We recently came across this video ad from Ford Motor Company for the 1955 model year F-Series pickups. Fifty five was a year with not many changes made to the trucks over the previous one except for a few trim options and different color offerings the truck was pretty much a carry over from the previous models.
The ad itself advises truck shoppers to look under the hood first for quality, drawing a comparison to a horse buyer looking into a horses mouth before purchasing said animal. “Here is where truck buying begins” the narrator proclaims. While he’s no Dennis Leary smartly stating what you should be buying or doing, the narrator does give the commercial almost a news reel quality rather than that of a commercial.
There was good reason for the look under the hood marketing tact. 1955 was the second year for the then new overhead valve engines, replacing the long run flathead enginess that had been available until the 1954 model was introduced. Engine options included a 223 cubic inch inline six cylinder, as well as two V8 options displacing either 239 or 256 cubic inches. Transmission options included three-speed manual and automatics on most models. Heavier duty models would have also been available with an optional four- or five-speed manual transmission as well.
We thought it interesting that the commercial goes as far as to state the new engine revolutionized both engine performance and gas savings. It would seem fuel economy was a customer buying concern even fifty seven years ago when gas was hovering somewhere under twenty cents per gallon. Fuel savings of up to one gallon are advertised here.
The overhead valve engine is advertised as the “short stroke” V8, and was available in all F-series trucks that year in everything from the standard F1 to the heavy duty and commercial series trucks. The “short stroke” term refers to the engine’s stroke being shorter than the width of the bore. At the time it was marketed as a way to dramatically improve engine life and improve power (both of which proved true). The ad states that piston rings should last as much as fifty three percent longer thus resulting in more engine life. This would have been a big deal at the time because even though we are accustomed to our cars trucks today lasting over two hundred thousand miles, engine life at the time of this commercial was way below half that without a serious overhaul.
Offering trucks with engines that could last longer and an engine line that carried over the entire available model line was smart marketing and manufacturing on Ford’s part. Appealing to value and budget, as well as concerns about fuel economy and operating costs, but still helped to simplify the truck line and assembly process. It’s always cool to look back and see some of our humble beginnings and imagine what we would do to a brand new 1955 Ford! What would you do now?