Who's Yer Daddy: A Brief History Of Ford Super Duty Pickups

Who's Yer Daddy: A Brief History Of Ford Super Duty
By Sue Mead

Talk to the truck guys at Ford and you’ll find they’re down-right bullish about the newest offspring: The 2011 Super Duty line of pickups. In fact, they’re perfectly proud about the latest prodigy as a result of its increased capabilities, its cutting-edge technologies and a plethora of upgrades. But the truck that debuted at the State Fair of Texas isn’t the result of several years of work improving the previous Super Duty. It’s the culmination of more than a decade of focus on Ford’s heavy-duty pickups.

“We’re pretty confident in our DNA, especially with Super Duty,” said Pat Schiavone, Director of Ford Truck Design. Credited with the design of the 11th-generation Ford F-150, the best-selling truck in the world, Schiavone pointed out that the Super Duty blueprint has been “consistent from Day One.” While Ford pickups go back to the F-1 and the F-Series line of trucks, the ’99 Super Duty model was crafted as a unique extraction from the bloodline.

“In ’99, we were a little more tentative about what our customers would think, but we’ve been consistent since then,” Schiavone said. “Now, we have more confidence; we make it tougher and they (our customers) say you can’t make it too tough. We’ve made it bolder and stronger with every generation and, now, it’s even more so.”

2000 Ford F-350 Super Duty
Ford drew a firm line between its light and heavy-duty pickups when it introduced the 1999 F-Series Super Duty trucks. It featured the legendary 7.3-liter Power Stroke diesel V-8.

When a new branch was cleaved from the F-Series family tree, Super Duties were influenced by Ford’s semis and big trucks, with a drop-down belt line and huge mirrors, to help with trailer towing. “We didn’t know how that would play out,” Schiavone explained. “The change with big mirrors was about durability, form-following-function, and trying to distinguish it from the F-150, but we’ve come to see it as a part of what Super Duty is.

“It’s been absolutely wonderful,” Schiavone said. “Harley would never stray too far with what Harleys would look like and Ford wouldn’t either. We started with big nostrils and we’ve continued with big nostrils, big lamps, big mirrors and a big grille.”

Schiavone says that the Super Duty is about the customer and what the customer likes is a capable look.

“It can’t be too tough for us and for them. The grille has grown and the headlamps have grown and, the truth is, they function better,” Schiavone said. “The same with the bumper; it’s about big chrome, about how we’ve tuned and refined it, and it’s also about the world’s biggest Ford Logo. If we go one step bigger, it’ll be on the front of a dealership.”

1997 Ford Powerforce Concept
1997 Ford Powerforce Concept: Designed by computer and powered by a 6.8-liter V-10. The 2011 Super Duty is a direct descendant of this truck. It's styling set the tone for an entire generation of Ford heavy duty pickups. Note the vertical exhaust stacks behind the cab.

The last generation Super Duty was influenced more by the 2002 Tonka Truck concept model, the designer noted, whereas the new version is more like the Super Chief concept truck. What has really influenced pickups, however, is the uniquely-American, three-box shape, which Schiavone said is more of a cue from semi-tractor-trailers, rather than something like a locomotive, because these are considered the biggest trucks -- the Peterbilt and Kenworths with the big grilles.

“When people think of the Super Duty, it’s not about cues from a locomotive or tools, it’s about the capability of big trucks and their image—and it’s not the look of the new aero ones!,” Schiavone explained. “It’s also about the integrity of Harley Davidson; I’ve been working with and gotten to know ‘Willie G.’ very well and learned how important it is to maintain integrity.” Willie G. Davidson is a legendary motorcycle designer at the famed company that his grandfather founded.

Looking back at the ’08 Super Duties, Schiavone told an interesting anecdote of this now ancestral version that grew even larger and wore an even bolder exterior than the 2002-03 models. This Super Duty was created with lowered lamps, a bigger grille, a tougher bumper, and a more defined chamfer on the front end.

2008 Ford Super Duty F-450
The 2008-10 Ford Super Duty featured new styling and the introduction of the F-450 pickup with up to 24,500 pounds of towing capability

“The headlamps were tilted back, and customers in cars were complaining that they were blinded from behind. Again, with form following function, we dropped them down and, at first it felt really, really wrong,” Schiavone said. “But, we dropped them down even lower, until we reached a point where the design was executed properly. We had no idea where the firestorm was created, with people writing and saying ‘I hate this truck’. But, a year later they loved it. I totally expect to get the same kind of noise with the new model. If it looks right to us in the studio, we’ve done our job. It’s tougher and tougher again. And it’s the new Daddy!”

