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From original farm machine to No. 1 vehicle

Primarily used by farmers and businesses when it was introduced at the turn of the 20th century, trucks have become so popular that a truck, not a car, holds the title of the No. 1-selling vehicle in America.

And the same company that first mass-produced a truck, Ford Motor, has bragging rights to the most widely sold, the F-Series.

Ford has sold more than 33 million trucks over the 65 years it has been producing the line.

The average cost of an F-Series truck today is more than $37,000, according to Erich Merkle, U.S. sales analyst for Ford. But when the Model TT truck was introduced in 1917, it had a starting price of $365 and was basically a variation of Henry Ford's revolutionary car, the Model T.

"There was some demand for a Ford-built truck for many years because people would just buy the Model T and modify it with after-market add-ons," said Matt Anderson, a historian at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.

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1925 Ford Truck
Source: CNBC
1925 Ford Truck

The Model TT had an extended wheelbase and rear axle for beefier suspension to help with towing and hauling.

"The truck was rated at one-ton capacity so it could hold a ton of cargo in the back," Anderson said. "And that is what that second T stood for: a ton."

Ford sold 1 million Model TT's during the decade it produced them. By the mid-1920s, the company had 51 percent of the truck market, according to Anderson. The rest was split between many manufacturers. Some that only made trucks, as well as Chevrolet, which had 1 percent share.

"In those days, if you owned a truck, you were likely a farmer or delivery driver. The average person wouldn't buy a truck," Anderson said.

We've seen a huge social change when it comes to trucks, he said.

"We don't think of people having pickups in their garage just to go and buy groceries as being weird," Anderson said. "We're also living in an age where people have three or four vehicles."

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Ford

The Ford F-Series truck has been the top-selling vehicle in the country for 31 years, according to Merkle.

Perry Barndt, whose Ford 150 Raptor truck is his daily ride, fixes vehicles at Flat 12 Gallery in Lubbock, Texas. He also appears on CNBC Prime's "The Car Chasers." In a recent episode, the car team spent $3,500 to buy a 1925 Ford Model TT that had been sitting in a field outside a barn.

"The truck looked like it hadn't moved in at least 20 years," Barndt said on the show.

But he and Flat 12 Gallery technician Eric Ables were able to get the almost 90-year-old truck running after just $200 in repairs.

"We had to get the engine running and free up the transmission because of it sitting for so long," Barndt said. "The cooling system had to be flushed as well, but other than a couple of other little things that had to be taken care of, the truck was in remarkable condition."

1925 Model TT
Source: Ford Motor Company
1925 Model TT

Ford built nearly 268,500 Model TTs in 1925, according to Anderson, and the version the Car Chaser team bought, with the original cab and stakes on the back, would have e cost about $515 in its day.

Many Model TT's were melted down during WWII to help with the equipment effort, so the truck was a rare find, according to the show.

Even though the truck is simple, made for the farm and not city streets, it was a genius design for the day in which it was made, Barndt said.

"The transmission is basically like a tractor—it doesn't have gears like we know of in our cars," he said. "This has just a series of bands, and you compress the band with the pedal. It clamps down on a particular planetary gear, and the truck goes forward or backward."

After selling the truck for $6,600 to a man who said he planned to ship it to the Bahamas to use it as a promotional tool for a clothing company, the Car Chasers team netted a $2,900 profit from the barn discovery.

Tune in to the new season of "The Car Chasers" on CNBC Prime, all new episodes Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

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