Looking Back: 1961-63 Ford F-100 "Unibody" Pickups

Looking Back: 1961-63 Ford F-100 Unibody Pickups
By Wes Grueninger for PickupTrucks.com

The design of Ford's F-Series is like a taproot, with each previous generation forming the basis for the growth of the next. Engines, transmissions and chassis carry over from one generation to the next, with major redesigns often happening independently of body styles.

Some features, like the Twin I-Beam front suspension, would prove to be central to the continued growth of the brand, spanning generations from its introduction in 1965 up through today's two-wheel drive Super Duty. Others, such as the 3.8-liter Essex V-6 launched in 1982, proved to be offshoot tendrils that lasted less than two years.

Then there are some designs that were so out there, so far ahead of their time, so far ahead of the technology needed to make them work properly that it's hard to believe Ford's engineers managed to get them off the ground. Such designs were the one-piece unibody trucks, available on the fourth-generation F-100 and F-250, that would leave some serious cricks and crags in the F-Series' lineage.

Ford originally referred to them as the “integrated pickup,” but calling them “unibodies” is a bit of a misnomer. The nickname derives from the fact that the cab and box are one continuous piece, with no gap between them. The same stamping forming the back of the cab was also the leading edge of the bed, and the single-wall bed sides were spot-welded directly to the door sills. The one-piece body was then set atop a traditional frame-style chassis, making the unibody pickup more similar to a body-on-frame car than a true unitized assembly, like the contemporary Falcon-based Ranchero.

1961 Ford F-100
1961 Ford F-100 (top and above) photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Why Ford chose such a risky design direction for its flagship pickup is the result of several factors. There's the ever-present matter of cost – the unibody truck required fewer stampings, fewer welds and a less complicated path through the assembly plant's paint shop. Then there was packaging. Eliminating the gap between the bed and the cab allowed a larger cargo loading area, and promotional material bragged that the 1961 truck had 16 percent more load space than its predecessor.

But most important was Ford's desire to create a paradigm-shifting breakthrough. The company saw the market for pickup truck buyers expanding from farmers and tradesmen to include suburbanites who needed more versatility than what a station wagon could offer. Those buyers demanded the slickness of post-Atomic Age industrial design. By making the new F-Series more stylish and genteel, Ford hoped to reach out to previously untapped markets.

Advertisements focused on the new F-Series' carlike ride and refined interior, with “five inches of foam” on the seat and 23 pounds of sound deadening in each cab. The cab doors were designed to swing wide, and the knee-busting “dog leg” required on older trucks with wraparound windshields was eliminated. Dealer-installed “Polar-Aire” air conditioning was available, as was a large rear window that curved around the B-pillars and offered a panoramic view out of the cab.

At the same time, Ford couldn't alienate its existing base of F-Series buyers, many of whom ordered stripped-down trucks as farm vehicles or no-frills delivery beaters. Seat belts, mirrors and even rear bumpers were optional.

1962 Ford F-100
1962 Ford F-100 photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The powertrain options remained tried and true. Standard was the 223-cubic-inch, 137-horsepower straight-six that Ford sold under the name Mileage Maker. Optional was a 292-cubic-inch, 186-hp V-8 that, owing to its deep skirting, earned the nickname “Y-block.” Three- and four-speed manuals were available, as was a lone automatic option, the three-speed Ford-O-Matic.

Production was set for 12 U.S. assembly plants, as well as Ford's Oakville, Ontario, plant, which would build both the F-Series and a nearly identical Mercury M-Series to be sold at Canadian Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor dealerships. Other factories in Argentina and Mexico would come online during the production run.

So confident was Ford in its new unibody trucks that, when they were introduced in 1961, the unibody was the model used for short- and long-bed F-100s and F-250s. These “styleside” models, as Ford called them, were available only in two-wheel drive. Buyers who wanted a step-side cargo box could opt for a “flareside” model that used a separate cab and bed.

Four-wheel-drive trucks, in either styleside or flareside models, also retained a classic cab-and-bed design, ostensibly because the unibody couldn't withstand the abusive twisting and flexing that four-wheel-drive trucks were subjected to. Those concerns would prove to have some merit, and would ultimately be the unibody's downfall.

Shortly after the trucks went on sale, buyers discovered that putting heavy cargo in the unibody trucks could cause the one-piece body to flex with interesting consequences. Stories percolating through the Internet tell of unibody owners who would load their trucks, only to discover that the sills had distorted enough to jam the doors shut. Yet others tell tales of having a fully laden truck twist badly enough to pop a door open when crossing railroad tracks. Age and corrosion only exacerbated issues as the load-bearing bodies began to perforate and rust.

