The History of the Ford Superduty

In the world of trucks and more specifically, US heavy-duty trucks, there are a few names you’re probably used to hearing, one of them being Super Duty, which is Ford’s line of heavy-duty trucks, but they weren’t always known as the Super Duty. On top of that, Ford’s line of trucks has changed massively over the last two decades, so I think we should go through a deep rewind and look at the full history of the Ford SuperDuty. So, sit back and get comfy, let’s get into it.

In order to fully understand the Super Duty line of trucks, we have to rewind the clock to 1998, when is when Ford retired the old heavy-duty F series body for the new body and adopted the Super Duty name to represent their new trucks.

1998 Launch

Really, Ford’s heavy-duty truck line had changed very little since 1980 and it deserved a makeover. Part of the problem with the old heavy-duty Ford trucks is that they shared the same body and interior as the standard F150. While that’s not a bad strategy for maximizing profits, it’s ultimately something they didn’t want to do, as it blurred the lines between a regular truck and a heavy-duty truck.

But, don’t just take my word for it, in their own words “the two-platform strategy was developed to recognize the significant differences between the commercial and personal use markets while meeting the needs of both.” So, with the release of the all-new body style and the new Super Duty name attached to their new heavy-duty trucks, they also separated the assembly lines.

By giving their new Super Duty truck a new body that wasn’t shared with their standard trucks, they were also able to massive increase interior space. Along with that, a heavy-duty frame, axles, and suspension made the new Super Duty truck a more consumer-friendly truck as compared to the old heavy-duty Ford trucks.

And when I say the new Super Duty truck is bigger, I really mean it. As compared to the previous heavy-duty trucks, Ford lengthened the chassis four inches for regular cab and crew cab models and three inches for SuperCab models. They also used wider doors, larger seats, and more. Hell, even something as simple as the buttons and the glove box were made larger on the Super Duty.

One of the big innovations they brought to the Super Duty was the new combination of four-wheel drive and a dual rear wheel axle. For the years prior, those two options couldn’t be had together unless you modified your truck after purchase. It’s a weird thing for Ford to have omitted previously, but nonetheless, it was a big feature for the new Super Duty.

Underneath the truck, Ford made some pretty solid changes to the axles, more specifically, the Dana 50 twin-traction beam front suspension for finally retired in favor of a Dana 50 solid axle or a Dana 60 monobeam, depending on how your truck was configured. In the rear, Ford debuted the Super Duty with the Sterling 10.5 rear axle, which was slightly larger than the Sterling 10.25 they had previously used. The new axles helped to increase the gross axle weight rating by quite a bit, ultimately making the Super Duty much better than the trucks before it.

Under the hood, Ford gave you three options for the Super Duty: the 5.4L Triton V8, which was the base engine and frankly isn’t anything special. But, for the people who wanted to continue using a gas motor, the new 6.8L V10 was something that Ford had never offered before in their trucks. The V10 output an impressive 275hp and 410 lb-ft of torque.

The last engine option was the 7.3L Powerstroke used in the previous Heavy Duty trucks, but with the launch of the SuperDuty, the Navistar built Powerstroke was given a few important upgrades, all of which lead up it outputting 235hp and 500lb-ft of torque, making the most powerful diesel engine on the truck market in 1999.

2003 Update

That takes us 2003, where we saw the first major changes to the Super Duty truck since its launch in 1999. The biggest change Ford made midway through 2003 was the introduction of the 6.0L Powerstroke. We’ve already made plenty of articles on that engine, so we won’t go into detail here, but simply, they introduced it as a solution to the EPA regulations regarding emissions output that the 7.3L Powerstroke was not going to pass.

While the 6.0L promised to be a great replacement for the 7.3L Powerstroke, in the long run, the world found out that it was frankly a poorly designed engine with a lot of little failing points as well as a few major failing points. But, enough on that. Along with the new Powerstroke engine, Ford also introduced the new 5R110W transmission which was vastly different than the 4R100 that came before it.

If we fast forward a year and a half ahead to 2005, there were even more big changes. On the gas side of things, Ford introduced three-valve heads to both the 5.4L V8 and the 6.8L V10, bumping power to 300 horsepower and 365lb-ft and 355hp and 455lb-ft respectively.

Arguably the biggest change that came with the 2005 update was the front suspension for four-wheel-drive models switching from leaf spring to coil spring, which helped to reduce unsprung weight and ultimately help the truck handle and ride quite a bit better. To match the improved front ride quality, the rear springs also saw a change to their spring rate as well as staggered rear shocks for further improved ride quality.

All of these changes lead to class-leading tow ratings, most of which were made possible by frame reinforcements, the changes to the front suspension, and more powerful engine options. But Ford didn’t stop there, because two years later in 2007, they once again gave the Super Duty a pretty major makeover.

2008 Update

Arguably the biggest change came in the form of the 6.4L Powerstroke, which was essentially an upgraded version of the 6.0L Powerstroke, which had become very problematic for Ford’s truck customers. The 6.4L was supposed to fix all the issues of the 6.0L, but in the long run, we now know it was even worse, but at the time it came out, it promises to fix the issues and crank up power output significantly to 350hp and 650lb-ft of torque.

With the new motor also came some new emissions systems, namely the new diesel particulate filter and twin EGR cooler system. On paper, the 6.4L Powerstroke was the cleanest diesel engine Ford had ever built, not that many of their customers really care about emissions output though.

The 5R110W transmission also received some upgrades as well as fine-tuning of the TowCommand system which worked with the factory electronic trailer controller and the truck’s ABS system to ensure safe trailer braking in low traction situations.

With Ford wanting to continue increasing their tow ratings for the Super Duty, they revised the frame and suspension, most notably changing the rear suspension with much longer leaf springs which were designed to decrease axle wrap and give the truck a higher capacity without negatively impacting ride quality.

