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1981 Ford F-Series Trucks

More of the same punctuates the 1981 Ford F-Series, which wasn't a bad thing considering the success of the recently-redesigned F-Series lineup for 1980.

1981 Ford F100

Smooth, chiseled features and a busy "egg crate" front grille contributed to a style that, while unique enough, bore a curious resemblance to the same-era Dodge Ram. Minor styling changes were in the works for the following year (perhaps for this reason), but for 1981, changes were few.

1981 Ford F150 Custom Explorer Video

What's New For 1981

The refreshed, streamlined styling and weight reductions of 1980 were designed to help the fuel efficiency of the F-Series, but new powertrain choices made the most of those changes, combining to deliver impressive mileage numbers for a full-size pickup. The powertrain changes begin with the F-100's all-new, 4.2 liter V-8 engine producing 115 horsepower.

Two new transmissions - a four-speed automatic and four-speed manual with overdrive - allowed the F-Series trucks to turn lower RPMs while cruising. All combined, the changes contributed to 1981 EPA mileage ratings of 21 miles per gallon highway for the two-wheel drive F-100 with slightly lower figures for the F-150 four-wheel drive units.

1981 Ford F150 Red and White Ranger Lariat

Other newsworthy items include halogen lamps becoming standard equipment on all trucks, along with radial tires serving as the standard-issue rubber for four-wheel drive models. The F O R D lettering on the front edge of the hood is gone after the 1981 model year.

1981 F-Series Model Lineup

With an all-new 4.2 liter V-8 on the options list (the smallest V-8 used in a production pickup), the F-100 continued to hold the F-Series entry-level title, followed by the F-150, 250, and 350. Trim levels ranged from Custom, to Ranger, Ranger XLT, and Ranger Lariat, the latter of which could be optioned out in a wide variety of trims, colors, and equipment.

Styleside and Flareside beds were available, as were SuperCab and Cab & Chassis models. Free Wheeling Appearance Packages also returned for 1981, including special striping, and depending on the package, bumper guards and fog lamps.

1981 F100 Instrument Panel Dashboard Interior

1981 F-Series Powertrains

As with the 1980 lineup, the 4.9 liter inline six cylinder was the base workhorse of the F-Series line. The new 4.2 liter V-8 was exclusive to the F-100, while the 5.0 liter could be had in any truck. The 5.8 liter was optional in everything but the F-100, while Ford's largest engine offering, the 6.6 liter V-8, was an option only in the F-350.

Two new transmissions - a four-speed auto and four-speed manual with overdrive - joined the three-speed auto, three-speed column-shift manual and four-speed manual as the transmission options.

Engine Availability Power/Torque
4.9 liter/300 cid I-6
F-100 / F-150 / F-250 / F-350
120 / 229
4.2 liter/255 cid V-8
115 / 206
5.0 liter/302 cid V-8
F-100 / F-150 / F-250
133 / 233
5.8 liter/351 cid V-8
F-150 / F-250 / F-350
136 / 262
6.6 liter/400 cid V-8
136 / 310

Long Box 1981 F150

1981 Ford F-Series Defects / Recalls

Despite the use of galvanized metal and significant rustproofing procedures, rust along fenders and cab corners were a significant problem for these trucks. Only two minor recalls affect the 1981 trucks - 12,500 units had a problem with the spare tire rubbing against hex head bolts, and approximately 6,200 had fuel tank straps incorrectly installed.

1981 Ford F-150 Standard Features & Available Options

Major standard features include:

Major options include:

Interior trim colors include Fawn, Medium Blue, Red, Black, Nutmeg, and Spruce. These colors are coded to certain exterior paint colors and may not be available in all interior/exterior color combinations. Available exterior paint color choices for 1981 include:

1981 Ford Truck Paint Colors

1981 Ford F-Series Resources