1963 Ford F-100
1963 Ford F-100 photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford, which had pinned its volume-selling models to the integrated design, was understandably panicked at potential issues surrounding the unibody. Midway through the 1962 model year, the company rushed a separate cab and bed into production as an alternative to the unibody. So last-minute was the conversion that Ford hadn't tooled up to produce a new bed, instead sending 1962 and 1963 models down the line with the box from the 1960 F-Series, which did not line up with the newer truck's swoopy lines. The unibody style would remain in production through the end of the 1963 model year, at which point the non-integrated styleside pickups were outselling it two-to-one. By 1964, all Ford F-series trucks returned to the conventional arrangement.

Despite being a dead-end tributary off the central F-Series root, the unibody trucks have since shown to be profoundly influential. The Chevrolet Avalanche body-on-frame sport utility truck, introduced as a concept at the 2000 North American International Auto Show, owes no small part of its design to the pioneering Ford. Yet beyond sharing unitized construction, the unibody F-100 also went after the Avalanche's target market decades before it became a driving force. Unfortunately for Ford, timing – in design, technology and marketing – proved to be everything.

Comments

I just bought myself a baby blue 1962 ford pickup mercury 100, and its all original and wants to keep it that way, but I was wondering if that year were all baby blues in color. Could somebody e mail me back and tell me all the colors that were available then in 1962. Thanks in a million,
Mimi

I have had ford trucks my whole life.I have had a 60 f-250 that would smoke the tires with a roll of carpet.Then a 66-f250 that I had from1980-2000 rip.That truck was the best truck ever!I raced honda cars and blew there doors off in the 1/4 mi. (WITH A ROLL OF RUG) My work horse would take more abuse then ANY chevy,any day. If you want to look good get a chevy,but IF YOUR GOING TO WORK OUT OF IT YOU BEST GET A FORD! Beware of my 63 unibody big window with a 428 super cobra jet.

i have 61 uni custom cab big window long bed does anyone know the production numbers, thanks

my dad left me his 1962 ford econoline pickup. its sitting in my friend's field rusting away. would love to sell it to someone who would restore it but have no idea how much its worth. dad said it was a special order for the navy or something and the cab is 4" longer than the standard econoline. chrome bumpers n rounded corner windows on rear of cab. motor-170-was rebuilt in1995 has about 10 miles on it but hasn't been started in about 10 yrs. info would be apperciated.

You guys sure get off track. Oh well just thought I would add to the uni-body post. I still drive the first car I ever had which was a 1961 F250 with the 292 Y block coustom cab. My dad bought it new specifically to put one of them new dangled (at the time) slide in campers. One of our relatives started Mitchell Campers and we had one of the first ones. I have heard lots of stories about the doors popping or jamming but have never had that problem. I am starting to get the dread rust in the step well like most on that cab style. The motor is still the original and getting close to 300,000 miles. (yes its time to rebuild) I have not had a camper on it for more than 30 years but it has seen some good loads. It has the big back window which is hot in the summer but worth putting up with for the looks. Over all it has been a great truck and I hope I can get another few thousand miles after we get done going through it this summer. Maybe it's because it was my first car but I still like the old truck and find her to be one of my favorites as far as looks of all the 60's vintage trucks. I only wish Ford had been more progressive and included power steering and A/C.

I just recently bought a 63 unibody F-100 styleside to restore it has the 292 in it. but i am looking for the quarter panels for it. On both side they have rust in front of tire wells if anyone can help please let me know.

Can someone direct me to any web sites that deal with 1962 F100 unibody pickups?
Thanks
Nathan

@Enjelus We would in Australia call them Utes or officially a Coupe Utility. We would also throw the F150, F250 etc into the Utes classification, although they are really Pickups. All of these are under the 10,000 GVM for a basic truck license here.
A Unibody Holden Ute will have a maximum load of 2000lbs. The Ford Falcon Ute on the other hand has a partial BOF chassis and can carry 2,800lbs, although it is still a Car/Ute.

To whom it maybe that thinks that GM is far better than Ford, perhaps you could explain why GM was still sticking there gas tanks on the out side of their narrow frames back in the 70s, and maybe you could also explain the reason chevy had a never ending love for throttle body fuel injection all the way to 2000 and why GM determined that they had an incurable rear disc brake problem that left there trucks to go back to drum brakes. Dont get me wrong im glad GM is around I wouldn't want most of ya hardcore chevy fans in a Ford.

Hey folks - ran across this site while looking for pictures of '61 F-100s.

