Curbside Classic: 1962 Ford Styleside F-100 Pickup – That Most Feminine Truck

(first posted 6/4/2011. I offer it again as a counterpoint to yesterday’s 2019 Silverado post)

The fact that men, particularly blue collar workers, have suffered disproportionately in America’s changing economy of the past few decades is hard to argue against. And nowhere is it more apparent than in the external symbols of virility that truck manufacturers apparently feel men need in order to compensate for their reduced status, real or imagined. Fifty years ago, men were apparently secure enough in their manhood to drive what has to be the most feminine and lowest of RWD trucks ever. And today?

Need I say more?

I don’t, but this one is rather desperate to speak for itself. Shout, actually.

Although a giant chromed exhaust stack (or two) standing erect behind the cab might be called for to make sure that everyone really gets the picture.

Enough. But the all-new Ford trucks that appeared for 1961 were the lowest and sleekest trucks Ford would ever make, marking what must have been perhaps a high point in the collective male testosterone levels. Well confident and optimistic American men were riding off to space sitting on top of giant rockets, so maybe… Anyway, the new lineup included the very unusual “uni-body” Styleside version, which featured an integrated bed and cab, like a Ranchero.

I should point out here that the decision to create the “unibody” was not primarily stylistic, but to save costs. The “unibody” had a single side stamping from the door back, as well as a single stamping that separated bed from cab, instead of those being duplicated. There were fewer welds overall. It also simplified painting, as the whole body could be painted together, instead of the cab and bed having to be painted separately, then joined. All this contributed to lower production costs.

The Styleside “unibody” was not used on all the 1961-1963 trucks. The traditional Flareside bed was still available. But because the Styleside didn’t lend itself well to the twisting and flexing a truck gets in heavy-duty use, the Styleside was not available on 4x4s and the F350 (yellow).

And because the “unibody” turned out to have serious structural issues, that separate cab and bed version also became available on the F-100 and F-250 in mid-1962. It was an awkward combination: the new ’61 cab married to the old previous-generation bed. That used to really throw me when I was a kid. And we covered that here in greater detail.

And Ford had to tool up two separate door outer skins in order for the respective side moldings to integrate (or not) into that sweeping side accent line on the Styleside.

It’s well known that I drive a ’66 F-100. But I will let you in on a secret: I would never have bought one of these Ford “slicks”, as much as I appreciate them for their daring metrosexuality. I guess it was just a bit to feminine even for me. Or maybe it was just that I didn’t think this bed design was a practical or rugged as the later separate version that became standard in 1964. Which it clearly wasn’t.

Actually, my favorite year for this series is undoubtedly the ’65. It’s front grille design is by far the best of the bunch. And the major mechanical changes that started with the ’65, including the new I-Beam front end and the new Big-Six engines were a substantial improvement. And the new rear bed now really works, having lost those very curvaceous flared rear wheel openings . Looking just a wee bit more butch already, eh?

I know lots of folks bitch about the Twin I-Beam front end, but it’s a much nicer riding and handling affair than the crude solid beam axle on its predecessor, like this 1962. Even the steering wheel had a better angle in the later versions. Other than that, this interior looks mighty familiar.

As much as I appreciate the slick’s quirky rear end styling, it wasn’t what I had in mind at the time: maximum utility and ruggedness. And its two-handle tailgate latches seem a bit tedious. Amazingly enough, my battered tailgate still works and latches. The ’64 and up bed looks a bit more solid to me, and it’s not just my imagination.

But I admit to having a soft spot for that giant rear window, which the non-unibody trucks never had. And I’ve always wondered, did Ford spend the money to have this big piece of glass tooled up, or is it a leftover windshield or rear window from a previous car? Does anybody recognize it?

The engines available in this ’62 were Ford’s old but quite adequate 223 cubic inch “Mileage Maker” six, or the less-than-admirable 292 CID Y-block 292 V8, not known for its efficiency. The 262 CID version of the six was also in the mix, and would be my choice (obviously).  From the emblem on the hood, this one is graced with a six, and a four-speed granny-gear manual.

Somehow, the loads that needed to be hauled in 1962 were done so, even if it was with a pathetic little 114 hp six and a sleek and feminine low-rider body.