For Doug Scott, Ford Truck Group Marketing Manager, the 2011 Super Duty is the “launch of a powertrain wrapped in a new truck.” Scott said the big story is how much the capability of the powertrains has grown, and the all-new Ford-designed and Ford-engineered diesel engine is the heartbeat of that tale.

Ford started sourcing diesels from Navistar in 1983, using a 6.9 liter, with 170 hp. and 315 lb. ft. of torque, says Scott. A second version, the 7.3-liter diesel, was rated at 190 hp/395 ft. lbs. of torque. The next milestone was branded diesels--the “Power Stroke” diesels that originated with the 1994 model line.

2002 Ford F-350 Tonka Truck Concept
The Ford F-350 Tonka Concept previewed the styling revamp of the 2008-10 Super Duty trucks

As all work and commercial-grade models were built on and a part of the F-Series platform, it wasn’t until 1999, when the platforms split, that Super Duty became a dedicated platform and took on a new and distinct look and there were two differing vehicles in terms of appearance and capability, says Scott. By then, the 7.3 liter diesel had grown to a whopping 235 hp. and 500 ft. lbs of torque. “Whereas maximum towing had been 10,000 lbs., it was now 14,600, and payload increased from 5,100 up to 5,655,” enthuses the truck marketing manager.

In ‘93 and ’94, the 5.8-liter petrol engine was rated at 210hp./325 ft.lbs. of torque and the 7.5 liter at 245/400; in 2002 there were interior changes and a new 6-speed manual transmission, along with the third-generation Navistar diesel. In 2003, the 6-liter Power Stroke achieved 325/560, while the 5.4-liter V8 gasoline engine was rated at 260/350 and the 6.8 liter V10 made 310/425.

When the 2005 model freshening restyled the front end and interior and added Tow Command, the 6.0-liter engine gained more torque and was boosted to 570 (up from 560); the V10 bumped up to 362/457; the 5.4 liter was 300 hp. and 365 ft. lbs. of torque.

2006 Ford F-250 Super Chief Concept
The 2006 Ford Super Chief played up luxury and offered a sneak peak at the styling of the new 2011 Ford Super Duty trucks

In 2008, the major change was new sheet metal and interior upgrades, along with engines that included the 5.4 liter and 6.8 liter, along with the 6.4 liter diesel that grew horsepower to 350 and torque to 650. Towing swelled from 16, 700 lbs. in ‘05 to 19,200 in ‘06 and to 24, 500 in ’08, when the payload of an F-450 was rated at 6,120.

“The 2011 Super Duty is all about big changes in powertrain capability -- engine performance, towing and payload, plus the Ford-designed and Ford-engineered 6.7-liter diesel that evolved as a result of leveraging global resources,” Scott said, noting that the truck used “diesel resources in Europe, in particular; and using a dedicated diesel team, established at Ford, in 2007.”

The new 6.7-liter Power Stroke turbocharged V-8 diesel joins a new standard 6.2-liter V-8 petrol engine that replaces the 5.4; both have 6-speed transmissions, which help improve fuel economy. “We expect to have class-leading fuel economy; horsepower and torque; significant improvements over today’s gas and diesel offerings; and expect the Super Duty to be a segment-leader in payload and towing.”

2011 Ford F-Series Super Duty

Scott said the new diesel is also significantly quieter, so it’s easier for passengers to hear inside the truck, and there’s a “green angle” to both engines: the 6.7-liter diesel is B20-capable, “which is huge for the agricultural market and a ‘customer want’. The 6.2-liter gasoline engine is E85/Flex Fuel capable and, from a durability standpoint, it’s about towing, payload and engine performance.” Scott expects that up to 65 percent of new Super Duty buyers will choose the diesel option.

“It’s critical to the segment. We think we have the amped solution with the 2011 Super Duty.”


ok one, Ford is the best... great story mike. what a legendary line of trucks... the biggest thing i took from this story is from the caption under the 1999 photo!! it says the LEGENDARY 7.3 Liter... it was arguably the most reliable diesel on the market..... i got a question mike, other than to change things up a bit, why do you think ford strayed away from this diesel? could they not have kept it and met new emission standards???

@ Mike.

Great write up. Any guestimates when the sheet metal rear of A Pillar will FINALLY get changed? Is the next "update" a clean sheet design?

I assume to some degree it depends on when economy gets going again?