My grandfather owns a '61 unibody, an F-100 Custom Cab. It's got the 3-speed on the column and I'm assuming the 223 straight-6. He used it on his farm for years, and was running until a few years ago. I'm really interested in learning more about this truck, and what it might have looked like when it was new. Where would I look for more information?

Hey folks, my earlier comment did not post, so I'll keep this one brief.

My grandfather owns a '61 Custom Cab, and I'd like to know where I could find more information on the history of the truck. I want to know its owner history, original color, options, etc. These are some really unique trucks; I love em. Thanks.

I have a 61 long bed and it has never been cracked at the bed, and I would like to sell it but don't want to get ripped off. Can't say it runs it been sitting awhile. Anybody know what they are worth?

i was in college two yrs ago i had a 63 f100 when i got it it needed new clutch so i replaced that and the dang thing still runs has a straight six in her she aint to fast shes granny geared ppl hate getting behind me on the freeway its the 63 ppl say dont exist anymore 63 high boy its not a unibody but i still love er shes fun to drive traded an 81 f350 custom with a 460 in it for it the guy said he needed a nicer truck i mean come on whats nicer then a 63 f100 sitn on 8 inch iron blocks came off the line with em and was used in the military for a while then was sold off and the gentleman had bought it at an auction back in the 70s from the military she hasnt been restored and no rust to this day she was what u call a base cruiser lol

when was the first uniabody f100 an f250 ford truck was made.

hey guys I have a 1962 unibody restoring it on a 1999 crown vic frame it is a sweet ride with tilt front clip and suicide doors numbers of unibodies made not sure of ford had a fire in 1969 and destroyed a lot of records stumbled on to this website looking for pictures unibodies is a conversation piece no matter where u are

Those wheels/tires make it look like the '50's toy peddle cars.

i am doing a complete off the frame restoration on a 61 F250 that i bought from my dad. i am 95% done. one problem, i can not find wheels for this truck that the ori.hub caps will fit. i have a 8 bolt pattern and the wheel is 16 or 16.5" the old wheels are split rim or lock rim. way to dangerous to try to remount these wheels. can anyone point me in the right direction?
thank you
brian

MY 1962 unibody 6ft 292 V8 auto with large window is for sale after owning it for 21 years.

I have a 62 uni, putting a 428 cobra jet engine in it. great trucks and very unique looking. Every American vehicle has its ups and downs. But everyone should thank Ford for advancing automotive technology so far. Any American vehicle is better than foreign rigs.

I have a '63 unibody with the wide back window. It had the 223 i6 when I got it 15 years ago. The original motor was rusted solid, so I put in a 292 with a three-speed overdrive until I broke that trans. Now it has a 351w with AOD automatic. I restored it when I got it and have kept it nice and used it lovingly, even hauling some large loads, and never, never had any troubles with the doors jamming or the cab breaking. Awesome and unique truck!

In the mid 70s I was a young guy looking for a pickup truck. I looked at new trucks and found several of the brand new at the dealer Chevy and GMC trucks had leftover hardware in the bed and painted over or painted in place. Typically a couple handfuls of hardware each. Looking underneath, there were bolts and nuts missing. I had worked for a tow company the year before and was very disappointed in their 3 brand new Chevy trucks. The old 67 Ford was much stronger and often was used to back up the new Chevys when they couldn't handle a job. Looking at the new Fords, I never saw a flaw. But when I learned that insurance for a young guy was going to cost substantially more than a new truck, I turned my attention to older trucks. Most of the Chevy and GMC trucks showed bent frames and cracks in the frame rail around the steering box were common. The only Ford I saw with a bent frame was one which had been rear-ended and the bed had been replaced without straightening the frame. Both tails were bent up and the back of the bed wasn't bolted down. Poor repair work, not a Ford problem. I wound up buying a 61 F100 Integral Cab (what the article incorrectly calls " Integrated Cab" and the masses incorrectly call "Unibody") Long Bed Custom Cab with a 292 V8 and 3 speed manual. The PO used it to haul a cabover camper. When the timing chain jumped a tooth the next year, I couldn't find repair parts for the Y-Block anywhere. They're EZ to get now. So I put in a 390 and a C6 Auto. Western Slot Mags and L78-15 Norseman Mud/Snow tires improved that toy look of trucks and cars of its era. It was then quite quick. With the original 3.89 rear gears, it would light up the tires if I just lifted my foot off the brake too quick. Being young and foolish, I drag raced it against a whole bunch of other pickups including several Chevies with built 454s and never lost once. I hauled heavy loads (though I didn't overload it as bad as the guy above who put in nearly 4,000lbs of drums) including a heavy crank-up camper and towing trailers. Any truck regardless of brand when loaded to 4x its designed capacity will have some issues, no matter what style of truck construction. I used it to haul my dirt bike out into the Mojave Desert to desert races for years and my offroad race buggy and put in tens of thousands of miles off road. When the 390 was getting tired with 300K miles on it, I put in a 1970 428CJ and have run that nearly 300K more. It's tired again. That brings it to about 3/4 of a million miles, it deserves to be a little tired. But the body and frame are still going strong. The body has never cracked and the doors have never popped open or jammed shut. They DO on occasion when I offroad harshly sometimes get the latches out of adjustment and the latches will rattle. That can be fixed in a couple of minutes. I've now owned it for 35 years and it's still a great truck. No rust issues and it is the original color repainted once. It could use a buff and wax right now to pretty it up, then will look pretty good again.
A link to a photo of the truck (the sign was adjusted a little but the pic is otherwise stock).
http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a44/MojaveRacer104/100mph1.jpg

