Ford said its new generation of F-Series trucks had "Boldly Modern Design." There's no denying that they did look modern, and they were certainly bold -- particularly the 1957 Ford F-Series trucks.
While some elements of the new styling kept up with current -- but ultimately passing -- trends, other parts of it would prove to be lasting and influential innovations. In fact, one feature fundamentally altered pickup truck design for the entire industry, a change that persists 50 years later.
In 1957, for the first time, Ford pickup buyers were given a choice of two cargo-box styles. Prior to then, anybody who knew anything about pickup trucks knew this much: They came with a box just wide enough to fit between the rear wheels, which were covered by separate bolt-on fenders. The front half of nearly every pickup had little styling continuity with its all-business back half.
The 1955 Chevrolet Cameo and GMC Suburban began to change that. These 1/2-ton pickups, introduced with the "second-series" lineups released that spring, featured full-length sculptured rear fenders capped by neatly integrated taillamps. The idea was tempting enough to Dodge and International for them to add similar models in 1957.
However, in all cases, the attractive fenders were attached to conventional cargo boxes, so there was no functional advantage to these trucks, despite the appearance of greater width. Plus, considering that they all came with deluxe appointments as standard equipment, they cost more than the base models. That did nothing to endear them to the farmers, tradesmen, and industries that bought most pickups back then primarily for business use.
Ford successfully addressed all of these issues with the Styleside. From the outside, it appeared to be in step with rivals' custom jobs, sporting a slab-sided cargo box as wide as the cab. A horizontal character line that was stamped into the cab sheetmetal was continued through the box side for a more unified look, front to back.
Simple circular taillight lenses were inset on either side of the tailgate, which had the word "Ford" embossed in it in tall capital letters. (The right-side lens actually was a reflector unless dual taillights were ordered.)
1957 Ford F-Series Styleside pickup truck.
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It was inside the box, however, where the Styleside broke new ground. Its cargo bed stretched out as much as 73 inches between the sidewalls, narrowing only in the middle -- to 49 inches -- to make room for internal wheelhouses.
In most models, this created about eight percent more cubic feet of cargo space compared to a conventional Flareside pickup, but between short-wheelbase 1/2-tons, the Styleside's advantage was a whopping 24 percent! Stylesides featured welded all-steel construction in their floors, sides, box-style corner posts, and tailgates.
Unlike the other makes whose "beauty" pickups were exclusively deluxe 1/2-tons, Stylesides were available plain or fancy, and in all three light-duty ratings from 1/2 to one ton. Furthermore, they cost the same as comparable Flaresides (though a $16 premium was attached to Stylesides by 1959). That kind of value found a ready audience.
In 1957, Ford pickup buyers preferred the Styleside models to Flaresides by an almost 5-to-1 margin, and Stylesides outsold the Chevy Cameo by 43-to-1. Such success was impossible to ignore.
What innovations did 1958 have in store for the Ford F-Series trucks? Continue to the next page to find out.
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