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20 Best Classic American Fords from the Blue Oval

Vukasin Herbez October 14, 2018

They established the Ford Motor Company in 1903. And it is one of the longest-surviving car manufacturers in America. Over the years, Ford has evolved from a small car factory into the biggest car company in the world. In fact, the company is a true giant in the industry. This manufacturer revolutionized the industry in so many ways, it deserves a separate article.

And they have been influencing all other car companies up to this day. Ford was the first company to build factories in remote parts of the world. They also branched into producing trucks, agricultural machines, military vehicles and even airplanes. In the last 115 years, the Ford Motor Company has produced more than 300 million vehicles, which is an astonishing figure.

During that period, there were numerous sub-brands and models Ford produced. And they all helped create the legend of the Blue Oval and its market presence. As always, not all Ford cars were equally good and memorable. Also, not all their cars deserve a place in the Ford Hall of Fame.

So, keep reading to learn about the cars that deserve high praise. They are the vehicles that stood the test of time and created Ford as you know it today. But not all the cars on this list were bestsellers. Ford produced some of them in small numbers yet they were extremely important and unique pieces of car culture and Ford legends.

1. Ford Model T

There are not enough words to describe the importance of the Ford Model T in automotive history and car culture. In fact, this was the car that singlehandedly created the car world in 1908. The Model T was the first truly mass-produced automobile with Ford building over 15 million until 1927. It motorized the world and laid the foundation for the modern car industry with assembly plants in foreign countries and on other continents.

Also, the Ford Model T was the first car they produced in numerous versions. Ford wisely designed the Model T to easily transform into a truck, agricultural machine or even into a military vehicle. It helped the Ford Motor Company become the biggest car manufacturer in the world at one point. The Model T even spawned numerous models that copied the concept.

However, the Model T wasn’t revolutionary in terms of design or technology. And it wasn’t an advanced car, yet it was a utilitarian machine. But its combination of durability, affordability and usability changed the world. When Ford introduced the Model T in 1908, the world was still using horse-drawn carriages. But by the time they discontinued it in 1927, the automobile age had successfully started.

2. 1932 Ford V8

Even though the 1932 Ford was just a regular, mass-produced and affordable everyday car, it changed car history forever. In fact, it became one of the most influential American machines ever due to a rather simple engine option: The Flathead V8. So, the 1932 Ford came with one of the best engines of the 20th century. Ford equipped it with the basic but effective 3.6-liter V8 engine.

And in the beginning, it only produced 65 HP. Even though other carmakers offered V8 engines for their models, the Ford design proved to be the toughest. Soon, it became the definitive engine for anybody looking for power in an affordable package. Hot rodders across America realized the Flathead V8 had some serious tuning potential.

So, it wasn’t long before ‘32 Fords became the favorite basis for all kinds of modifications. The ‘32 Ford with the Flathead V8 engine is a revolutionary American car because it introduced V8 power to a larger market. Also, it established the V8 as one of the most recognizable engines in the U.S. car industry.

3. Ford F-Series Pickup

Pickup trucks are the backbone of the global economy, especially for small and medium-size businesses. They would be lost without this practical and usable way of transport. And it has been this way for almost 100 years. Pickups are the only car class that has endured one century with little departures from the original concept.

Although pickup trucks have grown in size and power, and they can carry and tow more than ever, the basic concept, technical layout, and design are still the same. However, among dozens of models produced in this country, there is one nameplate that has been the definitive symbol of quality, durability, consistency and tradition for over 80 years.

And that is the Ford F-Series truck. Ford has produced the F-series in 13 generations, building 40 million of them. And they have offered countless different variants, making the F-Series the definitive American pickup. Over the years, it has evolved from a rugged workhorse into a lifestyle model. There are even performance vehicles with the Lightning and Raptor versions.

However, the F-Series is still one of the bestselling vehicles of all time and a true piece of Americana on four wheels. Ford introduced the F-Series trucks in 1948 as F-100s. In spite of the fact Ford had offered various trucks before, this truck was the starting point for the most successful story in the history of pickup trucks in America.

4. 1949 Ford Custom

From today’s perspective, the 1949 Ford Custom is a forgotten model since they introduced it 70 years ago. But back in the day, it was an immensely important and influential model, and not just for Ford, but for the whole car industry. In fact, the 1949 Ford was the first fully modern car Ford produced after World War II.