One more year and they've tied the run of the 73 -86 GMs. Mind you on those the front end changes were mainly to grille.

@ taylor

While I do agree the 7.3 was a great motor (I'll even give it the second best diesel in an HD pickup). It was no where near the reliability of the cummins.

Damn, dodge really started somthing with the large grille, from the big rigs. Look at that grille on the new super duty....hopefully 20 years from now that wont look goofy. Look's damn good.

@ ISL.... i agree with you 100%.. however the 7.3 is really the only engine around lately that has been able to compete with the cummins... what i mean is there are a lot of 7.3s with as many miles as a cummins but there are definatly more cummins with a ton of miles... ive always said i wish i could BUY from a dealer a cummins wrapped with a ford truck


You Can! But, it has to be an F650 or larger. ;-)

I don't know. I see the oversized headlights, mirrors, and grille insignia as cartoonish. If you look at classic cars and trucks, the truly timeless designs are always the clean designs. Probably the most popular collector light trucks are the '67-'72 GM models, and they had a very nice understated purposeful look to them. Very clean, with a consistant design throughout. Look at the current Tundra. It is a horrible missmatch of styling cues borrowed from other trucks. The 2011 Super Duty is certainly a better job, but it comes off as exaggerated, looking very much like the result of multiple restyles on a dated design. And that is pretty much what it is.

front end is new - bumper is new, grille is new, headlights are new, powerdome hood is new

the sides - the fenders were more sculptured in 08 and they added vents, and now they have gotten bigger flares

tailgate was new in 08, rear bumper grew in 08, they added in a tailgate step and extender

the interior was all new 08 and is new again

changes to the frame, axels and wheels.

would i like to see more changes to the doors and bed sides, yes, but the 17 yr comparison to the older gm is not true.

Ford makes the best truck no doubt about it. I hope the new 6.7 Powerstroke is a really good diesel, I think it will be. I believe Ford has learned from the mistakes of the 6.0. I agree with Taylor though, Ford would have the perfect truck if the made the Super Duty's with the Cummins engine.

@ Paul.... touche lol... and i think a lot of people agree with me on that topic... its the hard truth

To answer why Ford never used the 7.3l in it future line up, International stopped making it.

I never thought the 7.3L was all that great. It is just the 6.0L was so bad........

@Big Bob I realize that the 6.0 had major problems in the early years but not all was bad with that engine. I have an 06 6.0 with 45K, yes the turbo went out (which was known to) but have had no other problems whats so ever! I also know quite a few others with the 6.0 that have between 100K and 200K and have had very MINOR problems.... just wanted to make it aware that not ALL is bad with that engine.

I feel the '11 Super Duty will be great especially with the new engine packages. The 6.7 is sure to be giving nightmares at Dodge and GM because it shows that Ford is capable of producing an UNBELIEVEABLE engine on its own. I feel they have really done their homework on this one and it should be a great engine.

While I'm no ford guy, I like the fact that The 2011 SD uses the same cab. If you paid attention in the article, Ford wanted this truck to maintain big rig looks (not the new aero trucks, they stated). The cab design gives the truck familiarity and helps it maintain a boxy, tough look. Mack Trucks (before it was bought from Renault by Volvo) used the R, U, DM, and Superliner cab for almost four decades before discontinuing it along with the models that it fit in 2005. I know it's different with pickups, but I don't think it's critical/necessary to change EVERYTHING every ten years. It shows in Ford's sales number. Even though the cab is the same as '98, The Super Duty is still the number one selling HD pickup.

Great to finally see a great Ford truck product again! I walked away from Fords after the 2003 model year. I went to a Cummins Dodge to avoid the 6.0 on my last truck purchase. In my opinion, the 5.9 Cummins was the best available after having spent time in all of the Big 3 heavy duty trucks. I love my Dodge, has been extremely reliable, with knock on wood, no issues to date. I would gladly run the Ford label again with this new Super Duty. Looks like Ford got it ALL right this time.

hey mike, when is the test drive????

@ tony

73 - 76: 14 years
99 - 11: 13 years

Never said 17...

well, i for one am a big ford fan. but, the powerstrokes are dead.. yep, dead... ford needs to sit down and get with
Catapiller and put a yeller motor in its new pickups for 2012.
i got a 2009 F-450 Diesel and it sucks! fuel MPG is lousy.. im only getting 12 MPG highway. when Ford gets it right with its diesels maybe ill get another one but, until then ill be lookin at Dodge..

