Ford's best-selling vehicle in the last decade or two has been its evergreen Ford F-150 pickup that, in between boxy generations (the one that gave way in 1997 and 2004-2008 models), had a smooth, almost sleek profile. Compared with the slab-like Chevrolets and the Kenworth wannabe Dodges, the Ford F-150 was a definite looker.

Introduced in two- and three-door models, this Ford F-150 is typical in that its extended-cab model has a single half door on the passenger side. Sharing a wheelbase, the short-cab F-150 has an eight-foot bed, while the extended-cab version has a 6.5-foot bed. However, an extended-cab longbed was offered, riding on a 157-inch wheelbase (versus 138.5) and a shortbed, short-cab iteration also was sold. What's more, Ford continued its tradition of constructing a bewildering variety of configurations and trim levels, from the appropriately named vinyl-encrusted Base Truck (later renamed the Work Series) through XL and XLT up to Lariat.

Ford followed the emerging trends of half-ton, four-door trucks with the SuperCrew, which made its debut in mid-2000 as a 2001 model. It received four front-hinged doors, a significantly larger cabin, and the shortest F-150 bed of this era: 5.5 feet. Just a note as you check the classifieds: Ford launched the next generation of F-150 as a 2004 model, calling the last year of the previous gen the F-150 Heritage for that model year only. There were also high-performance Harley-Davidson and Lightning models produced in this generation, featuring supercharged versions of the larger V-8.

Powertrains for this generation of F-150 started with the carryover 4.2-liter OHV V-6, producing 205-210 horsepower (it was lowered to 202 horsepower in 2001), but the pair of new SOHC V-8s would be far more popular among non-fleet consumers. The 4.6-liter version started at 220 horsepower and a decent 290 pound-feet of torque; it would get a midlife increase of 20 horses in 2001. The larger V-8, the engine of choice for anyone contemplating serious hauling or towing, started with 235 horsepower and 330 pound-feet of torque. It got a mild bump in 1999 and another in 2003, to end up at 260 horsepower and 345 pound-feet. All but the 5.4 could be had with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic, and only slushboxes for the bigger mill. Maintaining the smorgasbord trend, any engine/trans combo could be had with rear or four-wheel drive--either a manual-shift transfer case or an optional electronically controlled pushbutton model.

When it comes to problems with the F-150, there are few discernible trends. We did find complaints of transmission problems and outright failures in the 2001 models. True, the number of complaints listed is a small fraction of the number of F-150s sold that year, but it's the only model year to show a significant cluster of transmission problems and therefore should be something to watch out for.

Otherwise, the F-150 seems to have proven itself. The V-8s are considered robust, the bodies are durable and, assuming the truck hasn't been abused, must rate as a good choice for the dollar.


1997-2004 Ford F-150
Body type2-, 3-, 4-door pickup
DrivetrainFront engine, RWD/4WD
Engines4.2L/202-210-hp OHV V-6;
4.6L/220-240-hp SOHC V-8;
5.4L/235-260-hp SOHC V-8;
5.4L/340-380-hp SOHC s'charged V-8
Brakes, f/rDisc/drum or disc, ABS
Price range, whlsl/ret (IntelliChoice)$2649/$4994 (1997 XL 2WD V-6); $8698/$13,030 (2004 Heritage XLT SuperCab 4WD V-8)
RecallsToo many to list, see www.intellichoice.com
NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/passFive stars/four stars