The newest Ford truck, celebrates Ford's 100th birthday. There is a lot riding on this truck.

All new from the ground up, it's bigger, faster, longer and more Tonka er than before. I'm not a fan of the wind tunnels that automobile manufactures design our vehicles in. I know that helps make them quieter, more fuel efficient being aerodynamic, but TRUCKS should not look like space ships. Tough looking trucks is what I like. I took me a while to get used to the look of the Ford F150 1997 model. All rounding an all. I did finally get used to it and was tickled that Ford didn't do the wind tunnel job to the F250/350 with the new Super Duties in the 1999 model. And now, I can like the new 2004 F150 right off the bat with the bold tough "in your face" look once again. Big grill, raised hood still with good visibility and a wider track, rectangle mirrors, 300 horsepower and an off road champion makes my job a joy! Even the inside is bigger and longer. Ford remembered I'm a 2XL with wider door armrests, big butt seats with a large cab that reminds me of the Ford Super Duties series inside and even the notch cut door windows for the mirrors like big brother F250.

I pulled 7000# trailers in Texas with Ford, Dodge, Chevy and Toyota.

There is a lot riding on this new truck being the best selling vehicle in America for 21 years and the best selling truck for 26 years. Competition is growing with the 5th full size 1/2 ton truck line coming from Nissan this winter. Ford knows how much of the company's future depends on truck sales and went with a bold larger entry. Taking bragging rights with the best towing rating, best payload rating, best cargo volume, quietists cab, and most configurations in body types. Actually it looks like each model of cab and bed length has it's own Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.

We drove two days through the wooded hill country around San Antonio Texas. And you know I didn't baby the trucks. Actually we (press) were turned loose with a map and loose we got. We drove through potholes I thought would bottom out the springs and bend the rims, but they didn't. Driving on the dirt roads of Texas, (I should call them rock roads) the truck cornered and hugged the road like a Baja racer. We climbed what looked like 40 degree approaches up hills and into creek beds. Watching the trucks that got ahead of us, (they had helmets I think) I could see the amazing wheel travel over those speed bumps we call rocks. The new frame is boxed with the front section hydro-formed. The frame is stronger and I noticed how little flex the frame has. This gives you more control and better feedback from what should be flexing, the springs not the frame.  Driving the new F150 now has less bounce and wheel hop from the new wider longer rear leaf springs with  an exclusive new feature of shocks on the outside of the rear leaf springs. This gives you more stable wheel travel for clearing obstacles off-road. The truck responded unbelievably on the back roads and creek beds of South Texas.


Regular cab isn't regular anymore. Six inches longer and a access  door.

Regular cab opened up. The twin access doors can come in handy for throwing tool boxes and such in out of the rain.

The all new F150 has a new 3-valve over-head-cam, variable-cam-timing engine with electronic throttle control in the revised 5.4L V-8. Variable-cam-timing is the future you will see in all trucks eventually. It's an efficient way to gain more power from the same displacement engine, a Ford first in trucks. Just as the variable intake turbo (EVRT) in the Ford 6.0L diesel Super Duty is going to be in all diesels someday. Ford is leading the way in truck engine technology and still the only large truck V-8 with overhead cam technology starting with the 1997 F150. Dodge has it in the smaller 4.7L now. The new Ford  5.4L cranked up to 300 horsepower and 365 ft. pounds of torque which delivers 80% of it's torque at 1000rpm, this engine is smooth and very response with or without a trailer. The new electronic throttle control along with the variable-cam-timing, work with the improved 4R75E auto transmissions to expand  the response and feed back from the gas pedal. And running the gas pedal is all you need to control the F150 with little effort. Actually the whole truck is easier to accurately control.


The improved 4R75E automatic transmission has some improvements over the previous 4R75 but is still a 4-speed. I asked Ford F150 marketing manager Todd Eckart why they didn't use a 5-speed automatic and he said, "they didn't need to." I will admit the tranny shift points handled the 7000# trailer well due partly to the new torque converter turbine sensor, new air mass sensor and the variable cam timing communicating instantly with the engine computer, probably the EEC V by now, all to increase torque, power, tranny line pressure and advanced the timing for that smooth, and I mean real smooth shifting the tranny does at 5000 rpm's. Though I thought it odd that the 2003 Dodge 1500 has a 5-speed auto option and the new Nissan Titan full size will have a 5-speed auto as the standard tranny and yet the all new 2004 F150 will still have 4-geears in a family of Ford trucks with 5-speed auto's, like Ranger, Explorer and the new 6.0L diesel.

We pulled enclosed 8x20 car trailers loaded to 7000#'s with the new 2004 Ford, and 2003 Dodge 1500, Chevy 1500 and Toyota Tundra.  Ford as you might expect pulled the best and had the least about of movement from the trailer. All the trailers had WD hitches set at 10% tongue weight. The new frame is totally boxed, with the front section being hydro-formed as is Dodge and the front section of the GM frame. I was told that bed type hitches can be drilled to attach to this new frame. This new frame we're told is 9 times stiffer than the previous C-channel frame. The wider, longer rear leaf springs with shocks moved to the outside of the rear springs and this stiff boxed frame all contribute to the remarkable stability pulling a trailer and driving on tough country roads that grow potholes at will. This is one of the best trucks for control on country roads, (gravel or rock) that I've tested stock from the factory. I'm sure the 1.7 inches wider wheel track front and rear is part of the over all equation for the improved stability. Part of the better feedback you get from this truck is the all new rack and pinion steering that replaces the recirculating ball system. There is no free play in the steering so it steers like our front wheel drive cars.

