Integrated Pickup Project: 1961 Ford F-100

Ford’s integrated-pickups are generally referred to as unibody pickups and that sometimes doesn’t sit well with a few folks. Whatever a person calls them, they’re unique and fairly rare to see these days, especially in person. This rust-free 1961 Ford F-100 integrated pickup, or unibody, can be found here on Craigslist with an asking price of $3,200. It’s located in Azle, Texas, just northwest of Fort Worth. Thanks to J Liu for submitting this tip!

Like the majority of politicians actually not reaching across the aisle like they say they will once they’re elected, some things we can count on like a Swiss train schedule. One of them is that some vehicles will usually bring up certain comments. Like, any Delorean will have several “flux-capacitor” comments and microcars usually have “clown car” or “not-safe” comments. Japanese vehicles all apparently rusted into the ground right before everyone’s eyes. With unibody pickups, it’s stories about the doors not opening from having too much weight in the back. For any of you who have had a physics class, you can see how that would happen due to the construction of these trucks. The sides of the bed are literally welded to the door sills/jambs – put a big load in the back and something’s going to flex. It’s unfortunate that Ford didn’t see that coming and either beef up the frame or come up with another solution. Today, we see new “unibody” pickups all the time and that obviously isn’t an issue anymore. Maybe because people driving those trucks don’t actually use them to haul loads in the back as they did in the days of the Ford integrated pickups.

You’ve already guessed that this truck wasn’t originally white but Ford’s fantastic and some would say iconic turquoise color. The unibody/integrated pickup was a shot across the bow in the turning point for the pickup going from being strictly a work vehicle to what most of them are today: basically commuter vehicles for people who sometimes may grudgingly have to haul something clean in the back. Notice that I said “most of them”, which of course means that not every pickup owner today just hauls a skinny vanilla latte in the heated cup holder on their way to an office job, they will actually haul a pile of dirty dirt and/or gritty concrete blocks in the back and that’s what they bought them for, to use as a tough work vehicle.

I would argue that those owners aren’t the majority of the pickup owners anymore – unless they’re strictly commercial vehicles – like in the days of the unibody experiment. People, in general, didn’t buy pickups to use as a primary or secondary vehicle in those days, they were mainly for working folks. And, for the record, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to drive a pickup every day whether you haul anything in the back or not. As if I had to even say that. I have a small pickup and I drive a vehicle every day that probably gets worse mpg than a lot of you get so I’m not here to say that there’s one thing wrong with driving what you want to drive. I’m just making an observation to bring about a good discussion on this truck with folks who have more experience with these than I do. Hey, speaking of this particular truck, I can’t get over how great the body looks on this example! If it’s truly rust-free as the owner says, this is a real deal.

The seller says that this truck is “in excellent rust free condition. Floor board has already been replaced. The door steps and bed is in great condition.” They have been accumulating parts and pieces including “New door seals and tracks still in package. All excellent condition glass. New gas tank. Dash is great.” It has a three-on-the-tree shifter and it also has a new clutch, extra rocker arms, and an extra cam. It seems like if a person could stick to around $5,000 worth of work on this truck you’d have a real winner and still be a bit under Hagerty’s value. They list a #2 excellent example as being worth $13,000 and a #3 good condition truck as being worth $6,800. Somewhere in-between those two conditions and values is where I’d want to be so it was nice but not too nice that I wouldn’t want to use it.

This is the original engine, Ford’s 223 cubic-inch inline-six with 135 hp. Most Barn Finds readers could have this engine back in place and running like new before too many revolutions of the small hand (a “clock face” reference which may be lost on anyone under 40). It sounds like it was taken out in order to shoehorn a V8 in there, even though a 160-hp 292 V8 would have been an option. The seller is working on a couple of 1970 Mach 1s and there’s no more time for this truck. Do I even have to say that I would rather have a ’61 Unibody than a Mach 1? I didn’t think so. This seems like a great, solid project truck to me. I’m not sure which way I’d go, original six or V8. Have any of you owned an integrated-pickup/unibody? If so, let us know your real stories about the doors jamming, not just what you’ve heard through the grapevine about your cousin’s neighbor’s friend who had one.

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    I think those claims of being trapped in the truck are overblown. Maybe with a big load, but these were just as tough as regular pickups. I’d think rust would be a bigger issue for sagging in the middle. The 6 is an anemic thing, so since the motor is out, I’d go with a small V8. I’d like to hear more about the “rocket arms” that are included. This a good project.

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  2. KSwheatfarmer Member

    I drove one just like this for a lot of years,never had any problem with the doors but as Howard said I didn’t overload it,just a tool box and the usual farm stuff. Rust eventually got the cab mounts which caused problems with the clutch linkage.Got enough sag that the windshield tried to fall out and I had to give up and park it. Hope to fix those mounts in time and at least get it moving again. Iv’e come to the conclusion that if our old vehicles don’t run and drive they are nothing more than a pile of parts.My new goal, get as many running as possible.

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  3. Fred W

    Amazing how one look at a photo can bring memories flooding back. This truck makes me think of my dad’s ’63 F100 with a conventional bed and 352 Y block. Suddenly (in my mind) I’m sitting in the seat, rowing through the gears, headed to the hardware store to pick up some plywood for him. I had completely forgotten he owned one.

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  4. Lance Nord

    I had one of these for a year. It had already been converted to a 289 with automatic. I really enjoyed the truck but I got an offer I couldn’t refuse.

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  5. Mike Hay

    I had one for a year also, put a very light 8 foot camper on it and took out 2-3rd members broke the welds at the front of the box and back of the cab. Loved the pickup just not up to the camper. Mine had the 292 v8.

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  6. Raymond Keck

    I had a ’62 unibody and never had any problems. It was a great truck, save for some shifter issues that I worked out. I sold it to a contractor friend and he used it for business for many years.

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  7. Beaver Member

    I have a 312 Y Block with a tremick 5 spd convert,The eng has been rebuilt to bring it up to 290 Hp and 405 lbs torque I was going to put it in a baby bird. BUT a loose palet of cinder blocks from 10 feet in the air did it in! this could be a GREAT fun trip down 1/2 ton pick up lane, Just think AC and a little time could make this a great ride!

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  8. Morley Member

    I have one of these only in a 1980. Still have it , never really drove it, it is just sitting in the garage under the car cover. It only has 60,000 miles and I do not think it ever saw rain , certainly not winter driven. so I guess I do not need two of this type of truck

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    • Beaver Member

      Sorry 1980 is NOT a Unibody truck yours it just a 80 SWB 4X4 nice truck BUT not the same!

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  9. Gary Ellis

    My truck is a good example of what this one could be. I have a 61 SWB F100 in Caribbean turquois. It was purchased new by my great gandparents who towed a travel trailer (probably canned ham or pop up) with it. The majority of its life was spent in Colorado, so there is no rust. We have never had any problems with the doors latching, and they shut extremely easily. The frame is quite heavy and features multiple crossmembers. I agree with an earlier comment that rust may have something to do with the rigidity issues some have experienced. The 223 six coupled with a 4 speed granny low and 3.89 rear, run well. We have ran it on the interstate at 70 and she wants to do more. I don’t want to push it. I’m certain that a 292 or 312 would up the fun factor significantly. I’m happy to see what appears to be a predominately solid “unibody” for sale. These trucks are getting very rare. Good luck to the seller and new owner.

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