And it featured many industry firsts with advanced styling. But during the war, Ford, like all the other American car manufacturers, suspended their passenger car production in favor of military production. So, this meant that after the war was over, car manufacturers didn’t have any fresh car designs ready for production. But Ford started designing and engineering the 1949 model just before the war ended.

That’s the reason they were able to introduce a fully modern, fresh new car to eager buyers. This was also the first American car to ditch those bulged fenders with headlights in favor of a more slab-side design. This design gave the 1949 Ford Custom the nickname, “The Shoebox Ford” due to its flat sides.

Under the hood, there was a choice between a six-cylinder engine or the venerable Flathead V8 that produced 100 HP. And the 1949 Ford was a massive success that helped Ford enter a new era of steady sales and big market shares.

5. Ford Thunderbird

Ford was caught off guard when Chevrolet introduced the Corvette in 1953. Although the Corvette was a commercial failure and didn’t earn any money, the model proved extremely successful for promotional purposes. It even ended up being valuable as a halo car for all of General Motors. And this is why Ford wanted its own version to capitalize on the trend.

So, in 1955, Ford presented the Thunderbird. But even though Ford tried to present it as a sports car, it was clear the Thunderbird was not one. The car had two seats and sporty looks, but it rode on a standard platform with a comfortable suspension. Also, they filled the interior with creature comforts. So, the Thunderbird was Ford’s first personal luxury car with others to follow soon.

Ford may have missed the sports car mark with the Thunderbird, but they managed to create a sales hit. In fact, the T-Bird outsold the Corvette with ease, becoming one of Ford’s bestsellers in the late ‘50s. This sealed the fate of the Thunderbird when Ford turned it into one of the biggest personal luxury legends of the American car industry. And that is why Ford produced the T-Bird until 2005 in 11 generations.

6. Ford Falcon

Domestic and imported compact cars were getting an increasingly bigger market share. And this is what made the Ford Motor Company rethink its stand on small vehicles. So, in 1960, they unveiled the Falcon. In those days, Ford was nervous about presenting a new model in a new class. After all, the Edsel debacle was painful for the company`s accountants. However, with strong backing from their top managers, Ford gave the Falcon project the green light.

The immediate success and strong sales proved that Ford hit a home run with the compact yet roomy Falcon. The car was nothing special or innovative in terms of design or technology. It had unibody construction and a leaf spring suspension in the back. Ford added drum brakes and a standard three-speed manual transmission. But the secret of the Falcon’s success was its affordability and a long list of options.

And despite the fact the standard model only had a 2.4-liter 90 HP engine, you could get a bigger six-cylinder or a 260 V8. Also, the Falcon was available in several body styles including a convertible, a sedan delivery, or a three or five-door station wagon, broadening its appeal.

However, in 1964, when the Falcon received its first redesign, Ford introduced the Mustang. They based it entirely on the Falcon’s underpinnings. So, the automotive press called the Mustang, “A well-dressed Falcon,” when the car first arrived. However, the Falcon was still a strong seller on the American car market as the most affordable Ford product.

However, the death of the Falcon came in 1970 on the American market. But in Australia, the Falcon nameplate is still in production. Interestingly, the last U.S.-built Falcons were bigger, heavier cars that were more like mid-size models than the compact cars Ford originally conceived.

7. Ford Mustang

The love affair between car enthusiasts and Ford Mustang has lasted for over 50 years. Ever since they revealed the first Mustang in April 1964, people across the world haven’t been able to get enough of Detroit’s favorite pony car. Over the years, Ford has produced over nine million Mustangs. This makes it one of the most successful nameplates, and not only in the company’s history but in the global car industry.

Most of the market was fascinated when they first saw the Mustang in 1964. With its compact, sporty looks, and long hood and short deck, all at an affordable price, it seemed unreal. But there was a small portion of knowledgeable car enthusiasts who were disappointed. The reason was the technology and engine choices.

However, the Mustang shared modest underpinnings with the economy Falcon’s engine lineup, including some mild versions of six and V8 units. Also, the power output was nothing special, so the performance was below people’s expectations. But Ford responded by hiring Carroll Shelby and producing an almost racing-ready GT 350 in 1965.

Although most car owners got those 200 to 221 HP V8 models that used the 289 V8 engine, they delivered just enough grunts to satisfy most customers. So, what is the secret of the Mustang’s appeal? It’s a mix of performance, V8 engine rumble, a touch of luxury and good looks. And then they put it in an affordable package with a long list of options.

