Ford’s unibody pickup trucks were relatively low-production vehicles, and they were produced only from 1961 to 1963. High-quality survivors are extraordinarily rare, and to find one such as the vehicle offered here, which has known history from new and an excellent restoration, is unusual indeed. According to an affidavit on file, the F-100 was bought new on April 11, 1963, in Enid, OK, and it remained in the family until 2002. The paperwork further notes that at that time it had recorded only 72,673 actual miles. It was restored in its correct colors, Corinthian White and Rangoon Red, with the rust-free body, interior, underhood, engine, and transmission all finished to the same very high standard. The engine itself is the optional 160-brake horsepower V8, which is mated to the heavy-duty Cruise-O-Matic transmission, and it was professionally rebuilt with hardened valve seats to accommodate the use of unleaded gasoline.  

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1963 Ford F-100 Custom Cab Unibody Pickup
Years Produced:1961–63
Number Produced:40,535
Original List Price:$2,019
SCM Valuation:$14,000–$25,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Distributor Caps:$12
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on the frame rail adjacent to the steering box; data plate on the driver’s door jamb edge
Engine Number Location:Basic casting numbers only, on the side of the block
Club Info:Early Ford V8 Club
Alternatives:1961–65 Ford Ranchero pickup, 1960–66 Chevrolet C-10 pickup, 1961–67 Dodge D-100 pickup
Investment Grade:C

This truck, Lot 245, sold for $33,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM’s Hershey auction in Hershey, PA, on October 10, 2014.

The unibody pickup, introduced by Ford in 1961, wasn’t a new concept. Ford had offered Model As with integral beds before, but these were built in very limited numbers. After World War II, Crosley and Powell offered unitized boxes on trucks, too, but they were either too light duty (Crosley) or too low production (Powell) to make much of a market splash.

Bringing style to utility

In 1957, Ford set a new standard in the industry with its Styleside pickup box. The Styleside was the first all-steel-styled pickup box, and it was offered as standard equipment on Ford’s new trucks. No longer was it a high-priced foreman or company owner’s status symbol — every Joe Six-Pack could buy one, and buy them they did. The traditional step-side box was mostly relegated to fleet use pretty much overnight.

GM didn’t catch up until mid-1958, with the introduction of the Fleetside box on both Chevrolet and GMC trucks. You really can’t call the GM Fleetside an all-steel box, either, as it continued to use a wood plank floor. As for Dodge, its 1957 Sweptside — fashioned from rear fenders of 2-door station wagons — was a bit too late to seriously compete with Chevy’s Cameo and too expensive to compete with Ford. Their version of the Styleside, known as the Sweptline, was introduced in 1959 (it was also used by Studebaker from 1961 to ’63 on the Champ pickup). International was the only other pickup maker to go the styled-cargo-box route in the 1950s, but its truck — the A-series — was essentially a limited-production Golden Anniversary model. International’s regular-production Bonus Load box didn’t arrive until the B-series models did in 1959.

Also in 1957, Ford introduced the Ranchero. It gained popularity as a very light-duty hauler, where style trumped cargo capacity. It was popular enough that Chevrolet followed suit two years later with its El Camino.

Looked good on paper

When you hit one out of the park, you can’t always expect your efforts to be repeated, but Ford tried again. To once again up the ante, the 1961 F-series models got bold new styling. Playing a big role in it was an all-new integral unibody Styleside cargo box.

Offered initially only on half-ton F-100s in 6½-foot and eight-foot lengths, then adding the eight-footer on 1962 and 1963 F-250s, Ford boasted “solid car-like handling.” Yet this time it wasn’t the standard pickup box configuration. That was the evergreen Stepside bed, which dated to 1953. For larger models, all four-wheel drives, F-350s, and all 1962–63 F-100s, the original generation (1957–60) Styleside continued in production.

Part of the reasoning for building the unibody Styleside on the F-series was due to the Ranchero’s move from the full-size car platform to the new compact Falcon. In addition, Ford also introduced its new Econoline at that time, available as an integral box pickup. Ford likely sensed a perceived need for something a little larger than the Ranchero and Econoline, yet still more stylish than a regular pickup. Something akin to a full line of light-duty unibody pickups.

A better idea?

As can be evidenced by the continued use of the previous two cargo boxes, Ford knew that body-to-frame flexing could be an issue with its unibody trucks.

Modern unibody pickups — such as the Honda Ridgeline — have minimal cargo-carrying capacity and are all but big cars. But in the early 1960s, pickups were supposed to work. While the role of the pickup was starting to transition from expensive tool to stylish and useful transportation, trucks still had to earn their keep.

The unibody concept worked fine, provided that a Gentleman Farmer had it and used it sparingly. However, loading the cargo box with a good heavy load such as firewood or cinder blocks meant that the frame would flex and the body would show buckling behind the doors, right where the gap was on a traditional separate-box-and-cab pickup.

Ford saw this and threw in the towel at the end of the 1963 model year, introducing an all-new Styleside box for 1964.

Picking up in value, but not a full load

For decades, F-series trucks from the early 1960s were valued well below same-era Chevrolets and GMCs. Within the past 10 years, all classic pickups have seen great increases in value. This is especially true with Ford unibodies, even if they still rank behind their GM counterparts.

However, while these trucks have become more valuable, they really haven’t seen prices like our featured truck achieved with any sort of regularity. Nor do I expect them to in the near term.

I figure that this truck overshot its coverage by about $7k–$10k. At that rate, I’d have expected this truck to not only be concours-clean, but also concours-correct. With halogen headlights and radials, it was done more as a nice driver. It also had added stainless-steel door glass shades and period aftermarket-type air conditioning (which the F-series would not get from the factory until 1968).

I may be proven wrong in the future, but for now, I’ll call this price overloaded, even if the truck looked great getting there. Well sold.

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Auctions.

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