can anyone help???? looking for a manifold that is not cracked for a 61 unibody with a 223 ford motor. i know there is one out there, they mad 223 motors for years, but just can not find one. this is all i need to complete a 10 year off frame restoration. the truck looks unbelievable but i am stuck in the mud without this manifold. please if you know of one email me @ bpf601@hotmail.com
thank you
brian

I have a 62 f100 unibody shortbed that i restored. I put a chrysler 440 and 727 auto in it . its a real fun truck. And the reason I put mopar in it is because my dad was a mopar guy and had lots of parts. it was a father son project. he passed just less then a year after we finished it. Would not get rid of it for the world.

Like others have said this article is not about Ford Vs. Chevy. Its about history of the 1 piece cab bed design. Ford thought the sucess of its Ranchero would "crossover" to the light duty pickup line in the early 60's. It didn't work out, sales suffered. Ford new back in 1961 that the design wouldn't work in severe duty apllications. So Ford never offered this 1 piece concept on 1961 thru 1963 4x4 pickups and 1 ton f 350 pickups (these models were built with separate beds.

Like a rock...i was as strong as I could be...like a rock...nothin ever got to me...like a rock...i was somethin to seee...like a rock...

I'm one of those lucky people who learned to drive and still owns his 1963 F-100 unibody AND drives a 2002 Avalanche unibody. Both happen to be red. To think that Ford called the 223 the "Mileage Maker" makes me laugh (or cry) at 8 to 10 miles per gallon, and the Avalanche's 13 MPG isn't much better. I love both for what each is - a fun to drive gas hog.

My first vehicle was a 1963 F-100 Unibody, baby blue, with a 223 6 cyl. and 3 on the tree. I drove it, mostly back and forth to school, for nearly a year. It was a gas hog, only getting about 7 or 8 mpg, and apparently was very low-geared. I had to push it to get it to 60. I thought these Unibody trucks were good-looking trucks, especially with 2-tone paint. I wish I had taken some pictures of it. It's the only vehicle I've owned that I don't have pictures of. I've been trying to track down someone who may have a picture of it. I always wondered why Ford only made these 3 yrs., but I suspected that there may have been some problems with them.

I think I'm correct here when I say the Ford "unibody" truck is not really a unibody vehicle. I believe unibody refers to a vehicle which does not rely on a full frame for support but incorporates portions of frames into the body of the vehicle and the body itself actually serves as the support (like a ford Pinto). I own a 1961 Ford F100 shortbox. Real nice truck and an eye catcher too. It has a full frame under the cab and box. the only Uni on it is the box is in-fact rivited to the cab as one piece. So the body is one piece but the whole thing is supported by a complete frame. I think less of a problem than if there were actually no frame under the truck. Treat this truck nice and it will love you back.

So, apparently this was no help. If anyone of you, has ACCTUAL facts about the defects or safety issues. Would you please email me?

justinsbarbiedoll@gmail.com

This is strictly research, I'm not looking for opinions or anything.

i have two 1961 ford unibody one standard cab and one custom cab i am currently restoring the standard cab and im putting a 292 in it i love driving these trucks around they are just fun to drive and they look nice going down the road

I have a 1963 unibody,bought new by my father-in law . I have completly restored it like new.When I restored it I 24 k gold plated most of the stuff under the hood. It sits in my garage beside my 2004 Corvette conv. It gets talked about more than my Corvetts. It is a different kind of truck.

I just bought one in good shape going to restore it, allot of fun to drive. People who see it never heard of one, you just don't see to many around.