But, don’t forget the image and the legend, which was an integral part of the Mustang’s appeal since day one. And as you probably already know, the impact on the market was immense. Soon, the Mustang became one of Ford’s bestsellers, selling one million of them in just a year and a half after its introduction.

8. Ford GT40

The story of the Ford GT40 is a saga of enormous effort, incredible support, lots of luck and several talented people who all gathered at one place at one moment in time to create history. After a failed attempt to buy Ferrari in the early ‘60s, Ford was angry at Enzo for his childish behavior. So, they decided to beat him on the race track and prove who the real boss was.

But at the moment, Ford didn’t have a racing program or even someone to manage it. And that’s why the company looked for outsourcers who could make things happen. They found the basis for a Ferrari-beating race car in England in the Lola Mk6. Ford soon re-engineered, redesigned and gave it a new racing 289 V8 engine, creating the first Ford GT40 in 1964.

The car didn’t look promising at the beginning, but with some meticulous work and money, Ford transformed the GT40 into a world-conquering machine in just months. Today, the GT40`s recognizable design is as American as apple pie. But to be honest, they designed the car in England, so it arrived in America already in complete shape.

To make a long story short, Ferrari was humiliated exactly four times between 1966 and 1969 when the GT40 won the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times in a row. It was an amazing success and an incredible achievement by a company that never appeared on Le Mans before the mid-60s. So, the GT40 became an outright legend and a symbol of American race cars that dominated the European racing scene.

9. Ford Bronco

Everything started in the mid-60s when Ford realized the market for compact and off-road capable SUVs was emerging. Ford invested a lot of effort and money into constructing the Bronco since it had its own platform, suspension, and drivetrain components. Finally, it was equipped with straight six and V8 engines, giving it enough power and decent performance.

The Bronco was compact and that helped it to be maneuverable on and off the road. That made this Ford quite capable when the asphalt ends, and the trails begin. But the small dimensions meant that the interior was cramped. Even so, the buyers loved it nonetheless, and the sales numbers went through the roof.

The second and third generations were even more successful. But they were also bigger and more comfortable vehicles with a longer list of options and better equipment. Despite its solid sales, Ford decided to retire the Bronco in 1996 to concentrate on its pickup truck lineup, as well as new SUV models.

However, fans of the Bronco were always vocal in their requests to see the legendary off-roader again. So finally, last year, Ford announced the Bronco will be returning by 2020 in a new form, but with the same old spirit and appeal.

10. Ford Crown Victoria

Ford’s Panther platform is one of the longest-serving platforms in the car industry. They first used it in 1978, and it served until 2011. It underpinned many models like the Ford Crown Victoria, the Mercury Grand Marquis and the Lincoln Town Car. This chassis proved sturdy and durable in extreme conditions as the basis of many police cars and taxis.

Even today, seven years after Ford discontinued it, millions of Panther-based models are still on the roads. The Crown Victoria was one of the longest-serving Ford nameplates ever. Also, it is one of the last classic American sedans with a ladder chassis, a front V8 engine and a rear-wheel drive. And this is why the Crown Vic deserves a place on this list.

In fact, it is one of the most durable, toughest cars the world has ever seen. Best yet, it’s also affordable and fun. The models from the ‘90s and early 2000s were common as police cruisers and taxis. And despite being 20 years old and surviving all kinds of torture, those cars are still on the road and running well.

11. Ford Taurus SHO

Back in the late ‘80s, Ford caused a revolution with the introduction of the Taurus. This was the first truly modern American sedan that ditched heavy ladder-type chassis and big engines. Ford went in a different direction with a sleek and aerodynamic body, and new technology and front-wheel drive. The Taurus sold in volumes, but the most interesting is the famed Super High Output or SHO version.

The SHO wasn’t a muscle car by any means since it was a family four-door sedan. But it delivered a significant amount of power. The SHO was a performance model in the Taurus lineup that featured a Yamaha-sourced 3.0-liter high-revving V6 with 220 HP. Today, this doesn’t sound much, but for 1989 it was a lofty figure.

And the performance was outstanding with just 6.7 seconds to 60 mph. On the outside, the Taurus SHO looked like any other regular Taurus. Only the badge on the back revealed its true nature.

