinyl and cloth pleated upholstery plus locks for the glove compartment as both being industry leading, one should not entertain any thoughts of these being a reconfigured LTD.
These weren’t exactly a hair-shirt, but they weren’t decadent, either; maybe it was just a half-way sort of thing. Yet there is a certain luxury, not to mention elegance, in simplicity. Think of this old Ford as being similar to the freedom of not wearing a shirt.
In the course of a half-century there are many things that can become new yet again. With the unveiling of the fairly updated 2021 F-150, Ford has touted the availability of having plug-in outlets to power various tools one may need to utilize. It’s being presented as an all-new concept. Well, maybe in execution but certainly not theory.
In 1970 Ford offered up an under-hood 5.5 horsepower air cooled, gasoline fueled generator to provide power for whatever needed it, seen here in the upper right. Called the “Electric Power Pack” it provided 2,500 watts and supplied 110/120 volt household power. Pop the hood, plug in, and power up.
For 2021 it’s called Pro Power Onboard. Snazzier sounding, with likely more juice, but still the same basic concept. The more things change they more they stay the same.
Or do they? In 1970 the regular cab was the sole cab configuration in a half-ton F-100. The take-rate for regular cabs in half-ton Fords has shrank to 5% for this outgoing model year. Pickups are versatile and adaptable, so why not their execution?
Old pickups are the overlooked treasure of the automotive universe. It appears this secret is becoming more widely known as the Cohort is seeing a nice, steady diet of delectable old pickups. This Ford is certainly in a sweet spot of vintage combined with its ability to be easily upgraded.
In regard to old Ford pickups, it doesn’t get much better than this one.