What was it about the 1956 Ford F-100 pickup -- the 1953-1956 Ford pickup, in fact -- that brought such instant acceptance and went on to make this a heavy-hitter among fans of classic trucks?
It wasn't power, at least initially. The 1953 Ford F-100 pickup still had the familiar flathead V-8, over two decades old. The bigger lure was style: a tough, solid, ruggedly handsome vehicle, with a new set-back front-axle that gave it a nose-heavy look, as though it were hunkering down.
The Y-block V-8 (1954) opened the way to performance. More creature comforts and improved styling (1955) gave the truck a civilized air. As with its cars, Ford emphasized safety in the 1956 Ford F-100 pickup, with such standard features as an energy-absorbing steering wheel and double-grip door latches. Also new was a 12-volt electrical system.
Styling changes introduced with the 1956 Ford F-100 pickup included another new grille, fashionable wraparound windshield, and optional wraparound back window (just $16 extra). The dashboard, with its car-derived hooded instrument panel, was a neat if spartan affair.
The year's major option, as in 1955, was the Custom Cab package comprising 14 "luxury" accessories and snazzier trim. The pickup's base price had risen considerably, to $1,580. That sounds like pocket change by today's standards, but customers thought it was expensive in 1956.
The 1956 Ford F-100 pickup also had a new optional V-8, bored and stroked to 272 cid as in Ford cars. Rated at a potent 167 horsepower, it made the 1956 F-100 the most powerful pickup in Ford history.
Sales sagged in 1956 generally, and only 137,581 pickups were built. Still, Ford held a healthy 27 percent of the truck market.
In 1957, a brand new design came along -- lower, sleeker, and available with flush-fender pickup box (Styleside) for the first time. Somehow, it wasn't the same, and countless fans were sorry to see the 1956 Ford F-100 pickup go.