Automakers always try their best to disguise their development vehicles whether it be through the use of camouflage or using the sheetmetal off different vehicles. But it seems Ford is becoming the master of disguise. Last year, the company built an all-aluminum 2014 F-150 pickup and put it though the Baja 1000 to test the durability of the aluminum construction. But the company recently revealed that it has been playing around with aluminum much longer than anyone suspected.
Back in 2011, Ford built six examples of the then-current F-150 with something special. The cargo bed, the most abused part in any truck, was made out of aluminum. Those six trucks were then delivered to three outfits across the country – Barrick Mining in Nevada, Walsh Construction in Pennsylvania and Alabama ,and a utility company in North Carolina. The catch was Ford didn't tell any of the outfits that these trucks were something special.
“Our customers demand the highest levels of toughness and productivity – so we wanted to test the truck outside, in the harshest conditions and in the hands of real customers – with no limits. But we did not want these customers to know what was different. So, when we gave them the prototype vehicles, we told them to use the trucks like their other hard-working Ford trucks, and we would be back to follow their progress,” said Larry Queener, program manager for the new F-150.
Now, doing something like this is a very risky move, but it seems to have paid off for Ford. The automaker says this testing helped make improvements and changes for the upcoming 2015 F-150.
"For example, we made the cargo box floor thicker to improve strength, and we made modifications to the tailgate based on lessons we learned through customer usage," Denis Kansier, F-150 prototype lead engineer.
As for those six trucks, they are still in use. Barrick Mining puts on 150 to 300 miles per day, and their two trucks combined have accumulated 150,000 miles. The North Carolina utility company puts on average around 200 miles per day on their trucks, and Walsh Construction used their trucks to help in the construction of a hydroelectric dam and highway interchange.