- A 1956 Ford F100. Photo Courtesy of: Chris Breeden

Spotting Guide: Ford Trucks '46 to '56

How to easily Identify every year.

The popularity of Ford pick up trucks is at an all time high. These workhorses of the past are reaching all time high prices. As a result, prices are going up and examples that were once thought of as too far gone are now finding their way to restoration shops. Let's take a look at the easiest ways to identify the years on these trucks. As usual I'll be sticking to the easy to tell differences.

1946 & 1947

Above: (left) a blue 1946 truck. (right) a green 1947 truck

Just like all other auto manufacturers in the U.S., production of new automobiles after WW2 started in 1946. The '46/'47 models of Ford trucks have no difference. The easiest way to tell you are looking at one of these years is to look at the grille. Notice the vertical bars, grouped in threes. Also, the bars are attached to a panel that also includes the headlights. Between the panel and the fenders you will see a piece of rubber welting to reduce squeaking and scratching.

1948, 1949 & 1950

Above: (left) a green 1948 truck. (center) a red 1949 truck (right) a black 1950 truck

Even though the above examples have differences in what material the grille is made out of, their was no differences between the two years. You could get a stainless grille in '48 and you could get fender mounted turn signals in '49 & '50. Notice the horizontal grille bars, with turn signal / parking lights in the upper grille bar. Also, the cab on the '48, '49 & '50s where larger than previous years and '48 was the first year for a one piece windshield.

1951 & 1952

Above: (left) a green '51 truck (right) a red '52 truck

1951 would bring a new design for Ford trucks. 1952 would be a repeat. These years are easy to identify due to their low headlight position and three large grille teeth. The '51/'52 models were slightly larger than the previous years.


Above: (left) a used and proven 1953 F100 (right) a heavily accessorized 1953 F100

1953 Ford would change the name of their truck lineup from F1 to F100. Some rumours say this was partially due to the newly created F100 Sabre aircraft. The cabs would get, much larger in '53. The headlights would stay down low and they would receive a new style grille. Don't let the above pictures fool you, the example on the right has had extra pieces added to the grille courtesy of the aftermarket world.


Above: (left) a light green 1954 F100 (right) a light blue 1954 F100

Factory paint colors would become increasingly subdued in 1954 as the two examples above show. The only difference between a '53 and a '54 would be in the grille. Notice the three rectangular openings in the center at the bottom of the grilles. Another difference is the two legs going down on either side of the three openings. Parking lights / turn signals remain under the headlights.


Above: (left) a light blue 1955 F100 (right) a darker blue 1955 F100

The cab dimensions would not change in 1955. Again the only difference would be in the grille. The '55 would feature a notch in the top of the grille.


Above: (left) a red 1956 F100 (right) a yellow 1956 F100

1956s can be a little difficult to get right. That's because the grille in a '56 looks identical to the one in a '53. The only difference is in the turn signal / parking lights. The lenses are quite a bit larger than in the '53. The biggest difference in the '56 and previous years we have discussed is the cab size and a couple of easily noticeable features specific to the '56. The '56 was a one year only truck. They are easy to spot by looking at the front of the doors. Notice the area where the windshield wraps around and how the door is notched to accommodate that wrap around. Not as easy to notice in pictures is just how flat the top of the roof is on a '56.

On Truck Sizes:

A custom 1956 F100. Photo Courtesy of: Gas Monkey Garage FaceBook page.

A custom 1956 F100. Photo Courtesy of: Gas Monkey Garage FaceBook page.

I have stuck with differences in 1/2 ton trucks. Larger trucks do not get updated as quickly as the smaller, better selling trucks. In addition to trucks, Ford made panel trucks during all of these years. The panel trucks came in 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton during all years. Both sizes of panel trucks follow the same designs.

Those weird Americans and their trucks!

What do you all think about these workhorses of the American past? Wonder why anyone would care about a technologically challenged auto? Think that all new trucks should be like these? Have a particular car/truck line you would like me to tell more about? Then head down to the comments section and let us know! Keep looking for these early F1s and F100s they are out there still! In the meantime, Keep on Cruisin'!

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Even back in '56 they knew these would be cool trucks to customize! Photo Courtesy of: The Custom & Hot Rod Life vast historical archives.

Even back in '56 they knew these would be cool trucks to customize! Photo Courtesy of: The Custom & Hot Rod Life vast historical archives.

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