12. Ford Ranchero 1957

Ford was the first company to successfully introduce the concept of a half-car half-pickup in 1957. Using its full-size passenger car model, the Ford engineers chopped the rear end and mounted an elegant truck bed. And this design brought a new dimension to the pickup scene.

Finally, delivery drivers had a vehicle that drove like a car, but could carry and tow like a truck. The Ranchero became a highly-popular model. Ford sold it until the late ‘70s through numerous generations.

13. Ford Galaxie

The Ford Motor Company introduced the Galaxie in 1959 as the competitor to the Chevrolet Impala. In fact, the Galaxie was Ford’s signature full-size model. And it was also one of the most popular cars on the market. They sold the Galaxie until 1974 when they replaced it with the Ford LTD.

During the ‘60s, which was the golden age of American sedans, the Galaxie was one of the most popular models. It came in various body styles and a wide choice of engines and equipment. And best of all, it provided a respectable performance and attractive looks.

14. Ford Maverick

Ford was one of the first automobile companies to understand the importance of the compact car market. So, in the 1970s, Ford came up with the Maverick. It was a compact two or four-door model with an attractive design and decent engines. And the compact size came at an affordable price.

In a period when American manufacturers struggled to beat the foreign imports in the compact car class, Ford was well represented. After all, they had the Maverick, the ill-fated Pinto and the infamous Mustang II.

15. Ford Explorer

Even though the Bronco was the first Ford SUV off-road model, the Explorer was the definitive SUV. Ford introduced the Explorer in 1991, long before all their other competitors did. But some people criticized Ford for presenting a soft off-roader.

However, the market loved it. So, along with Jeep Cherokee, Ford created the modern SUV class on the American market. Even today, the Explorer is one of the bestselling full-size SUVs in the U.S.

16. Ford Focus

In the late 1990s, Ford, like all the other domestic car brands didn’t have any proper compact hatchbacks to offer. So, Ford decided to import the European Ford’s brand new, sophisticated Focus model. They planned to produce it in America with a few tweaks and changes.

However, the plan worked beautifully, so the Focus attracted millions of customers to Ford dealerships. It even established the model as one of the best selling compact cars, ever. Even today, 20 years after the first Focus landed in the U.S., this car is still popular and quite common.

17. Ford Super Duty

The Super Duty class started in the early 1970s. And it soon became popular with customers who needed the biggest truck and the most features for work, towing and the construction business. One of the best machines was Ford Super Duty introduced in 1999. And the buyers could choose from several different engines.

However, the most powerful were the Triton V8 and the V10 engine, along with two Powerstroke V8 diesel. The Ford Super Duty took the market by storm with its modern design and quality, as well as its uncompromised usability and performance.

18. Ford Model A

Everybody knows about the legendary Ford Model T or the 1932 V8. But the truth is, the Ford Model A, which they introduced in 1927 was an important model. Ford sold more than four million examples and assembled them all over the world, making the Ford Motor Company a global force.

The Model A was more modern and advanced than the Model T. It featured a better design, more options and an improved performance. Even today, the Model A is common in classic car shows and cruises.

19. Shelby Cobra 289

Technically, the Shelby Cobra 289 is not a Ford product. But, it is powered by Ford engines and financed with Ford money. However, the Shelby Cobra 289 is one of the best-known Blue Oval cars. Interestingly, they conceived the car in England as the AC Ace roadster. But then, Carroll Shelby turned it into a world-class sports roadster.

Still, the Cobra wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Ford. In fact, Ford sponsored the project, gave it power and let it race all over the world. And this little car that beat many famous European names became the perfect advertising for Shelby and the Ford Performance Team.

20. Ford Torino

Ford produced the Torino between 1968 and 1976. Yet, car fans still remember it as one of Ford’s finest mid-size models. And it is one of the most popular muscle cars in Ford’s history. Available in several body styles, the Torino is famous for some fire-breathing fastback coupes with those legendary Cobra Jet 428 V8 engines.

So, even though Ford hasn’t produced the Torino for over 40 years, the name is still popular with Ford enthusiasts all over the world. And many Torino fans are hoping Ford will bring this legendary car back someday soon.

These are 20 of the best classic American Fords from the blue oval. Did you find an old favorite? These cars changed the course of automotive history forever. So, if you own one of them, consider yourself quite fortunate, indeed.

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