The next big truck is coming down the tracks
Ford does big best. And right now, that’s something they probably don’t want people to think about, given the consumer obsession with fuel economy and crossover vehicles. But the facts are nonetheless there, and built on decades spent crafting big trucks that Americans love to drive. Which makes the debut of the Ford Super Chief Concept such a notable hit. On the surface, it’s a big truck that looks like it was chipped out of rock, with a fancy hydro-ethanol-gas powertrain and a futuristic interior. Underneath the surface, however, it is no less than the direction Ford will take with its next batch of heavy-duty trucks. Based on the reception it received at the 2006 North American International Auto Show, it looks like the truck-buying public just got an eyeful of the next F-250. Even the name is intriguing: like the bright yellow Tonka Concept that came before it, Ford has taken an American icon – this time, the heritage of big trains – and wrapped its truck intentions around the theme. Beefy and heavy shouldered, the Super Chief has Ford’s new three-bar grille up front, has a sheet metal body that looks like burnished aluminum, and carries a high stepped beltline. As a concept, the truck has no B pillar, so the doors swing out to provide maximum ingress and exgress. Inside, there are foot rests (it is a concept), leather everywhere and walnut trim – but don’t count on much of the interior making it to a production truck, as this is intended as a show car. What hints there are of a future production line big truck lie in the design and the powertrain: Ford is tipping its hand with a V10 engine built to run on what they call a triplex system of hydrogen, E85 ethanol fuel, and gasoline. Of the three, hydrogen is the farthest out in terms of actual production. Like GM, Ford is actively developing vehicles that can run on either gasoline or E85, which is a mix of gas and ethanol. Many experts believe that this ethanol-gas mix is a good way to lower emissions, while providing better performance – without any inconvenience to the driver.
Photos by Brian Chee