When you come across an obviously well-loved 1964 Ford truck, it’s natural to feel a little wistful for a time when trucks were simple and honest. However, retrospection often obscures what was actually going on at the time. This 1962-66 generation of Ford trucks represent a time of experimentation and innovation that transitioned trucks to what they would be for thirty years.
Through the 1990s sometime, this was a truck: single-cab, low-riding, slab-sided (Styleside, in Ford lingo). This idiom formed here. If you’re younger than 30 or so, it looks quaint compared to today’s towering trucks, 98% of which feature rear seats and levels of comfort previously reserved for expensive sedans. If you’re older than 40, it looks like what a truck should be.
Until this time, trucks were high-riding, bulky, bulbous. Even the immediate previous generation Ford truck, which had squared up considerably, perched tall on its frame. Wheelbases were shorter, too.
Some of Ford’s innovations didn’t work out, such as the two-year unibody experiment that mated the bed to the cab. Read all about it here.
The center tailgate latch, which was new in 1964, did catch on. Previously, tailgates were latched in both upper corners, a practice Chevy persisted for another couple years yet.
Ford touted its new tailgate latch and made the long-bed Styleside the default truck in all of its ads. And why not? It looked so modern.
An innovation on the drawing board in 1964 was an entirely new chassis that introduced the Twin I-Beam suspension. Ford was proud that it ended the bump steer endemic to solid front axles, but the haters complained that it created a tire-eating front end that wandered all over the road. That chassis would underpin the Ford truck through 1979, and the suspension would survive through the late 1990s.
Interestingly, the ’65 Ford truck carried the existing body over to its new chassis. How many times has that happened? (Yeah, yeah, I know, this is a ’66. Close enough.)
That makes the truck at hand the last of a generation. I found it in infield parking at the Indiana State Fair in August. It’s just how we like ‘em here at Curbside Classic: unrestored and still going.
I happen to like ‘em not too scuffed up. This one looks like it got 10 or 15 years of solid use – the surface rust in the bed attests – and then was put into a time capsule until today. Just right, in my book.
Was a red steering wheel and column typical in a white truck? Did this fellow come to the fair by himself, or did he bring a companion and move the box from the bed to the locked cab? Only the first question can be answered definitively, I’m sure.
What is it that makes a basic truck so appealing? All the details here are right: not a thing present not directly related to this truck’s basic functioning. Well, except for some badging and a now-faded body side stripe. We’ll cede Ford that much on a truck that set the pace for thirty years.
If I hadn’t given it away already, I absolutely love basic old trucks. I keep watching Craigslist for something very much like this to pick up as a summer cruiser. A little patina is a ok by me!
While a super/quad cab is a huge benefit for a guy with kids when I borrow my dad’s ’99 F-150 with the 8 foot bed it really strikes me how nice that much space is.
What isn’t so nice is the high bed sides. I’m 6 foot 2 and I have to jump in the bed to get stuff. On my ’92(s) I didn’t have to do that. Pretty darn handy.
If only they made a basic model again..:
Twin I beam suspension actually debuted in 1965 Ford Pickups…not 1964……One other interesting note is that the floor pan and inner front fenders were completely redesigned in 1964. My Dad owned a 1963 Ford F100 shortbed stepside and then he bought 2 1965 F100 stepsides from government surplus…The difference in cab floors and inner fenders was noticeable between the ’63 and ’65’s….The front parking lights/turnsignals were relocated from the grille to above the headlights in the 65’s as well.
Another significant debut in 65 was the debut of the 240 and 300 six cylinder engines….The 240 would last until the 1972 or so model year while the 300 six would soldier on into the mid 1990’s.
“Twin I beam suspension actually debuted in 1965 Ford Pickups…not 1964…”
It probably saw the light of day (and publicity) in CALENDAR 1964, though…
Singing TV commercial from the era:
“The TWIN I-BEAM ride…is the greatest pickup ride
You’ve ever tried!
Ford SIXTY FIVE!”
I couldn’t find it on YouTube…it’s “recorded” in my memory! And you definitely don’t want to hear me sing it!
I noticed that in the text when I reviewed it earlier, and almost changed it, but I assumed he was referring to calendar year 1964.
I can see how my text might not be perfectly clear, but what I was trying to say was that the Twin I-Beam was on the drawing board in 1964, along with a chassis redesign, both of which debuted in 1965.
If I recall correctly… the 300 inline six is the longest continuous running engine in the history of Ford. 31 years straight if you count the continuation with EFI in 1987.
