TBT: F-150 Makes an Appearance as Cake Decoration as Ford Celebrates F-Series’ 50th Anniversary

As Ford’s F-Series marks its 75th anniversary this year, we’re looking back at the golden anniversary of the venerable truck lineup. A year-long celebration kicked off at the 1997 State Fair of Texas, billed as the biggest fair in the world with more than 3 million visitors, where a 1998 F-150 was displayed from the second layer of a 50-foot-tall mock birthday cake.

Ford leaned in on F-Series’ heritage as it continued to mark the special occasion. A privately-owned 1948 Ford F-1, among the first F-Series models ever produced, was on display at the 1998 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where it was joined by a 50th-anniversary 1998 F-Series Lariat SuperCab model with a special gold trim package. The latter was available for sale as a limited-edition model. F-Series was also the honored marque at the Eyes on Classic Design event, held at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, months later. Vintage F-Series trucks were displayed and judged at the show.

New F-Series customers also received a commemorative gift, as each 1998 F-Series model featured a colorful 50th-anniversary logo depicting the original 1948 model alongside a 1998 model. The logo appeared on the rear driver’s side window of the trucks. Returning F-Series customers purchasing their third new F-Series truck, or any Lariat model, received a complimentary 50th-anniversary blanket. Also, a scale-model 1948 F-Series truck and collectibles were available through catalogs and toy stores, among other 50th-anniversary merchandise. The company also celebrated F-Series’ heritage in a fall advertising campaign, as well as a dedicated 50th-anniversary website.

Ford employees joined in the celebration, as well. F-Series Assembly Plants in Kansas City, Louisville, Kentucky; Norfolk, Virginia; Oakville, Ontario, Canada; Cuautitlan, Mexico; and Valencia, Venezuela, held celebrations on Jan. 16 to mark the trucks’ 50th anniversary. An anniversary celebration took place at Ford’s Norfolk, Virginia plant, where F-Series production first began on Nov. 24, 1947. Employees and plant leaders there restaged the driving off of a 1948 F-1 in an event that included a 50-year employee and the truck’s owner. Later that year, Norfolk employees would send off the plant’s six millionth vehicle, a 1998 F-150 Lariat.

The F-Series celebration coincided with the company and its dealers' 50th year supporting the Future Farmers of America, to which they combined to donate more than $230,000 in college scholarships. Ford’s Ontario Truck Plant, located in Oakville, Ontario, marked the occasion by donating four pre-production 1998 F-150 prototypes to local schools’ automotive technology programs.

The anniversary celebration followed what a Ford executive called “explosive growth” of the pickup market. The truck had been America’s best-selling vehicle for 15 years and the country’s best-selling truck for 20 years, as F-Series’ 1996 sales, 780,000 units, were its highest since 1978, a year after it became America’s best-selling truck. Another 750,000 F-Series trucks were sold in 1997, leading up to the 50th anniversary. F-Series recently marked its 46th and 41st years as the best-selling truck and best-selling vehicle, respectively, in the U.S.

More than 26 million F-Series trucks had been sold in the series’ first half-century, as the popular Fords had overtaken the Volkswagen Beetle as the best-selling vehicle in automotive history just two years earlier.

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