Ford F-150: Arizona dust and other tortures

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Posted 16 May 2014 in Uncategorized

Ford’s redesigned F-150 will hit showrooms late this year, but only after 10 million miles of tests and torture – some born out of Arizona’s extremes.

Davis Dam near Bullhead City is one such challenge, providing a durability test with a drive up the 6 percent grade 13 miles to Union Pass. Think speeds up to 65 miles per hourSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES, 120 degrees, AC blasting and maximum trailer load, all repeated 250 times.

“It never lets up,” Brandt Coultas, F-150 consumer marketing manager, told members of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association this week. “It’s a pure test of system capabilities.”

And that’s just one small component of the thousands of hours and millions of miles of tests that range from acid baths to twisting, shaking and even abuse by robots, he said.

(Here’s another take on the presentation from Tyson Hugie,  http://drivetofive.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/press-preview-2015-ford-f-150-pickup/)

Ford already was working on the new-generation F-150 when its predecessor made its debut in 2009, Coultas said. The truck now is getting ready to hit showrooms late this year with Ford hoping to maintain its strong sales that work out to one every 41 seconds.

The new truck has 11 industry-first technologies, such as the push-button tailgate, he said. One of the most significant changes, however, is the aluminum construction. But before Ford could commit, the concept of an aluminum body on a steel frame had to be thoroughly tested.

“We wanted to build the toughesfrom foutz motorsportst, most capable F-150, while making it as much as 700 pounds lighter, said Pete Reyes, Ford F-150 chief engineer. “We challenged the team to torture the truck harder than any F-150 before it.”

Enter Power Hop Hill, a steep off-road trail in the Hualapai Mountains in northwest Arizona. Ford replicated that washboard road and its 11 percent grade at its durability course in Romeo, Mich.

Foutz Motorsports, a Mesa company that builds off-road race trucks, pitched in, helping Ford create a version of the truck that was as stock as possible yet able to run in the Baja 1000.

The Foutz F-150 not only finished the race, but the team then drove it in the dead of winter all the way back to Michigan.

Tests aside, sometimes the real world throws a curveball. Robots body slam leather seats over and over to test for wear and tear, which seemed to pass muster. But some of the trucks sold in Arizona still showed excessive wear.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“We couldn’t figure out what’s causing this issue,” said Coultas. Then engineers considered Arizona dust.

For the new generation, it was smeared on the seats, rubbed in, spritzed and Ford paid 12 burly guys to get in and out on those dirty seats some 10,000 times, he said. “So in 2015 our leather seats are going to be nice and soft, but also more durable.”