BACK IN THE DAY

A SHORT HIS­TORY OF FORD’S FIRST DIESEL PICKUPS

Diesel World - - Contents - BY JIM ALLEN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY JIM ALLEN & COUR­TESY OF THE FORD MO­TOR COM­PANY HIS­TOR­I­CAL AR­CHIVES

It was the 1970s, and peo­ple were reel­ing from the shock of gas prices that had tripled in just a few short years. The ef­fect was pro­found. We got a 55mph speed limit, the gov­ern­ment be­gan to man­date fuel econ­omy stan­dards and peo­ple were scram­bling for ve­hi­cles with bet­ter fuel econ­omy.

Diesel en­gines had not been much of a pres­ence in the Amer­i­can car and light truck mar­ket up to then but were im­me­di­ately eyed as a fuel econ­omy an­swer. The col­lec­tive Amer­i­can eye­brow rose at the idea of noisy, smelly, smoky diesels and the notable scarcity of diesel fuel sta­tions back then. But the higher mpg and low-cost fuel were at­trac­tive, espe­cially in the truck world where a torquey gasser meant sub­10mpg fuel econ­omy.

In the light truck world, GM and Dodge were about tied in 1978 for be­ing the first to of­fer a diesel pickup. The Chevro­let en­try was a C10 with the no­to­ri­ous Olds 5.7L V8 diesel mak­ing 120 nat­u­rally as­pi­rated horsepower. Dodge fielded a 4.0L (243cid) Mit­subishi NA diesel in­line six with 100 rip-snort­ing horsepower in half- and three-quar­ter-ton 4x2 and 4x4s. Dodge dropped the Mitsu af­ter 1979 and re­mained diesel-less un­til 1989. Chevro­let of­fered the 5.7L in C10s through 1981 and re­placed it with the vastly bet­ter 6.2L in 1982. The stage was now set for a grand en­trance by Ford.

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