On the outside of the truck, the cab, fenders, tailgate, grille, and headlights were all changed quite a bit to give the truck a fresh new look. In my opinion, this version of the Super Duty is definitely the most commercial-looking truck.

All of this led to record-setting ratings, specifically for the F450 which offered the best fifth wheel towing at 24,500 lbs. For reference, the F250 was only at 16,400 lbs for its fifth-wheel towing.

Ultimately though, the 6.4L Powerstroke was a problematic engine and prompted another refresh of the Super Duty shortly after in 2011, which is officially known as the third generation of the Super Duty.

2011 Update

With the new of the revamped Super Duty, Ford changed the front face, upgraded the interior, and added a stronger rear axle option, but most notably changed the diesel engine option once again. This time around, they had enough with Navistar International and developed their own diesel engine for the Super Duty, which was the 6.7L Powerstroke.

The new engine was backed by a new six-speed automatic transmission known as the 6R140. We’ve gone over the 6.7 Powerstroke in detail in other articles, so we won’t go get into it here, but simply, the 6.7 Powerstroke was significantly better than the 6.4L, so much so that Ford is still using the 6.7 over a decade later, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

The unfortunate downside with the 6.7L Powerstroke is that it introduced selective catalytic reduction, also known as SCR, which is a system that uses diesel exhaust fluid to reduce NOx emissions output even further than what the EGR system does. While it’s another annoying thing that you have to maintain, the addition of SCR significantly improved fuel mileage as compared to the 6.4L Powerstroke.

In terms of the metal of the truck, the cab was left the same, but Ford added a new grille and taller headlights, as well as reshaped fenders which looked much more modern and gave the Super Duty a much-needed modern look, although the overall was the same.

Ford kept the same axles under the truck, but they dropped the Dana S110 that was being used in the F450 for the Dana 80 in the dually F350 and F450. The Sterling 10.5 was kept around for the F250 and single rear wheel F350, but now it was slightly upgraded with larger bearings and an electronic locking differential depending on how your truck was specced out.

On the gas motors, Ford ditched the two options they were previously offering, the 5.4L V8 and 6.8L V10 Triton motors were gone in favor of the 6.2L 2-valve V8 engine, which output 285hp and 405lb-ft of torque in the Super Duty, although this engine output even more power in the F150 at 411hp and 434lb-ft of torque. Regardless though, the new gas motor certainly wasn’t bad, but in terms of power output, it was a downgrade compared to the V10, although it was an upgrade compared to the outgoing V8.

And once again, this lead to some very impressive towing and hauling capabilities yet again, with the F450 yet again offering class-leading fifth-wheel towing, which was far ahead of what GM and Ram were offering at that time.

2017 Update

That takes us up to 2017 when the Super Duty went under its first-ever complete redesign since its launch in 1999. This redesign is part of the fight with Ram who actually managed to beat out the F450 in terms of gross combined weight rating, which then prompted the more powerful second-generation 6.7L Powerstroke in 2015 so that Ford could take back the crown with their F450.

Interestingly enough, this full makeover of the Super Duty is actually when Ford went back to their old ways and used the same cab for both the F150 and F250. As I mentioned at the start of the article, Ford used different cabs and assembly lines their normal F150, and then all the Super Duty trucks, but the redesign changed that, and financially it makes sense.

The more parts you can share between trucks, the more money you can save and the more profits you can generate. The new body was also massively different in the fact that it was now aluminum to save weight. Along with that, the makeover included a new front-end design, rear-end design, a new fully boxed frame, new rear axle options, and even more power to the tune of 440hp and 860lb-ft of torque.

With the outside makeover drastically changing the Super Duty, Ford also massively changed the interior in 2017 and made it much better. Again, this was easier for them to use because the cab had the same dimensions as the F150 cab.

In the rear, Ford kept the Sterling 10.5 rear axle for standard F250 trucks but introduced a new Dana M275 for single rear wheel F350 trucks and Dana M300 for dually F350 and F450 trucks.

With more power, a way better frame, and better axles, the towing and payload numbers yet again jumped up quite a bit. This time around, the F450 gross combined vehicle rating was increased from 41,800 pounds, with a class-leading 32,500-pound gooseneck rating, 27,500-pound fifth-wheel rating, and a 21,000-pound conventional rating.

2020 Update

That takes us up to 2020, where Ford yet again improved the Super Duty, this time massively increasing the power output to 475hp and 1050lb-ft of torque. On top of that, Ford brought a new bigger gas motor to the Super Duty for those out there who don’t want a diesel. The new gas motor is a 7.3L V8 that outputs 430hp and 475lb-ft of torque.

Both the upgraded 6.7L Powerstroke and the 7.3L gas motor are paired with the new 10-Speed transmission to replace the outdated 6R140 transmission except for the F250 models with the 6.2L gas motor. I won’t get into too many details on the 10-speed transmission, but simply put, it’s been happily adopted and most people absolutely love it as compared to the old 6-speed or really any other automatic transmission.

Along with the improved Powerstroke, new gas motor, and new transmission, Ford also gave the Super Duty a fresh new front-end with improved airflow to help keep everything cool. They again upped the quality of the interior and introduced some cool new features.

And as you’d expect with more power and better transmission, the towing and hauling ratings were once again increased quite a bit. Maximum gooseneck towing capacity for the F-450 increased to 37,000 pounds, while the dually F350 is at 35,750 pounds and the F-250 at 22,800 pounds.

Today’s Super Duty

Since 2020, power output on the 6.7L Powerstroke has remained the same, at least thus far into 2022. But, with Ford’s typical upgrade schedule every 2 to 3 years, I’d expect to see the Super Duty upgraded again either later this year or next year.

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