Every time the new Ram or Ford lettering tailgates show up there are a slew of comments about how it they are extremely tacky, and ugly. However, pickup manufactures have been pressing their name in the tailgate since the beginning of pickups. So why are these ugly?

But these are cool?

I’ll tell you why.


There are several key factors as to why old lettering gates are cooler than the new ones.

- Nearly always the lettering was located within some sort of recess in the tailgate itself. This recess adds a lot of character and style to a tailgate. It adds depth, and a subtle focal point drawing your eye’s to the lettering, without the lettering being over bearing. The newer tailgates all bulge outward, likely in an attempt to appear muscular (there are also some aero benefits though).


- If the lettering wasn’t within a recessed area, but on a flat surface, or completely flat tailgate, they were normally pressed in not out.  Ex.

And even still there are recessed areas or lines to simulate recessed areas. Not so on newer tailgates. Once again, the new tailgates are all pressed (or molded in this age of fantastic plastic) outward.

-Shallow stamping. Compared to the two newer tailgates, the stamping on the older gates is much shallower making the lettering much more subtle, yet still an obvious focal point. Newer tailgates seem to be over compensating, again in an attempt to appear more muscular.

-Badge overload. Now days manufactures want everyone to know exactly what you have and they do this by placing many badges on the tailgate. RAM! REBEL! 4x4!!!! FORD! F-150! RAPTOR!!!!! No one is going to confuse your macho man Rebel with a puny base model V6. Older trucks? Just one, usually nothing more than the company name smack dab in the middle of the gate. No one needed to know that you’re driving the Chevrolet K20 Crew Cab 4x4 454 Silverado Ranch Edition every time they come up behind you. Those badges are elsewhere, sure, but they’re still small and subtle, all they needed to know was that this hard working piece of machinery in front of them is a Ford/Dodge/Chevy/International/GMC/etc. etc. etc. Having multiple logos on a tailgate isn’t a new thing. Multiple badges seemed to gain popularity in the late 90's, but even then they were smaller badges, usually placed in the lower corners of the tailgate, with maybe an appropriately sized logo in the center of the tailgate. It’s only when you combine the large lettering with the other logos does it become too much.

-We went away from it for a while. Again, sometime in the 90's most large lettering tailgates went away. I don’t know why, but they did. That was roughly twenty years ago so we’ve had twenty years to get used to a new standard in tailgate styling. Even though large lettering tailgates aren’t new, they’re a big change from what we’ve gotten used to. People don’t like change.

So there you have it, my analysis as to why newer lettering tailgates are generally regarded as ugly, while older ones are considered cool. And you know these are all scientifically legitimate reasons, because I am the Pickup Man, foremost expert in all things pickup*.

* Full disclosure, I’m am not foremost, nor an expert, I am simply a guy infatuated with pickups constantly trying to learn as much as I can about all types of pickups, and who inspires to own the worlds largest collection of pickups someday**

**Not likely to happen, but I can dream.