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Forgotten Luxury: The 1985-86 Ford F-150 Lariat’s Hidden Opulence!

Pickup trucks today are more or less the equivalent of the 1960s and 70s era luxury cars with full-frame chassis and many different Creature Comforts on the interior albeit quite a few of them have overdone touch screens and infotainment systems compared to what at least some of us would prefer.

While there are some truly luxurious pickups today including the ram in particular back in the 1980s pickup trucks still were largely work Vehicles bought by individuals who needed them to tow or haul items.

Introduction of the Ford F-150 Lariat

It was in the midst of this environment that Ford launched what I believe to be the most luxurious pickup that had been made to that point and that was the 1985 and 1986 Ford F-150 Lariat trim.

The 1985 and 1986 F-150s came out of the bullnose era of Ford pickups which began with the 1980 model year. This is the first year in which Ford pickups had a ground up redesign since the 1965 model year and a significant number of items outside of the exterior styling were different with the introduction of this pickup.

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Not only did the pickup get straighter Body Lines it was also the first time that it had been designed for aerodynamics even though it doesn’t look it but it was and new powertrain choices were under hood.

Aerodynamic Design and New Powertrains

The Beloved 460 was dropped from the lineup in the 1980 model year although it would return in a few model years and instead Ford focused on some smaller V8s like the 4.2 liter V8 and subsequently the 3.8 liter V6 was even installed in pickups as a standard engine before being dropped after the 1983 model year.

By the time 1985 and six had rolled around Ford was really settling into its own and the powertrain lineup and in 1986 in particular Ford outfitted its 5 liter V8 with fuel injection as standard equipment.

This is the first such instance of fuel injection being outfitted to a V8 engine in domestic pickups. The 1985 model year also saw the introduction of what I believe to be the most luxurious to date interior ever put in a pickup and that was this new for 1985 Lariat trimmed F-150 interior.

Delirious trim had been around for some time all the way back to the late 70s but by this point in 1985 Ford really had stepped up the overall interior trimmings and turned the inside of the F-150s that were equipped with this trim into pickup size luxury vehicles.

More specifically for the 1985 lyric trim Vehicles the instrument panel got some more Acres of faux wood grain to complement its overall styling as well as the steering wheel door panels became extremely plush with soft velor cloth cloaking the upper portion of the door panel with the cloth being used on the door panels matching that of the extremely luxurious and comfortable velor seats.

Luxurious Interior of the 1985 Lariat

Overall materials on the inside of these trucks including fit and finish were excellent for the time period for pickups and the cabins were far more luxurious than anything offered from Chevrolet even in the top of the line Silverado trim or the Dodge Ram pickups of the era.

By this point pickup truck buyers could choose from Creature Comforts that we’re here to for only known in luxury Passenger cars some of which included cruise control tilt steering wheel power windows power seats power door locks electronic AM FM stereo radios about the only thing that wasn’t in keeping with the luxury image of these Lariat trimmed 86 and 85 bullnose Fords was the key buzzers and the fastened seat belts warning buzzers both of which had that irritatingly harsh tone to them and they clashed when they both went off contemporaneously.

It’s amazing to compare the inside of the 1985 and 1986 Ford Lariat-trimmed pickups with that of Chevrolet’s top-of-the-line Silverado from the same era.

The Silverado has a somewhat handsome dashboard layout with full instrumentation, but the overall material quality—from the seats to the door panels, and even the dash trim and steering wheel—just doesn’t look nearly as luxurious as the Ford. Frankly, it looks cheaper. Similar observations can be made for the 1986 Dodge Ram pickup interiors. While the materials and fit and finish are on par with the Chevrolet, they certainly don’t match the Ford Lariat in terms of material quality, seat comfort, or overall fit and finish.

Comforts in Luxury Passenger Cars

In fact, the interior of the 1985 and 1986 bullnose Fords was so luxurious that Ford redesigned it after just two years. Looking at the 1987 bullnose Ford interior, you can see where costs were cut, and the overall interior and dashboard theme were changed. This was a regressive step backward compared to the 1985 and 1986 versions. The luxury provided by the 1985 and 1986 bullnose Fords was unmatched until modern times when Ram introduced its recent pickups with extremely luxurious interiors, much more so than Chevrolet and Ford offerings.

The only downside to the 1985 and 1986 bullnose Fords is that the 1985 model year faux wood grain tended to fade to a purplish hue, while the 1986 vehicles did not. So, if you’re picking between the 1985 and 1986 models, choose a 1986 bullnose to avoid the wood grain trim issue.

Aside from the interiors, these bullnose Fords were quite good pickups. However, they did rust quite readily, which was their Achilles heel.

Durable Powertrain Components

The engines and transmissions were generally robust, although the Ford AOD transmission was not a smooth shifter at all. It often clunked into gear and always felt like it was searching for an ever-higher gear, particularly overdrive. This might be one reason why Ford sold so many more pickups with manual transmissions than General Motors did during this period.

Another Achilles heel of these bullnose Fords was the front end, particularly the twin I-beam style front end that Ford used on the four-wheel drive vehicles. This setup allowed for independent front suspension, which was different from the competitive makes that had solid axles up front.

Reliability and Early Model Issues

However, if you talk to anyone who owned an alignment shop back then, most of them disliked these twin I-beam Ford front ends because many of them didn’t even have caster and camber adjustments. The service manuals state that if the caster and camber are out of specification, you’re supposed to replace the twin I-beam setup.

Despite these issues, the bullnose Fords were quite reliable, except in the early model years when they used some early electronic feedback carburation systems that were not fully developed. However, these carburetors can be retrofitted with Autolite 2100 two-barrel carburetors, and the engines will run just fine.

The rest of the powertrain components, including the transmissions and rear ends, were generally quite durable, though I don’t find the Ford AOD transmissions to be as rugged and durable as the previous C6 three-speed transmissions.

Conclusion

That said, if you’re looking for a classic pickup that looks great, a bullnose Lariat from 1985 to 1986 is going to be hard to beat. The only challenge now is finding one in excellent condition that is not beaten up and is rust-free and that was loved and cared for by its owner. These pickups have become scarce in recent times and are significantly harder to find than they were 10 or 15 years ago. They are obviously older, and people often drove these pickups without thinking to preserve them.

In any case, I hope you enjoyed this spotlight on the 1985 and 1986 bullnose F-150 Lariat. Thanks again for Reading. Until next time, take care and be sure to check out our other articles from below.

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