The new 2004 Ford F150 is bigger than last year. Wider, tall and longer. Still room for my Stetson  and more with the power seat up. Trucks should look bold and intimidating don't you think?


Among the other improvement in this all new F150, is a tailgate assist spring inside the 2 inch taller tailgate that matches the 2 inch deeper bed, a power down window  in the 6 inch longer Super Cab, the moveable and removable overhead console, and the optional floor shifter for the auto transmission. Last years torsion bar front suspension in 4x4 went away to be replaced by a "shock in coil" like a strut. The short and long arm (wishbone) front suspension is massive as well as the giant 13 inch front and 13.7 inch rear vented disc brakes second only to Dodge 1500 brakes. 18 inch wheels for the F150 are a new option for 2004.

The new look of the 2004 F150 is boxy similar to the nose of the 2004 Expedition. The design started with the Ford Tonka concept truck. The new F150 has a 2 inch raised hood that doesn't block visibility. I like the bold look, cars may look good molded in a wind tunnel, but a truck should have attitude like an Abrams tank.

The front section of the frame is hydro-formed. All of the frame is boxed.

New shock system outside of the rear leaf springs and 3" wide rear leaf springs, the same as the big boys F250/350. This truck was wonderful off road, a wider stance with more wheel travel and control was effortless flying threw the pot holes and washouts between the cattle guards and gates on the wooded ranches near San Antonio TX.

The model lineup is a little confusing, with only V-8 automatics in the new style, the old style remains as the Heritage model with V-6 and manual transmissions still available. The Harley Davidson model has switched to the Super Duty F250 for 2004. It sounds like the 2005 model will have all the models back to the new body style.

More room in the back seat on Super Cabs, an extra 6 inches with adds 6 inches to the wheelbase of all models except the SuperCrew which already has rear seat room for adults. More rear seat angle adds comfort, but I would have put the jack behind the seat to give more floor space for cargo when the seats are folded up.

New air filter sits on top of the intake manifold again, with a slide out the front filter tray. When there is room I like having this kind of direct filter mount without the snorkels and hoses that usually connect the air filter box to the intake manifold.

Bigger brakes, calipers and tripods. Top row is 2004 and bottom row is 2003. Ford has put the heavy duty back in 1/2 ton ton trucks. More versatility and strength.

You will be hearing a lot about the top moveable and removable console. Put it where you want or add some compartments. The aftermarket folks will be going nuts building TV's, video games, toolboxes, gun racks, can openers, fishing pole racks, etc, into the rail.

Nice dash which comes in two flavors. I like the engine gauges in the middle like this one. Then I only have to look in one place to see how everything is running instead of looking at both sides of the dash to read all four gauges.

Notice the damper on the differential near the input yoke. Ford said it was to reduce vibration.

The Super Cab is well framed in with a thick outer floor shell  that goes up the rear of the cab for a solid mount for the rear doors. More safety engineering.

The shoulder seat belts are in the back wall in the Super Cab now without being attached to the reverse opening doors. This STX Flareside model has a narrower bed with bulging rear fenders and a outward flaring tailgate top for the spoiler look. The new bed is 2 inches deeper as is the matching deeper tailgate which also has a torsion spring mounted inside the bottom hinge to help lift the bigger tailgate.

New rear headrests are becoming a popular safety feature that folks are asking for. Ford has improved the all around safety of the new F150 from the wider axle stance, longer wheelbase and stiffer frame to go along with the tougher look, it is a tougher truck.

Media folks, they keep getting in front of my camera. Here we are chowing down on barbeque at the famous Gruene Hall where George Straight and many more got their start. There was a band playing, I guess I should have paid more attention.

Was Ford trying to give me the bum steer from the Lightning Ranch? I didn't see a steer on the map they gave me but I'm used to some bull.

Ford knows what it's doing when they hook up trailers for the car driving media. Having a Weight Distributing Hitch adds to the control pulling heavy bumper type trailers. The new F150 factory receiver hitch is well built and well attached to the frame. At the Denver Auto Show in January, I crawled under the new 2004 F150 to look at the new frame, thinking then that the whole frame was hydro formed and wanted to see how the hitch was attached. It's braced right for the higher tow rating Ford has given the new truck at 9500#"s.

Round vents and bold "Tonka" looking interior tells you it's not a wimpy truck. I like the 4 post steering wheel for my fingers to rap around on long trips. A few more buttons for more digital read out options and optional power pedals.


The Tundra surprised me towing 7000#'s. The new Ford handled the best, but the Toyota Tundra did well even with the shortest wheelbase and narrowest track as the smallest full-size truck. Some of the credit goes to the well adjusted Weight Distributing Hitch.


Come by at visit me at Let me know if you liked this article. © Copyright 2003 H. Kent Sundling and All rights reserved including digital rights.

Till next time, Good Truck'n.
Kent Sundling (MrTruck)

See more articles from Mr. Truck