Ford F-150 Series Pickup Trucks: 1987–1996

Features and Changes in History

1987 Ford F-150 Truck
1987 Ford F-150 Truck. (Ford Motor Co.)

If you are interested in knowing more about the Ford F-Series line of pick-up trucks, you may have a very specific date and model in mind. For instance, the 1987 Ford F-150 is a popular query, but you should know that from 1987 to 1996, Ford had a series of upgrades and improvements (including changes made during each year of the generation) that set its whole F-series apart from any other years of production. 

1987 to 1996: The Difference Between Ford F-150 and F-250 

The difference between these models includes transmission differences, a payload and towing difference, and breaking and suspension differences. It should be noted that an F-150 is a 1/2 ton truck while an F-250 is a 3/4 ton truck. Aesthetically, the F-250 sits higher due to larger tires. Listed below are specific features introduced by Ford for the 1987 Ford F-150 to 1996.


Ford's 1987 F-Series sported new exterior sheet metal with a more rounded front end that improved aerodynamics. Replaceable halogen bulbs were inserted into headlights made from impact-resistant housings that blended into the new fenders.

The grille, tail lights, and all of the truck's moldings and emblems were redesigned to match the new body panels. Updates inside the pickup truck included a new dash, seats, door panels, and interior trim.

The first F-150 4WD SuperCab was also introduced in 1987.

The redesign brought quite a few changes to F-Series mechanicals:

  • 4.9L 6-cylinder engine received electronic fuel injection.
  • 6-cylinder also received hydroelastic motor mounts to help reduce the amount of engine noise and vibration transmitted to the body.
  • 5.0L V-8 received an updated version of electronic engine control.
  • The 3-speed manual transmission was discontinued.
  • A new electronic controlled antilock brake system became standard equipment (kept the rear wheels from locking up on hard braking).
  • Twin I-Beam front axle was redesigned to allow caster and camber adjustments.
  • Manual steering was discontinued.
  • 4X4 trucks were equipped with a new one-piece hub/rotor design.
  • 4X4 transfer case was changed to reduce shift lever effort.

In addition, 1987 4X4 trucks with manually-locking front hubs could be towed with all four wheels on the ground without disconnecting the driveshaft, thanks to a new hydraulic pump that worked when the driveshaft was turning, keeping the transfer case gears lubricated even if the engine wasn't running.


Ford made just a few changes to 1988 F-Series trucks. Pickups with the 5.8L V-8 were fitted with electronic fuel injection, and the 4-speed manual transmission was replaced with a 5-speed overdrive manual transmission.


This was another year with few significant updates. On SuperCab trucks with captain's chairs, both front seats had a tilt and slide mechanism to make entry and exit easier. Other changes focused on trim and color choices.


In 1990, the C6 3-speed automatic transmission was replaced with a 4-speed electronically controlled automatic overdrive transmission (available at the very end of the 1989 production year, but announced for 1990).

Four-wheel drive trucks now had automatic locking front hubs as standard equipment, but manual hubs were optional.

Ford offered two different sport packages in late 1990, one that included body and tailgate stripes and body-colored styled steel wheels; the second tacked a black tubular bumper and a light bar with off-road lights to the first package.


For 1991, an electronic switched transfer case became available on 4WD trucks with the 5.0L V-8 engine and automatic overdrive.

The "Nite" model became available—an all-black truck with red or blue stripes and special Nite decal. Buyers could opt for either the 5.0L or 5.8L V-8, a handling package, and a rear step bumper.


This year is sometimes referred to as a new generation of F-Series trucks, but changes seem more like a facelift than a true redesign. Updates included a new grille, bumper, headlights, fenders, and hood front—all more rounded to help reduce wind drag.

Inside, a new dash and instrument panel were installed. Heat/AC controls were tweaked and the glove compartment was enlarged.

Ford offered a 75th-anniversary package on its 1992 F-series, consisting of a stripe package, an argent colored step bumper and special 75th-anniversary logos.


Ford's base truck was christened with a new name in 1993, losing its Custom tag and becoming the XL. The name Lariat XLT was shortened to simply XLT.

Cruise control became an electronic system with the ability to increase or decrease speed by 1 MPH when the accelerate or decelerate buttons were tapped. 1992 is the first model year involved in Ford's cruise control recall, involving switches that can cause a fire at any time, no matter whether a vehicle is running or not.

The first SVT Lightning truck entered the scene in 1993. It featured a 5.8L engine with performance cylinder heads, cam, pistons, intake, headers, dual exhaust, oil cooler, and modified engine computer programming. The truck was available with a reprogrammed 4-speed automatic transmission with an auxiliary cooler. The rear axle was a limited slip unit with 4.10:1 gearing.

The SVT Lightning's suspension was set up for handling and performance, and its steering provided quicker response than steering on a typical F-150. Inside were 6-way adjustable sport seats with lumbar controls and a console between them. A tachometer and 120 MPH speedometer were part of the truck's instrumentation. Exterior modifications included a body color-matched front bumper and a lower front air dam with integrated fog lamps.


Ford added a high-mount brake light to the rear of 1994 truck cab roofs. More safety-related moves included a security package with remote keyless entry and an intrusion alarm. Driver-side air bags and door intrusion beams became standard equipment on 1994 F-Series trucks.

An automatic transmission became standard equipment in 1994, and trannys were fitted with a shift lock that prevented drivers from shifting out of park unless the brake pedal was depressed. The previous 4-speed automatic transmission was replaced with a new 4-speed automatic overdrive for trucks equipped with the 5.0L V-8 engine.

Ford introduced an off-road package for 4WD trucks. It included skid plates, a handling package, and off-road decals for the bed sides.

As of 1994, F-Series truck A/C systems contained CFC-free r-134 refrigerant instead of r12.


Ford gave the F-Series top trim level an upwards bump by adding the more plush Eddie Bauer Edition. SuperCab models were fitted with a new bench seat—the previous jump seats disappeared.


F-Series changed little for this last year before a major redesign. Ford began to phase-in seats with integrated headrests and eliminated the anti-theft aspect of the keyless entry system.