BACK IN THE DAY
A SHORT HISTORY OF FORD’S FIRST DIESEL PICKUPS
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.