Ford Motor Co. produced its first truck, the Model TT, on July 27, 1917. If the Model T was "the people's car," the Model TT was, almost literally, "the people's truck."
In Ford: Expansion and Challenge, Allan Nevins and Frank Ernest Hill describe it as "a gift" from "merchants and dealers throughout the country (who) bore it to Highland Park. They had constructed delivery wagons and truck bodies of various types on Model T chassis, thus demonstrating the feasibility of a commercial vehicle."
It was, indeed, feasible, and the demand created by World War I helped make it so.
"The company's introduction of a heavy-duty truck (with the first one-ton chassis) in the summer of 1917 proved perfectly timed to the war effort," wrote Douglas Brinkley in Wheels for the World. "Ford trucks joined the caissons rolling through Europe."
But Ford supplied only the chassis, engine and running gear. The appropriate bodies for particular commercial or military applications - fire truck, bus, dump truck, ambulance - were made by independent body and carriage makers until 1924, when the first Ford-designed body and cab for its one-ton truck chassis went into production. Customers could buy the chassis, body and cab separately, or choose a completely equipped truck.
A half-ton pickup was added to the menu in the spring of 1925.
Assembly of the Model TT was halted in 1927 when production of the Model T car concluded. The Model TT successor was the Model AA, a 1.5-ton truck.
By 1929, truck production had soared to more than 355,000, compared to the 68,000 the company built in 1921.
In the 1930s, Ford emphasized trucks for the first time. Truck cabs and bodies were reworked for specific needs - police wagons, tow trucks, hearses, ambulances, buses, delivery and dump trucks.
The country's first low-priced V-8 trucks bowed in 1932, and a year later, car and truck styling took different paths.
Ford's advertising for its 1936 trucks carried the slogan: "Proved by the past Improved for the future." That year the company built its 3-millionth truck.
By the late 1970s, its customers' "gift" accounted for almost half of the company's profits.
And from 1981 to 1997, the F-series pickup was not only Ford's best-selling nameplate but the best-selling vehicle in North America.