What ever happened to pickup trucks? When most of us were growing up, they were work vehicles, straightforward, no-frills cargo haulers driven by the hard-working folk. But today, they’re more apt to be fashion accessories, too often driven by those trying to remember what macho was like. And truck builders have been encouraging the trend by loading up their pickups with more frills than a Rolls-Royce. We were beginning to think that the day of the work truck was over. At least, until Ford showed up with its latest full size pickup, the F-Series Super Duty. You know, there may be hope for pickup trucks, after all.
And that hope could mean salvation for business entrepreneurs and recreational enthusiasts alike. As the 1999 Ford F-Series Super Duty lineup comes in a staggering 44 different configurations, from F250 to the new F550, all to meet the widely varied needs of its customers.
Whose attention Ford aims to grab right up front with the Super Duty’s aggressive new styling, that features a bulging power dome hood, and a huge, egg-crate grille, borrowed from its medium-duty cousins. As were the dropped beltline side windows that offer improved visibility, especially when backing.
The F250/350 Super Duty regular cab pickup’s exterior length, now at 226.6 inches, is nearly nine inches longer than the ‘97 Heavy Duty model. The wheelbase is four inches longer. And that creates the extra room needed to give the Super Duty the largest bed and roomiest interior of any pickup on the market.
Interior space is easily accessed, thanks to longer doors on all models, and two wide swinging rear doors that are now standard on all Ford Super Duty SuperCabs.
Those with a larger workforce to move can try the more spacious four-door Crew Cab on for size.
But regardless of what model you choose, you’ll notice a distinctly different, more utilitarian interior than found on the light duty F150/250s. But one not lacking in comfort. Those in the saddle for the long haul will appreciate the bigger seats, with pressure mapping design, a technique that distributes the rider’s weight more evenly across the seat, and surfaces that can be covered in vinyl, cloth, or leather in Lariat trim.
The tall, expansive dash has plenty of room for mounting aftermarket equipment controls, and features a compact, but comprehensive gauge cluster, user-friendly stereo controls, with over-sized buttons, and optional dual media ability that handles cassettes and CDs. While heating and cooling duties are easily directed with smooth F150-style rotary switches, and the optional passenger side air bag can be de-activated with just the turn of a key on all but crew cabs.
Storage is plentiful throughout the cabin, from pockets in the doors, to a larger glovebox and an available center console with enough room for a personal computer, and a handy clip on its lid to keep your loose paperwork from becoming airborne. SuperCabs, like this F250, also offer an additional 49 cubic feet behind the front seat, with a more comfortable rear bench for people hauling, that’s easily folded flat to create a steel load floor for cargo hauling.
But it’s what’s underneath the Super Duty that really separates it from the rest of the pack. And that’s a purpose-built chassis designed especially for the over 8,500 pound Gross Vehicle Weight class. Making it the strongest frame on any full-size pickup.
That’s matched with equally tough suspensions, with a redesigned Twin I-Beam up front on F250s and 350s, and a single, monobeam with leaf springs for F450s, 550s, and all 4X4s.
And that’s all powered by a choice of three engines, beginning with the familiar 5.4-liter Triton V-8 with ratings of 235 horsepower and 335 pound-feet of torque. While the 6.8-liter Triton V-10, the first V-10 to be offered in a Ford truck, pumps out 275 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque.
But those with serious towing plans should check out the vastly improved 7.3-liter, turbo-charged, Powerstroke V-8 diesel. The addition of an intercooler has boosted horsepower from 215 to 235, with torque increasing to a crushing 500 pound-feet.
The diesel feeds through an all-new ZF 6-speed manual transmission with a lower-than-low granny gear, and a higher-than-high mileage enhancing overdrive gear.
All engines can be fitted to an upgraded 4R100 automatic that was developed especially for the high-torque diesel and V-10 powerplants. And in an industry first, the first automatic that can be ordered with an optional PTO port for powering winches, aerial lifts, dump beds, and such.
In answer to customer demand, four-wheel drive is now available on all Super Duties, including Duallies, in either a manual hublock-manual shift set up, or Ford’s Pulse Vacuum Hublock system that offers unique shift-on-the-fly convenience and free-wheeling economy at your fingertips.
Stopping power comes in the form of four-wheel discs which are standard across the line. Under 10,000 pounds GVW, rear anti-lock is standard with 4-wheel ABS optional. Super Duties over 12,500 GVW get hydro-boost brake assist.
Pricing is as varied as the model line, but a regular cab 4X2 with the 5.4-liter V-8 engine carries a base price of $19,160. 4X4s list for $22,260. The popular SuperCab 4X2 with the same engine is priced at $20,915, with 4X4s starting at $24,015.
With the Super Duty lineup, Ford has targeted a segment that includes everyone from weekend wood haulers, to the horse trailer-towing set, to construction contractors and commercial cargo haulers. A market that has grown more than 80 percent in the last five years. Prompting us to say, that when it comes to tough truck needs, Ford has a “super” solution.
Engine: 5.2 Liter V8
Torque: 300 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 8.7 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 16.5 Seconds @ 79 MPH
60-0 MPH: 135 Feet