23rd July 2021

Going for Gold… The cars at the top of the Olympic podium

This week marks the opening of the Summer Olympic Games, hosted in the city of Tokyo. Delayed by a year, its set to be an Olympics unlike any before, with events being largely spectator-free for the first time. To mark the opening of Tokyo 2020, we’re looking at the countries that have bagged the most medals since the event began in 1896 - and their all-time top scoring motors. Our first chapter begins across the pond…

With over 2500 Summer Olympic medals as of 2016, the USA easily secures its place at the top of the table – having dominated events in the same way that its best-selling vehicle has monopolised the market. It’s as American as apple pie – but, having sold in excess of 34 million examples, the States’ quintessential pickup has more in common with hotcakes.

Launched in 1948 as the Bonus-Built, the Ford F-Series has become an iconic symbol of the American dream. It topped the US sales charts for 34 consecutive years, with Ford’s big pickup capturing imaginations in a way no other has before or since.

The concept was simple: a tough, versatile truck that was as at home at the ranch as it was on the freeway. It was reliable and desirable, yet affordable. Ford had nailed the brief with a truck that was as attractive as it was agricultural, and soon there would quite literally be a Ford F-Series born every minute. Today, it’s every 52 seconds…

There wasn’t anything particularly athletic about those first off the line. Whether you opted for the straight six or the V8, your brand-new Bonus-Built would produce around 100 horsepower. Like the Summer Olympics, the chassis of those early cars have roots tracing back to the late 19th Century – but that didn’t affect the model’s astounding popularity.

That first generation remained unchanged for four years, by which time the F-Series had cemented its place in Ford’s model range. Buyers could choose from eight different chassis configurations, depending on the capacity and payload they needed. In true Ford fashion, the same cab was fitted to each, allowing them to keep costs down and ensure the truck was affordable for as many people as possible.

The second generation arrived in 1953, receiving constant revisions as the decade progressed. Customisation became more and more important, and soon you could specify your F-Series in a way that perfectly matched your needs, or your personality.

Ford began to offer all-wheel drive in 1959, as the trucks became larger and plusher with each generation. A ‘unibody’ model was introduced in 1961 - with an integrated cab and bed designed to improve things further - but it was dropped just two years later, after being snubbed by buyers.

As of 2021, Ford are still selling body-on-frame F-Series pickups to an audience that remains as captive as ever. It truly appears that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Over 70 years later, it remains the nation’s favourite vehicle – and 34 million Ford fans can’t be wrong…

Find out which country is in the silver medal position in our car Olympics, and find out their domestic car champion.