This Ford pickup has had a frame-off restoration that is reported to be “factory original” with a new interior and “perfect” headliner and chrome throughout. The vehicle has new hubcaps. The engine has a glass bowl Holley carburetor. (Introductory description courtesy of Auctions America by RM.)

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1952 Ford F-1 Pickup
Years Produced:1949–52
Number Produced:81,537 (1952 F-1 with 6½-foot pickup box)
Original List Price:$1,362
SCM Valuation:$13,000–$24,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Distributor Caps:$12
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on the frame rail adjacent to the steering box; data plate on the glovebox door
Engine Number Location:Basic casting numbers only, on the side of the block
Club Info:Early Ford V8 Club
Alternatives:1948–early 1955 Chevrolet 3100 pickup; 1948–56 Dodge B-series pickup; 1950–56 International L-, R-, and S-series pickup; 1948–53 Studebaker R5 pickup
Investment Grade:B

This F-1 pickup, Lot 344, sold for $27,500, including buyer’s premium, at the Auctions America by RM event at Fall Carlisle on October 4–5, 2012.

From F-1 to infinity

The F-series was launched in 1948 as Ford’s new post-war truck. It was introduced on January 16 — a full five months before Ford’s new post-war cars hit the market.

Starting with these post-war trucks, Fords had easy-to-remember and marketable model designations that they wore in chrome on their flanks. But although the evergreen flathead V8 and flathead six engines were basically the same, the rest of the truck was all new, continuing essentially unchanged into 1950.

Ford was unique in the pickup truck arena, as it offered two different engines in its line. First was the venerable flathead V8 — the only choice from 1934 to 1940. In 1941, the company introduced its first 6-cylinder engine, mostly likely to Henry Ford’s consternation.

Mr. Ford was always of the opinion that a four was more economical and a V8 more durable than a six. However, everyone else in the industry had a six, and Ford’s V8 was considered by frugal buyers as too thirsty. Despite what Henry thought of it, his company’s 226-ci six sold in reasonable numbers, and even saw use during World War II in Ford’s 1¼-ton “Burma Jeep” Navy tactical trucks.

Flathead to OHV

With the emphasis on the all-new truck line (and cars) after the war, all engines saw limited improvements until Ford released the 215-ci six and 317-ci Lincoln V8 in 1952 — their first automotive overhead valve engines. That 215 is what sits between our subject truck’s frame rails.

It may seem odd that Ford elected to headline this new technology at the bottom and top ends of their market, but it does make sense. The industry was starting to go to OHV architecture, but doing so across the board would have been a big gamble for Ford. The flathead V8 had an enviable following, and the company really didn’t want to rock the boat without good reason. Still, these engines paved the road for the V8s that would eventually replace the company’s front-line flathead later in the decade.

Modern by comparison

The 1952 “Cost Clipper Six” was as modern as anything in the industry. Although it was 11 cubic inches smaller than the previous engine, it put out 101 horsepower compared with the previous flathead six’s 95 horses — and was within spitting distance of the 235-ci flathead V8’s 105. Ford also touted it as being 14% more economical than its predecessor.

At that time, Dodge and Studebaker’s half-ton pickups were still using flathead sixes, and Chevrolet was still using splash lubrication. Ford’s new motor used full insert bearings, full-pressure lubrication and overhead valves. The only competitor that had an equally advanced engine in 1952 was International, with their slightly larger 220-ci Silver Diamond six. But Ford had the upper hand, as its motor was also available in the newly restyled car line that was also introduced that year.

A decade ago, I briefly owned a 1954 F-250 with the 223-ci version of the six. It wasn’t really powerful — I wouldn’t call it a slug, either; “adequate” would phrase it best, even for hauling a bed full of pea rock. Parts availability is quite good. The only issues typical for OHV Fords from the ’50s are heavier blow-by at hot idle from the crankcase vent tube and significant power loss when using the vacuum windshield wipers. That second issue can be a real problem — when driving up a hill in the rain, you basically have the choice of driving blind or walking.

Finally being appreciated

1951 saw a light restyling of the F-series, mostly with a new grille, and 1952 saw minimal changes in trim. While 1951s and 1952s look very similar, they do have their differences. Aside from the powertrain and badge design shuffling on the hood, the 1952s used more Argent Gray paint in lieu of chrome due to Korean War metal allocation restrictions. Along that line, no 1951s or 1952s had chrome grilles. They were all white. If you see one, it was plated when it was restored.

For years, these were always second fiddle to the wildly popular 1953–56 F-100s (affectionately known as “Effies” among Ford fans). While those years have certainly not seen their popularity wane, the ’51 and ’52 F-1s have skyrocketed in value. A decade ago, $10k would’ve bought you a top-level concours-quality truck. Today, $10k is more or less the entry fee for a respectable driver.

Sure, there are plenty of farm-fresh pasture trucks still out there, but even they are moving up the food chain. This example, reasonably authentic and well restored, brought pretty much today’s market price at auction for a truck in its condition. It has a few extra chrome and stainless trinkets, but those pieces can be unbolted in short order. And even as it sits, it doesn’t come off as over the top. This is the kind of classic you can actually drive and use as a truck, albeit on a limited basis. After all, you won’t want to scratch up that bed with a load of gravel. But for cruising, and for careful transport of furniture or other similar items, it’ll be well-suited.

As for values, I think we’ll see more upward action than downward correction in this segment of the market, at least in the foreseeable future — especially for trucks done to this level of quality. So this was a great buy at the price paid. Drive, enjoy and use on a limited basis. Just watch out for long uphill stretches in the rain.&nbsp

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