Very nice truck, JG. Having owned a 63 F-100, I am fairly familiar with these. Relaxing to drive, these solid-axle trucks were not. Especially when someone added extra leaves to the springs, as was the case with mine. The other thing I recall noticing is how many survivors are the six cylinder models. The Y block V8-equipped pickups seem to have mostly disappeared. I always look at that hood emblem, and it is almost always the gear with the lightning bolt, and not the “V8”.
The Twin I beams actually lasted until just recently in the E series (Econoline). I forget – are they still making the last ones, or have they stopped?
There is something that is almost perfect in the styling of these, the 63-66 models particularly.
Edit – I just noticed those mirror mounts. Most of these have a rectangular hole in each door where those mirror mounts used to be. You hardly ever see these with those mounts still in use.
Twin I Beam – I remember as a teen in the 90s, reading Four Wheel and Off Road that the writers referred to the F150 4×4 front suspension as “constant camber/toe change” and there were whole articles related to modifying that suspension to improve tire life.
I can tell what happened to one 1965 V8 pickup a co-worker owned. It was sitting at a service station and caught fire under the hood. It had been parked in first gear, and the fire caused an electrical short that engaged the starter, so the truck started moving across the lot as if by magic. That one went to the wrecking yard.
As one who owns and drives one of the four-door, four-wheel drive, tall and silky riding F-150’s, that pickup does a lot of things well but not everything. It’s sort of a jack of all trades, master of few.
This particular pickup does not care about trying to do it all. It has one function in life, and it performs that function exquisitely. It does not give a damn about ride comfort until you load it down. If you need to haul the wife and brood, it will simply tell you to take the Country Squire parked in the garage. It knows its function and it doesn’t attempt to do everything since we all know one cannot do everything.
“You could set my truck on fire, roll it down a hill, and I still wouldn’t trade it for a Coupe De Ville…”
As much as I’m a Bowtie Guy , I know and respect these solid old Ford Light Duty Trucks .
I owned two’59 F – 100’s , both were short bed , 223 (?) i6 with three on the tree shift .
One was all rusted out in 1967 but the doors still open and closed perfectly and silently , a trick few Chevies ever manage .
Nice article and yes , base model trucks will never go out of style / need for a few of us .
“What is it that makes a basic truck so appealing? All the details here are right: not a thing present not directly related to this truck’s basic functioning. Well, except for some badging and a now-faded body side stripe.”
This raises an interesting question: is there such a thing as a purely functional form? My buddy R.C. Sproul would say there isn’t. According to him, any form, no matter how devoid of aesthetic development , says something about its maker. So, to strip away all aesthetic embellishments, like trim strips and badges, carries with it a message – or a meaning – and that falls outside of the realm of pure functionality. In other words, it’s self expression – Art has occurred.
The lowliest tin-shed church conveys meaning – what its builders consider important and what they don’t – just as the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe. Shakespeare put it well in King Lear: “Our basest beggars are in the poorest thing superfluous.”
Sorry for the rant, but, as an artist in America, I’m always having to defend my reason for being. Thanks for the post. The ’61 through ’66 Ford trucks are among my very favorites.
Well, you do make a good point. This Ford speaks a design language, to be sure.
A rant worth hearing.
Strange how in some ways we have come full circle. There was a time when a pickup truck DID have to perform a lot of different duties…some families could not afford a car and a truck. Trucks are also back to riding high, towering over “regular” vehicles.
The days of a truly basic any vehicle are (probably) gone. You can’t find a “regular” cab pickup with a manual transmission EXCEPT (and here’s irony for you) at a Toyota dealership….assuming they didn’t stop making them this year. Toyota and Nissan were the last to offer trucks with manual transmissions but Nissan stopped building regular cabs years ago leaving just the “stripper” Tacoma.
I’m assuming you meant the reg. cab Tacoma, which isn’t being produced for 2015 on. Manual trans will continue, though, presumably for the Taco and possibly for the upcoming Colorado/Canyon twins. You can still get a reg. cab/manual trans. full-size pickup truck, but only if you get a Ram HD with the non-HO Cummins. You can even get the six-speed manual with a Mega Cab, and I saw one in the flesh–er, metal–a few years back!
I understand the concern many have for manual transmissions. I would suggest for the continuation of manuals, proponents actually need to go out and buy one. The reason they are being dropped is due to a minuscule take rate.
