Sailing the rising tide of truck popularity, Ford's F-Series pickups have held the coveted title of best-selling vehicle line in the United States for an amazing 14 consecutive years. During that time, we've seen a partial paradigm shift where trucks, particularly pickups, have made the transition from work-oriented utility vehicles to versatile personal transport modules. Full-size pickup trucks with their myriad equipment variations have become the enthusiastic vehicle of choice for an entirely new group of buyers-from businessmen to homemakers.
So far, so good. But how does a company go about the daunting task of replacing its perennial top-selling line with an all-new successor? Ford was faced with just this dilemma when it decided to modernize its broad F-Series lineup. Its self-imposed task was to take the pickup truck to a higher level of design, style, safety, and comfort, yet to do so without sacrificing the ruggedness that put the slogan "Built Ford Tough" into the American vernacular.
Instead of reworking the full range of F-Series models at once, Ford chose to phase in the new design, leading with the top-selling F-150, which went on sale in 1996 as an early-release '97 model. Since then, the F-250 has been modernized as well; the heavy-duty variants of the F-Series will be refreshed for the '98 model year.
With the Chevrolet C/K pickups nipping at Ford's enviable sales-volume heels, and the big-rig-inspired Dodge Ram gaining momentum by leaps and bounds, Ford engineers and planners faced a nearly impossible goal in their remake of the best-selling F-150-one they achieved with glorious results.
In selecting the Motor Trend 1997 Truck of the Year, our judging staff evaluated every all-new or significantly revised '97 truck, full-size van, and sport/utility that would be on sale by January 1, 1997. Scrutinizing each eligible vehicle from both consumer and industry perspectives, we considered technological advancement, market significance, overall value, driving character, performance, and functional abilities to narrow the field down to one winning vehicle.
Setting the new benchmark by which all pickups will be measured, the '97 Ford F-150 successfully combines innovative design, sophisticated powerplants, luxurious creature comforts, 21st-century styling, and impressive hauling abilities. For these reasons, and countless more, we've chosen the Ford F-150 as Motor Trend's 1997 Truck of the Year.
Stylish Sheetmetal For A Heavy HaulerDevoid of harsh edges, the sleek new Ford F-150 definitely possesses the look of tomorrow. Accomplished by progressive front-end contouring, steeply raked windshield, and the use of concave drip rails, the aerodynamic shape contributes greatly to the vehicle's low wind-noise level and respectable fuel economy.
In designing the cab's shape, engineers consulted research that showed buyers want not only more interior volume but also the perception of more space. Moving the windshield base forward and increasing the overall glass acreage added to the feeling of roominess, as did the innovative extension of the rear window to hang slightly over the bed. Compared with its predecessor, the new cab was lengthened a full 5.1 inches on standard-cab models. As a result, tall drivers have plenty of room to stretch out and tilt back the seat, and rear passengers in SuperCab models are treated to 3.4 inches of additional legroom. The church-pew-upright rear bench, however, could be a comfort-limiting factor on long trips.
A breakthrough integration of the cab and cargo box lends unity to the modern appearance, reducing the typical unsightly body gap while still allowing both the cab and bed to move independently on the frame. Three bed configurations are available: the conventional Styleside design, in both 6.5- and 8.0-foot lengths, and the sporty step-sided Flareside, in the 6.5-foot length. At 72.6 cubic feet in long-box form, the F-150's cargo volume is the largest of any full-size pickup.