1991/1992 Ford F-150 "Nite"
Obviously somebody else appreciates them, as few classic trucks look like this. It looked 100% stock and brand new... even the reflective stripes were shiny and working. And inside the rear wheel well, do we see any dirt? I don't.
Seeing this pristine beauty appear out of nowhere brought back a lot of memories and was the inspiration for this post. I mean... the truck looked as new as the one I had driven back in 1990. Its perfect, reflective black sheen and multi-hued tape stripe made it stand out even among the brand new cars.
It brought back many other memories as well.
I've been asked to tell about this for a while, so here we go.
About 20 years ago, I was a reporter on the Road Test Magazine TV show. The program eventually became Car and Driver Television (I didn't help on those shows, I was a contractor with Car and Driver magazine around that time), then morphed into the Powerblock shows currently on Spike TV. At the ends of the Powerblock shows, the credits read "RTM Productions," which of course stands for "Road Test Magazine."
"Big Daddy" Don Garlits and Larry Black
were our hosts; it was fun working with them and other automotive and
television legends. They did the show's entry and segment introductions,
which were filmed in a local studio with choice cars sitting around
them. We usually used recently-reviewed vehicles, and occasionally one
of "Big Daddy"s "Swamp Rat" dragsters would show up.
As they say it was a fun gig, as I also drove nearly every vehicle we tested because I was also the Technical Editor. But on a few segments I got to face the camera and do a few spiels, including the first Saturn test, a Nissan King Cab 4x4, and the Ford Nite pickup. I also did the stunt driving... yeah, that's me on final approach.
I also got a Porsche 928 GT airborne about eight times, but I'd better check to see if the statutes of limitation have run out before I get into that.
Our production crew was minimal... we had a cameraman of course, and there was a second person who drove the production vehicle (Usually a Ford Explorer), held the reflector, kept up with the batteries and tapes, and set up the tripod. The third person was the reporter naturally who, among other things, offered bottled water to the crew. We shot two segments a day, then it went to the editors.
Each segment was usually broken into three parts... the vehicle's establishing (beauty) shots, drive-bys, and the reporter's stand-up(s). We also lensed the reporter from inside the vehicle while he or she drove.
We had some great times. There was the day we spent with Sir Jackie Stewart and Reeves Callaway. They were appearing together at a Bridgestone Tire function, and while we were there, I drove a twin-turbo Callaway Corvette (The one here on the left) with its owner, Reeves Callaway, in the passenger seat (See! I told you I wouldn't hit that wall!).
But maybe my favorite RTM moment was when we were filming a Pontiac SSEi drive-by. The reporter barely got off the pavement and went maybe a foot into the gravel, no big deal. A moment or two later, Jimmy Buffett (Yes, that Jimmy Buffett) walked up to the fence and asked us if we could stay out of his yard.
He was just joking of course, and he just came over to see what we were doing. It turned out that he knew Mom from her landscaping advice, and I had learned to swim in his pool... 30 years before he bought it, but it was the same pool. That was the only time I ever met him, and he was a hoot.
There's plenty more stories, like the time we rented Road Atlanta, and I got to drive around it in a Mazda Navajo of all things... and then a Probe GT. The day was a complete disaster... the speed computer died, tires came apart, and when we finally broke the Probe, we packed up and went home early.
But that's probably enough reminiscing for now.
So back to our original tale... In 1991, Ford introduced the "Nite" trim package on its full-sized, long bed F-150 pickup. The trim more or less followed the "less is more" school of thought... and that was both good and bad. On the good side, the truck looked dark... sneaky... mysterious.
The name "Nite" was well chosen. Everything on the truck was completely blacked-out, except for the "Ford" and "F-150" emblems. The mirrors, door handles, grille, even the bumpers were all but invisible after dark. Its 235/75/15 aluminum wheels and white lettered tires finished off the scheme.
Other than the overwhelming tout noir paint scheme, the Nite's most revealing feature was a reflective tape stripe that started on the leading edge as blue, then became a magenta color as it continued to the rear. At the aft end of the stripe was the "Nite" logo, and there was also one on the tailgate.
