It’s time once again to take a deep breath, put a clothes peg on our collective nose and make our way into the foetid, rancid swamp of the automotive past, before plunging our arms into the thick, treacly gloop and pulling out whatever slimy artefact we find. Welcome back to The Carchive.
For this week’s foray into history I thought we’d put cars aside for a while and think bigger. So lets head back to the beginning of the Disco era and look at what Ford could offer you for hauling big-but not too big, stuff around.
Click the images to achieve bigness
“Premium built trucks for every medium / heavy jobs”
This is a fantastic time-capsule of a brochure, presenting the American trucking scene as it was in the late ’70s. The first double-spread image, with an L-800 flatbed loaded with straw bales and surrounded by an army of Stetson-toting Marlboro men is pretty much the most stereotypical scene I’ve ever seen in print.
It does a good job, though, of showing the versatility of the L-Series platform. Available with two, three or four axles, with gross vehicle weights of between 24,000 and 46,000 lbs, and coming in flatbed, boxvan, semi-tractor and bare-chassis flavours, an L could be made to do pretty much whatever you wanted. This was part of the reason that the range was in production right the way from 1970 to ’98.
“Ford drivers enjoy excellent room, visibility, comfort”
This doesn’t look such a bad place to spend a day on the road, especially if your company had ponied up the extra for the exalted “custom cab” spec level. Then you’d be surrounded by such luxuries as “brown vinyl door trim panels” Brown! Armrests were also fitted, as was a cigar lighter, so you could lean and smoke.
Of rather more health benefit, though, would have been the additional insulation in the cab back panel and roof lining, striving to reduce the risk of permanent tinnitus among medium to heavy-duty freight drivers. If your boss didn’t tick these options, he clearly didn’t like you.
“Ford’s L-Line: Premium built with better ideas”
Gasoline fuelled heavy trucks were still a thing in ’77, so you could pick V8’s from 330 to 477 cubic inches big, or you could plump for the far sexier sounding 636 cu in V8 diesels by Caterpillar, but only on the LN-7000 models. Entry level would have been the LN-600 with the 330 gas V8, which could be had with a standard 4 speed manual or an optional 4 speed auto or 5 speed manual.
I remember still seeing a fair number of L-Series trucks knocking about when I first visited Florida during the ’90s, particularly around construction sites and being operated by those involved in “amenities management”. I always recognised them for their distinctive ring of ventilation slots for their air-cleaners, a feature which remained right into the “Aeromax” era post ’88.
Indeed, the basic design survived to be re-branded as a Sterling after Ford’s heavy truck division was sold to Freightliner, along with that re-homed European relic the Cargo.
If you spent wheel-time in the cab of an L-Series, “Custom” or otherwise, we want to hear about your experiences, and whether the Marlboro image stated at the top had any place in reality whatsoever.
(All images are of original manufacturer’s publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright (probably) remains property of Ford Motor Company, but then again it could belong to Daimler AG. Who knows? I like trucking and I like to truck.