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Ford F-150 Buyers Guide 1997-2003

Thursday, September 4th 2014. | 2015 Ford F-150, Ford F-150, Reviews

The Ford F-150 is now onto its 13th, thirteenth! generation with the all-new and upcoming 2015 Ford F-150. But not all of you are in the market for a brand new F-150, so I thought I’d dedicate some time to the used F-150 market as well. If you are shopping for a used truck there are some subtleties and varieties you should be aware of. In this series I am going to start with the 1997 – 2003 F-150, which was when the 10th generation was released, known, affectionately, as the jellybean F-150 due to its much rounder shape than the year before it. Which goes to show that even back then Ford wasn’t afraid to make bold moves in the pickup truck segment.

2001 Ford F-150 SuperCab at Construction Site

2001 Ford F-150 CrewCab at Construction Site

1997-2003 Ford F-150, 10th Generation
This truck was available with 3 engines, a 4.2 liter V6 with a max-tow of 5,800 pounds and two V8 Modulars at 4.6 liters and 5.4 liters with max-tow of 7,300 and 8,800 pounds respectively.

  • The 4.2 Liter Essex V6 put out 217 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque.This is a respectable amount of power for its time. I would recommend this engine if purchase price is your biggest consideration and you won’t doing a ton of towing and hauling. If fuel mileage is your main consideration, this isn’t automatically your go-to engine. The V8 models aren’t significantly worse mpg-wise.
  • Things get interesting when it comes to the V8’s, there was a 4.6 liter available (at 220 hp and 280 lb-ft torque) and there was also a 5.4 liter available (at 235 hp and 330 lb-ft torque).

    Later in 1999 this duo got power upgrades with the 4.6 liter at 231 horsepower 293 ft-lb of torque and the 5.4 at 260 horsepower 350 lb-ft of torque.

    Again it’s all about purchase price, I would recommend the 5.4 over the 4.6 if you can afford it. With a truck of this vintage I can’t imagine the differences being insurmountable, in many cases.

2003 Ford F-150 FX4 Off Road Package

2003 Ford F-150 FX4 Off Road Package

Best, most well equipped models:
This section is here to tell you what the nicest, best models were in this generation of F-150. Starting out a 1999 and up 5.4 liter equipped truck is the best model to get when it comes to this generation. Not only because of the power increase, but the 1999 F-150 was also the first year that the King Ranch and Harley Davidson editions were available, these trucks had all the bells and whistles.

If you have a family or a work-crew and are in the market for a crew cab version of these, they didn’t come out until the 2001 model year, named the Supercrew. Want the best possible off-roader from this generation? Another year later the 2002 Ford F-150 FX4  model came out, it was fitted with skid plates, Rancho shocks and had a carbon-steel frame. It also included everything the XLT had plus all XLT options, so this is another model to look out for that has a lot of bells and whistles. Finally in 2003 (the last year, sort of) a Heritage Edition F-150 was released, only available in Supercab (Extended Cab), but also well equipped. These are not to be confused with ’03/’04 Heritage F-150’s that were built to finish out production of this generation, which were all no-frills work trucks.

2000 Ford F-150 King Ranch Interior

2000 Ford F-150 King Ranch Interior

Models of interest:
The Ford SVT Lightning was quite a truck in these model years, this was the second generation and it came with a supercharged variant of the 5.4 liter, the Lighting came out in 1999 and was sold till 2004. The supercharged 5.4 liter in the 1999 and 2000 SVT Lighting put out 360 horsepower and 440 lb-ft of torque and for 2001-2004 those numbers increased to 380 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque. These lightning editions were “sport-trucks” available only as a regular-cab 2WD model and were backed by the transmission from Ford’s V10 and Diesel trucks. A 2001 lighting was tested by C&D and was capable of a blisteringly fast 5.2 second 0-60 mph time! These are highly sought after trucks and command quite a premium. It should also be noted the 2002 F-150 Harley Davidson edition was available with the same engine and this way you could have both the SVT power and the space of a crew cab truck.

2000 Ford F-150 SVT Lightning Regular Cab Supercharged

2000 Ford F-150 SVT Lightning Regular Cab Supercharged

The 2002 Lincoln Blackwood was another model of interest, this was an F-150 based truck given a make-over by Lincoln. It came very well appointed, was only available as a crew cab and was powered by a 5.4 liter V8 putting out 300 horsepower and 355 lb-ft of torque. Slightly more than the 1999 and up 5.4 liter F-150. Just 3,356 of these were built.

2002 Lincoln Blackwood

2002 Lincoln Blackwood

Important Considerations:

  • Spark Plugs, they aren’t an easy job on the V8’s, it can be done in 45 minutes, but prepare for several hours your first time. It becomes an even worse job if they break during removal, which can happen. It’s definitely a bonus if these have recently been done.
  • These trucks can be very rusty, especially in areas where snow falls frequently. Most obvious signs will be rusty wheel arches, but also make sure to look behind these as this is where I’ve seen some very bad rust as well. Other common areas include cab corners, the bottom of the tailgate and the bottom of the doors. In same cases it may not be a deal breaker, but certainly keep this in mind when it comes to the purchase price.
  • See if the exhaust manifolds were recently replaced, these were prone to having studs go bad on them. If not replaced it’s possible you will need to replace them at some point during ownership. When this happens it isn’t a critical problem, but should be addressed in a timely manner or you will risk a damaged head.
  • As with any vehicle, bugs will be worked out in later model years, so while 1997’s are good trucks, given all else is the same, the model year could be a tie-breaker for you.
  • The Supercab went from a 3 door to a 4 door configuration in 1999.

Bottom line:
If you need a work truck at the best possible price, go for a 2WD V6 equipped F-150, this will be a competent platform to do any lighter duty work you throw at it. From there you can start adding as you see fit. Need the most possible power? Look at a 1999 and up 5.4 liter. Need a crew cab for the family? You’ll need to move forward another couple years (2001). Don’t need the Supercrew and is a 1999 5.4 too expensive? You’ll still have a very capable truck with a 1997 or 1998 5.4 liter V8. Concerned about fuel mileage? It doesn’t vary much from engine to engine. 2WD will get you better mileage and at the end of the day a V6 will too, just not by as much as you may hope it will.

For a middle of the road truck I’d recommend looking at the XLT model, they aren’t quite as nice as the editions discussed earlier, but they are a step up from the XL, work truck models.

Want the absolute nicest 10th gen trucks? Look at the King Ranch, FX4 or Harley Davidson editions. you may even favor one of these over a less well-appointed 11th generation truck. Keep in mind, the first year (2004) of the 11th gen F-150 had the same engines as the 10th gen F-150’s. Or you may even find yourself a rare Lincoln Blackwood, although I have to admit, this is a hate-it or love-it kind of truck.

Another tip for those on a budget? I’ve noticed the 2003/2004 Heritage F-150’s are being listed for sale at very competitive prices. They were built to finish out production of the F-150, they are all work-trucks and a lot of them tend to be available through federal or state governments as they upgrade their fleets of trucks.

Click through the image gallery below for more pictures of the trucks discussed above.


ford f 150 2003 super charger harley davison
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