Isn’t this kind of chicken and egg now? My brother always buys 5-speed Civic EXs, except that now you can get a 5-speed only on the base Civic, meaning his next Civic will probably be an automatic by default.
Unless he buys something else. Lotta other car makers out there!
Yeah but the norm nowadays is to only offer a MT on base models, vehicles with sporting intentions excluded. So often times if you want something like leather, a sunroof or navigation you cant have a MT.
But it all goes back to the fact that for some time only cheap skates have purchased a car with a MT. With such a low take rate producing a car with a MT has become very expensive since it costs the same to develop a calibration specifically for a MT and certify it whether 5% or 50% of the vehicles are equipped that way.
I almost did not buy my Titan because of no manual trans choice. 10 years later I’m convinced the auto was a better choice anyway. Still want stick with 4 cylinder cars, though. I miss being able to back into the driveway low point and lower the tailgate until it rests on the stepbumper like I could with the old 70 Chevy. I could load and unload appliances with a hand truck easily by myself, it worked just like a built in ramp. Now I still park in the low spot, but all that does is help reduce the lift for me and a helper to do the same thing I could do by myself before.
Yes, old basic trucks do have that magic, don’t they? And I especially like Ford trucks of this series. I must confess, I like the looks of that ’61 unibody best.
While I prefer the next generation Ford Truck (67-72), the subject body style has always been high on my list… I suppose because of the amount of innovation that took place that set the F-Series for the next 30 or so years. I suppose I like the 67-72 years because to me, they seem just right… not too Spartan (the interior of the 62-66 is just way too plain for me), but not overly fancy (73-79 interiors to me had just too much plastic and I really don’t like the instrument cluster being broken into sections).
I have a 71 F250 and a 72 F100. My daily driver is a 2000 GMC Z-71 extended cab. While I love my old trucks, they are tough to have as a daily driver here in FL because of our HOT summers (I’ve had the 72 twice as a daily driver). The old trucks just don’t compare to the comfort, fuel efficiency, and payload of the newer models. I’ve towed Farmall F-20 tractors from Iowa, Indiana, and Tennessee to FL using the newer truck. I can’t imagine trying it with the older trucks. I’d be stove up for months after riding in those trucks that long.
72 F100 & 71 F250
Twin I Beams survived a lot longer than the 1990’s: they were still used on the E series vans, which only recently ceased production.
I really can’t say a lot of good things for swing axles on the front of a motor vehicle. Yes, it was tough, but driving on a rough road was a real exercise of the arms, especially in the older trucks without power steering. Tires wore out quickly, too.
One of the keys to tire life on a TIB or TTB suspension is proper tire selection, no cheapo bargain basement car tires, and among quality truck tires a you still need a tire with a good tread pattern. The other is proper inflation and rotation. I have and have had a number of TIB/TTB trucks and haven’t had a problem with tire wear, in fact I’d say tire wear was better than in many of the GM IFS trucks and vans. The other thing is driving them like they are a loaded truck not a sports car.
As far as them being a work out on a rough road I’ve never experienced such a thing and a few of them have been used on washboard/potholed gravel roads. But then again I’ve never owned one w/o PS.
Overall the TIB/TTB front suspension is one of the greatest IFS ever put on a truck that is intended to work, it provided a great balance of durability, capacity, ride and handling.
I’ve often heard that the Twin I-Beam’s virtue was ruggedness, but can anyone give evidence that this actually made a difference vs. GM or Dodge double-wishbones front-ends, say, in fleet usage?
Bump steer was pretty bad with the Twin I-beam on my ’69 F-100… I didn’t drive it enough to have issues with tire wear, though (2-3,000/year).
That’s what I meant about driving on rough roads.
Nice homage to these trucks. The ’64 was a transitional year, as you point out, because it looks like a ’65-’66, but still has the older chassis underneath.
I have no complaints about the Twin-Beam front end on my ’66. It rides quite smoothly, much better than the old rigid axle versions, and I’ve not had unusual tire wear or any other issues.
My grandma’s Twin I-Beam ’78 Bronco wandered all over the dang road when I drove it. It was the hardest thing to keep straight and in a lane. But I’m sure its tiny wheelbase didn’t help.
I have no complaints of my 65 either. Granted it doesn’t drive quietly and as smoothly like a big FoMoCo car of the era but it still does drive fairly smooth for a vehicle of the time. Handling not bad either but then who goes around pushing a truck through the slalom. Also the manual steering and drum brakes tend to make you stay cautious. However, I just might make the switch to discs.