Thanks for all this awesome information. I picked up the October issue of Diesel Power magazine and there's a great article describing Ford's new 6.7 engine named "Scorpion". It's very impressive but I understand will quite a bit more money when released so I've been looking at the current deals. I'm in the process of purchasing (i think) a 2010 f350 SRW with the 6.4 L Turbo Power Stroke but have also seriously been considering the GMC 2500 HD 6.6 duramax, both crew cabs with the ford having an 8 foot bed and gmc a 6.5. Just curious and would like to know which one you would chose? thanks. I'm new to the diesel area as I'm driving a 1999 Chevy 2500HD 7.4 L gas, crew cab, 6.5 foot bed which runs great with great power and sweet for off-road with the 35 inch muds.

have a 03 6.0l lotta power lotta trouble. but after many dollars spent got 175k miles inside of truck is great suspension ok motor trouble. bought the first to hit the market and got rid of my 24m/gal 7.3l. what a mistake. ready for a new truck thought of a chevy but will wait to see the new fords hope for the best as i like ford trucks


I currently have a 97' V10 (motor home) in the repair shop for a blown sparkplug. Aluminum head! The repair shop is putting in a heli coil $400. versus new head $3000 plus! The reason I am on this webb page is that I'm considering trading this RV (which I otherwise Love) as I and my wife are fearful of another plug blow out on the road to Florida this winter. I'm retired military so I frankly would prefer to keep what I have, but again, fearful that the V10 will blow another plug or this fix may not hold up. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. We are in our 70's...older age will sometimes take away ones confidence. Thanks for any help with this question.

The F250 with the 7.3 diesel was definitely the best combination of truck + engine available in the early 2000s - IHC has always had it ALL over Cat and Cummins in both power output and longevity, and the V-8 always has a positive torque curve. They stopped making the 7.3 due to emissions regs - I was always suspicious of the 6.0 and 6.4; I just never thought that they could get the same performance with that much of a drop in displacement. Turns out they couldn't.

Is the V-10 still going to be available in the new Super Duty? Since the demise of the 7.3 diesel, that would be my choice of engine - unless Ford stretches the 5.4 V-8 to make a V-12 out of it....

The picture of the 1999 truck was the best truck body/style ever this includes the grille and the way the front end is built the 7.3 was the best truck engine ever made EVER!!!! Think of what you could do if you put that displcement to its maximum potential you could make over 500 hp easily if you maximally maxed it out you would probably be pushing a little over 1,000 hp cummins suck they make small inline 6 motors for dodge the reason why people think theyre so cool is because they have the most aftermarket parts available chevy/gmc is even worse isuzu makes their diesels and we all know japan cant make power why do you think they lost WW2 (haha jokes!) they tried to get the 7.3 to comply with emission standards but it was just too big and too much of a beast the bottom line is after the 7.3 went out all Fords looked uglier the new ones are the worst and no truck engine will ever be as good as the 7.3 powerstroke

You left out the really interesting information, like what was the first super duty... did it come with the 6.9 IDI? You also left out IDI Turbo entirely, although I guess putting out a detuned turbo to not compete with the upcoming Powerstroke is just another black mark in Ford history.

Ford needs to rethink its engins totally, I have a Brazilian F250 with a 4.5Liter MMW engin that gives me 30 miles to the gallon, which I use in Africa, this vehicle stacks up well to the Landcruiser, Ford neeeds to put a 4.5 liter in their F250 which is great for every day use, they need a straight 6 of about 6liters for their F350 which is good for towing lite stuff, boats and horse trailers, and then a larger 6 cylinder engin for the F450 and an even larger engin for the F550. This engin can be the same block, just with different settings, and if cummins does not want to play ball Detroit makes an very nice small enging which I have in several ADT's that have given me no problems.

I have been thinking about this all day, I am sure that there is a very nice auto manual transmission available from ZF that would make the trucks paddle shifts that would increase fuel efficiency and towing ability

I know hands down the ford diesel engines are the best out there. I have a 2006 SD with the 6.0 and I am a cummins certified and ford certified tech. With that said even the ford 6.0 beats out the 6.7 cummins in reliability. Cummins vgt turbo actuator and actuator controllers failes all the time and knocks out the DPF. Can you OUCH??? Thats a lot of $$$$ 1700 recon dpf, 2800 turbo and 1000 actuator plus labor and extras. The 6.0 and up Ford diesel do have issues but not nothing like this. I left Ford because I could not make a good living as commission tech but Cummins on the other hand has a lot of issues and down time.FOMOCO

ooooooowwwow oooooowwww
just this???

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