Yes I a have a 61 chevy apache pickup that has been gone through everywhere. Just needs painting in and out and carpet. Please call me if interested etc. 580-919-2838

I have a 1962 f100 long bed
Unitized body for sale
Glass is all good, matching numbers
Good truck prodject
Make offer
Got pics
94 original miles
292 V8

The Ford F-100 unibody may have influenced the styling of the Bronco that came along a few years later. Remove the fiberglass top from the rear, and you have basically a unibody sans the rear cab glass and front bed wall.

i have a 1961 unibody with a sbc 400 and a 400 turbo transmission and i love driving those old fords

i have a f100 1964 unibody p/u i want too rest
ore would like some ideas

Regardless of whether or not the unibody design was successful, this truck has great style and comes from a time of forward thinkers in automotive history. A time when each manufacturer strived for brand differentiation. You could drive down the road and at a glance, tell every brand apart from each other. Try doing that today.

These pick-ups are cool. I remember when i seen my first one along side an E-100(econoline) pick-up, i didn't know which one i wanted worse. Over the years i've had both and built them to my likeing. Niether was hard to sell. I don't agree with those who say the Custm Cab (big rear glass) is rarer, 85% of those we see are of that model, as with 50s trucks. probably most were bought by family men for personal towing, camping, light deliveries etc. Most companies buy cheaper (small glass) trucks that aren't as expensive to repair 'spfcailly fleets, still do today. It is still just personal choice

Can anyone tell how many Ford Econoline Pick up were made in 1961 and how many were 4x4 if any.

Thank you

hey bob when it comes to GM it takes Chevy and GMC combined to out sell Ford

I have owned a 1962 unibody and towed a 28 foot 5th wheel with it and used to haul up mountain logging roads in British Columbia Canada to get firewood for the winter. Not once did a door jam or pop open, even going through cross ditches where the old logging roads were deactivated. I had logs hanging 2 feet past the rear of the bed and sometimes had to tap the brakes to turn corners ( slightly over loaded ). I bought that truck 1980 and used it as a daily driver until 1996 when I decided to restore it and only found a couple of minor cracks along the bed to cab area. I now own a 1963 Mercury unibody and the only cracks in the body are around the drivers door handle. smooth ride and 25 mpg with my 223 and 3 on the tree, just like my '62. Truck of the year takes years to be proven and I think I had one and still own one.
ps: ALL old steel deserves to be honoured just like old soldiers. REAL metal made with PRIDE ( not like the revel plastic models of today)

I have been looking at some uni's and they are beautiful projects. Trying to decide if I can do it or not. I have two in my area.

I am the proud owner of a 62 unibody, it has original inline 6 engine, three on the tree and I LOVE it, had it re_painted the original color...a blast to drive!

Anybody still out there? I see that the last post was August of last year(2013). I have a '62 Uni. custom cab 8' bed 292 small back window. Academy blue with Arctic white. Three on the tree with overdrive in every gear. I've had it since '93. Bought a 2000 f250 super duty supercab in '07 so its been sitting. Want to get her back on the road; needs a carb kit and battery for starters. Used mine as a work truck for residential construction/ home repairs. I am the third owner.
Originally purchased in Glendale, Ca. Owner moved to Ojai Ca. Second owner lived nearby in Oakview. I bought it from him. I live in Ojai, Ca also. Truck has rust in the usual places; rain gutters, around tailgate hinges. Bed is in real good shape. Very stock original, except has a '61 chrome grill, and the trans has been swapped with a non overdrive unit. I have the original tranny. I need some parts fo it.

I acquired a mercury f150 short box. Im not sure of the year because I cant locate the serial number. On the drivers door the little metal plate has everything but that. color,model, cert ect.
there is a series of numbers and letters but it doesn't say its the serial number. Anyone know if this is the serial number and what yr it is,,

F10YCA61501 MODEL F100 WB 115 CERT 172 GVW 0500

THX

SORY I MEANT F100 MERCURY FORD. I WAS UNSURE OF THE YEAR OF THE SHORT BOX TRUCK. iT IS A VINTAGE MERCURY.

THX

We inherited my grandpa's 1961 f11 unibody which has been in my family since it came off the lot. Finding the original price has proven nigh on impossible. If anyone knows the price or where to find it, please email me at eleyisms@gmail.com

the only reason why ford would sell more then GM is due to significant government discounts!

Bow tie bustin , ford was the first built and last one still standing with out the gm good buddy , Barack Obama and the tax payer !! Get over it chevy should build a real truck and maybe you wil not have to beg America to bail you out again !!! Oh and gm should stop putting motors built by Japan in a wana bee American so call truck !!!!



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