One thing I do notice is the public’s reaction. I can be out in the Cougar, Mustang, Polara or Park Lane with nary a look. Yet this truck gets thumbs up, out the windows, from cars driving down the freeway every single time. These old trucks must appeal to a different center within our being.
Unfortunately, Ford STILL uses ‘Twin-I-Beam’ ‘suspension’ on current 2WD F-250 and F-350 Super Duty pickups. So, if you get nostalgic for the way these old trucks handled, just take a trip to you Ford dealer. Even on the new ones the ride isn’t bad, but it is common to see accelerated front tire wear on trucks that are often driven around loaded. It is easy to see the camber change and lateral scrub when a loaded Ford is on a less than smooth highway. The camber is never really correct, and to make matters worse the right I-beam is substantially shorter than the left on the newer Super Duty’s, making tire wear worse on that side.
Another drawback is that the design requires the engine to be mounted higher in the chassis to clear the I-beams. Nothing quite like a high center of gravity on swing axles, but it is after all a truck.
Twin-I-Beam was a ‘quick and dirty’ response to GM’s truck SLA suspension. Ford’s marketing people took that ball and ran with it.
Sydney Allard simply sawed the solid axle in half for his sports cars Ford appears to have gone with HIS idea from the late 40s.
They probably optimised the swing axle design as much as you can, but it is still less than ideal. An old truck-driving friend never liked them, for the same rough-road reasons mentioned above. Back in the 1960s/70s he had Dodge trucks (medium duty type).
It may have originated with the French Unic truck.
In the early sixties, a neighborhood kid’s dad had a ’59 GMC that sat at the curb most evenings and weekends. It became the gathering place for us 8 – 10 year old boys — we’d drop the tailgate and hang out in the bed. Sometimes we’d go along for the ride when something too big for trash cans needed to be dumped in the boonies. It never saw a garage or even a carport. It spent its entire life out in the elements, always ready for whatever unglamorous task was required of it.
Just saw a 4 door 4WD F250 King Ranch with a utility box on the rear passing through my town. Pretty sure it’s not a local!
Back in the early sixties I used to go with my Dad to the Victoria market (our state’s biggest fruit and vegetable wholesale market, and retail IF you were prepared to get up at 4am! and buy in case lots) when he went to talk to the growers about their coolroom and refrigeration needs. I remember the rows of trucks, mostly flatbeds. Our subject for today was a new truck back then! I remember lots of older Fords, Dodges, Internationals, an occasional Chevy with their far-out looks (not so strong here) or older GMC or Maple Leaf. Now they were real trucks – dented, faded paint, rusty. They were working tools.
I’m rather bemused at what the US market has done with trucks since then.
IIRC, you’re in Australia – when you mean trucks with the separate body, and not the utes?
I can’t speak for Pete but utes are never referred to as trucks. Pickups are usually referred to as utes as well now, but US models are pretty uncommon.
Going back to the 1960s I don’t think you would often see an F-350 with a pickup box, they would nearly all have a flat tray for easier loading of crates of vegies etc. An F-100 would be more likely to have a pickup box and be called a ute, but the heavier duty models would be called a truck. Mind you I wasn’t born in the 1960s, but there are plenty of 1960s trucks (as in medium-duty plus pickups) still around in rural areas. I’ll have to ask what my grandfather had before his IH Acco cabover. There were a couple of old hulks in the yard but I have no idea what they were, they looked like 1930’s era.
Pete I’ve read about some of the history of ‘the markets’ in Melbourne’s history but that was a prompt for me to find out that the main fruit & veg market was run at the Victoria markets, prior to the wholesale operations moving in 1969 to the Footscray Road site where I’ve always known it, leaving just the retail at the old site.
Ebay’s got a nice, clean light-patina ’64 half-ton Ford (6 cylinder, 3 speed, Arizona) right now that sounds oh-so-tempting. Somehow, when I awoke this morning, I didn’t realize how much I wanted one of these –another kind of “CC Effect,” I guess:
“Interestingly, the ’65 Ford truck carried the existing body over to its new chassis.”
I did not know this as I know little about trucks but do like them. Very interesting. If we move out to the country I want a 60s or early 70s pickup in same condition as the feature truck. Great find.
I’m in the camp that thinks the Twin I-Beam is a tire eater, this purely from what I’ve heard since forever.
I am in the camp that changed a lot of front tires on Ford pickups! Sometimes I would dismount the tires and reinstall them inside out to get a few more miles out of them. At the very least you needed to rotate the tires every 6,000 miles.