Sam Walton’s Iconic 1979 Ford F-150 Custom

Todd Davis

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As founder of Walmart, Sam Walton could have driven any vehicle in the world, yet he chose a Ford F-150 for its practicality, dependability and value.

 

Now slightly dinged and worn, and with 65,000 miles on the odometer, the Ford F-150 Custom was purchased new by Walton in 1979, and he drove it until he died in 1992. It is now in the Walmart Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas, in the exact same condition as when he last drove it. According to the curator of the museum, Walton’s pickup truck is one of the best-known, most recognized trucks in the world.

 

“Why do I drive a truck?” Walton is quoted as saying. “What am I supposed to haul my dogs around in, a Rolls-Royce?” The quote speaks to Walton’s modesty, despite his incredible success in business.

 

Much like Henry Ford, Walton was an American business pioneer and visionary. Both saw their enterprises as building upon traditional American values and as avenues to improve the quality of life for average Americans through affordable products. Both came from modest, rural backgrounds. Both Henry Ford and Sam Walton grew up on farms, yet both became visionary entrepreneurs through perseverance and hard work while maintaining a rural lifestyle and spending much time outdoors.

 

“Sam was a practical man, and liked the utility and versatility he got out of his Ford truck,” said Alan Dranow, senior director, Walmart Heritage Group. “He loved that thing, and it embodied the practicality and frugality that was part of his business and personal life.”

 

An avid outdoorsman and hunter, Walton had dog boxes installed in the truck bed, though occasionally his dogs rode in the cab with him. Ol’ Roy, a tricolored English shepherd, was Sam’s favorite dog, accompanying Walton on hunting trips and on visits to stores. The truck’s steering wheel doubled as Ol’ Roy’s chew toy; his teeth marks are still visible.

 

Each year, thousands visit the museum, where Walton’s truck is one of the most popular displays. Urban legend has it that touching the door handle will bring you the gift of frugality. At the annual shareholders meetings, hundreds of Walmart employees line up to touch the handle. That frugality has been passed down to the 2017 F-150, with unsurpassed standard V6 EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings for a light-duty pickup* for today’s truck buyers who prioritize efficiency.

 

Recently, the Walmart Heritage Museum had an exact replica of the truck made. It’s accurate down to the dents, missing sections of trim, even Ol’ Roy’s bite marks. For those unable to visit the Walmart Museum in Bentonville, the Walmart Digital Museum online features a detailed exhibit on Sam’s iconic F-150.

In addition to being the truck for everyday working men and women, the F-Series is the truck of millionaires and billionaires. According to a recent New Vehicle Customer Study by Martiz Research Group, more of America’s top earners prefer Ford trucks, from the frugal F-150 XL, similar to Walton’s daily driver, to the fully decked-out F-Series Super Duty® Limited and King Ranch® editions.

 

As the truck sales leader for 40 consecutive years, Ford is celebrating F-Series leadership at #40YearsTough. Share your stores and read more about the best-selling trucks in America.

 

* EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 18 city/24 hwy/20 combined mpg, 4x2. Actual mileage will vary. Class is Full-Size Pickups under 8,500 lbs. GVWR. GVWR based on Ford segmentation.

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