In the segment, the only line I spoke directly into the camera was, "In keeping with one of Ford's finer traditions, you can have the Nite in any color you want... as long as it's black." Well, "Oxford White" wouldn't make much sense on a truck named "Nite" anyway, would it? Or would "Sunset Beige?"
Our test truck had the optional 351 CID (5.8L) V-8 and 4-speed automatic. 0-60 took about 11 seconds, and like any large pickup, its gas mileage never got out of the teens. That V-8 had 210 horsepower... please remember, this was 20+ years ago.
But driving the Nite was where it really shined. I had a 1986 Fiero 2M4 at the time, and this huge pickup ran circles around it, literally. Having the Sport Suspension, the Nite cornered unbelievably well and stayed flat in the turns. So much so that in this post, I included the truck as a "Sports Sedan," begging ya'lls' forgivenesses.
On the down side though, I thought Ford should have taken this trim level a bit farther and added sport bucket seats, a racy steering wheel, and, well... something more. Once you got in the cab, it looked like any other black 1991 F-150 XLT Lariat, which the truck was based on. I was really expecting something on the inside to match the outside.
This image is from a 1992 Nite, obviously used. But the seat and cab structure look the same as the '91 model, and to me at least, seem a bit dated and, well, kind of plain. The truck I tested had a regular cab and an 8-foot bed... the typical pickup truck of that time. Super Cabs were fairly common, but 4-door pickups hadn't really hit the mainstream yet.
I just think the Nite's cab deserved more excitement.
My biggest complaint of the '91 Nite was its dash... which dated back to 1987. It had a tilt wheel and intermittent washers, but I would dare you to find them. The flimsy turn signal lever was pushed away from you and if it didn't break, the steering wheel might move up and down. On the washer/wiper switch, if you rotated it counterclockwise somehow (It was never marked), the wipers would do their "slow" thing... I found this out only by mistake. And oh yeah... on the '91, the dimmer switch was still on the floor. Yuck.
1992, the second and final year of the Nite, got the new F-150 dash panel and that fixed my gripes. Everything was laid out better, the dimmer switch was up at finger's reach, and the dash even had a small "Nite" logo on the far right side. Even the radio was much better with four speakers instead of just two.
I was going to use some images from the RTM test in this post, but they were too blurry. So the replacement image to the right shows the Nite's blacked-out pieces fairly well; I think the forward magenta tape stripe was an option in '92.
We actually used the truck one time to haul something other than @$$. I drove Mom to Lynchburg, TN, to see her sister, and we brought back some sort of rug that was rolled up and placed into the back. The 8-foot bed proved useful as the rug was stowed there with the tailgate shut, thus ensuring a safe 2-hour drive back.
For 1992, FoMoCo expanded the Nite to all of the other F-150 models, including the Super Cab and Bronco, plus any 4x4 models. Too bad it wasn't offered on the Ranger and Bronco II as well. I always thought the name "Nite Ranger" had a nice ring to it.
So the Nite will forever be a favorite of mine, for several obvious reasons. If I ever see another one in the wild, especially in the condition of that first truck here, I hope to meet its owner. There seems to be a small following of these trucks, and I'd like to chat about the truck and relive the day we taped our program segment with them.
And if any of those folks want to borrow a copy of the report I did on the Nite back in 1991, please let me know... I might just be able to scare one up.
--That Car Guy (Chuck)
Image Credits: I took the first image of the Nite on July 31, 2012. The Road Test Magazine license plate is a souvenier from way back when. The blurry, ill-defined, and out of focus flying Nissan pickup image was taken off the TV set from an old VHS tape of Road Test Magazine. I took the picture of Sir Jackie Stewart and Reeves Callaway in 1991. The Nite logo/tape stripe photo is from CarPhotos.CarDomain.com. My ugly mug was also from a VHS tape of the show. The '92 Nite interior image came from F150Forum.com. The 1991 F-150 dash is from CarGurus.com; the 1992 dash was found at CarDomain.com. The (modified) Nite beauty shot is from BlueOvalTrucks.com. The Bronco Nite image is from ChrisEgedus.com.