Off Roading News
Ford's New 4x4 Toy: The F-350 Tonka ConceptWe regularly showcase concept trucks in this column since, many times, the radical styling cues and advanced drivetrains featured on concept trucks make their way into production. With Ford's bold, new F-350 Tonka Concept, we have no way of knowing whether - or whether not - its styling and performance-bred engine mods will ever see production, since concept trucks are traditionally designed and built to gauge public reaction to a new look or advanced engineering.
The F-350 Tonka Concept's exterior styling is pure Ford F-series. Many of the unique styling attributes of the Super Duty can be seen in the Tonka Concept, including large, round wheel openings on the fenders and an oversized grille with side nostrils. Designers also penned plenty of geometric forms and strong character lines into the concept truck's sheetmetal, giving the truck a highly structured, industrial look that emphasizes the F-350's ruggedness and power. More cutting-edge styling is found on the cab, where rear-hinged rear doors open to the rear, exposing the F-350's B-pillar-less design. The huge dual rear wheels are 22 inches in diameter, and the bed, in an obvious nod to form over function, is a mere 6 feet in length.
Intended to operate in the manner of a high-quality tool, the Tonka Concept's interior is loaded with sophisticated details. Oversize, aircraft-inspired toggle switches control the electronics, and the driver seat - known as the Commander's Seat - is built on a fully adjustable, full-floating suspension, much like the type used in high-dollar big rigs.
Lest you think that FoMoCo shoehorned an existing powerplant into the Tonka Concept's engine bay, think again. Ford specifically built a powerful, yet low-emission engine using a unique combination of existing technologies. The 6.0L Power Stroke Diesel Super-600 V-8 engine is topped with 32 valves (four per cylinder) and is pressurized by a turbocharger. The diesel's total horsepower is 350, and the torque output is a whopping 600 lb-ft, which is sent to a five-speed PowerTorq automatic transmission.
Most interesting is the concept truck's Hydraulic Launch Assist (HLA). The system is based on a reversible pump/motor that's powered by the rear driveshaft via a clutch setup and an energy storage module. In function, the HLA recovers energy that is normally lost on deceleration and stores it in the form of hydraulic pressure. When the truck accelerates, the hydraulic pressure is fed into the driveshaft through the clutch system, thus sending additional power to the rear wheels.
Ford did away with traditional steel springs on the Tonka Concept. Air springs are used at each wheel; when the truck is at rest and a door is opened, the airbags automatically deflate, lowering the truck a full 5 inches, and the running boards deploy for easy access. Once the doors are closed, the truck reverts to its standard ride height.
The lighting was also given a high-tech treatment on the concept truck. LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are used in every possible application, including the headlamps (low beam), the interior, the foglamps, the turn signals, the rear combination lamps, the center-mounted stoplight, and the side-marker lights. Ford claims the LEDs can deliver better light distribution than comparable halogen lights and also use 50 percent less electrical energy than a halogen bulb. And the LEDs aren't just for cool looks: Halogen bulbs take a fraction of a second to illuminate, while LEDs illuminate instantly, which could prove beneficial to safety in a taillight/stoplight application.
While it's doubtful the F-350 Tonka Concept shown here will turn up in Ford showrooms, the styling and advanced engineering used on the concept truck almost certainly will. Look for a new Power Stroke engine, ruggedly distinctive styling, and LED lighting on the next generation of Ford's F-350.
New Truck Sales Up - Way UpFor the first time in history, sales of light trucks exceeded sales of passenger cars, at least if you call a PT Cruiser a truck. The industry totals for light truck sales for model-year 2001 was 8,667,089, including 144,717 PT Cruisers. The Cruiser number is critical to a sales victory for trucks, since 2001 automobile sales were 8,510,356. If the PT is counted as a truck - which parent company DaimlerChrysler does - then truck sales topped automobile sales by 156,773 units. If the PT is counted as a car, automobiles once again outsold trucks by 132,701 units. Actually, we don't really care if trucks outsold cars or not; we're just trying to figure out how 144,717 people could be duped into buying a vehicle that looks like a street rod but is built on underpinnings pirated from a front-wheel-drive crackerbox.
GM and Ford Engines Garner 10 Best Engine AwardsWard's Communications, publisher of Ward's AutoWorld and Ward's Engine and Vehicle Technology Update, has announced its annual 10 Best Engines awards, and Ford and General Motors truck engines made the list. The award is based on a wide range of criteria, including horsepower, torque, technical relevance to the vehicle, and low levels of noise, vibration, and harshness.
Ford's 5.4L Triton V-8, which powers the F-150, the Expedition, the Excursion, and the Super Duty, was a 10 Best Winner, thanks to refinements made to the V-8's block (thicker main webbing and side-skirt walls, with thicker oil pan rails), which had a noticeable reduction on the engine's overall noise, vibration, and harshness.
General Motors grabbed two places on the 10 Best list with the Vortec 4200 I-6 engine and the Duramax Diesel 6600 V-8. The Vortec I-6 engine is an all-new design from GM and shows outstanding power, smoothness, and efficiency, traits that were noted by Ward's. GM's joint venture with Isuzu produced the other award-winning Bow Tie engine. That the Duramax Diesel was recognized as a smooth and quiet performer was a feather in GM's cap since the turbocharged Duramax engine was specifically engineered to operate in a civilized manner.
The Trucks Thieves LovePopularity is a double-edged sword. While most of us enjoy the good kind of popularity, there exists a kind of popularity that's certainly not desirable. Car thieves - amateur and pro alike - have made certain cars and trucks their top targets. If you own one of the models most likely to be ripped off, it's certainly information you need to know. The strange aspect of this list is that a popular truck with thieves in one area of the U.S. isn't necessarily the most-stolen truck in a different area. For some reason, car thieves have favorites based on the region where they're doing their dirty work. On the accompanying list, the No. 1 stolen car or truck is listed, as are any other trucks that made the Top 10 list for most stolen, based on data supplied by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).
This list isn't intended to alarm; rather, it should serve to remind anyone who values their ride that there are miscreants lurking in every city and suburb just waiting to drive off in your accessory-laden 4x4. Even if your truck isn't on the most-wanted-by-criminals list, there's likely someone who will take a fancy to your 'wheeler and attempt to liberate it from your possession. As always, locking your truck, taking the keys with you, and installing an ignition-immobilizer is the best defense against Grand Theft Auto.
Riverside/San Bernardino (CA)#1 Toyota Camry#4 Toyota Tacoma#6 Chevrolet Silverado#7 Nissan Frontier#10 Ford Ranger
Los Angeles/Long Beach (CA)#1 Honda Accord#4 Toyota Tacoma#10 Chevrolet Silverado C/K Series
Seattle (WA)#1 Honda Accord#4 Toyota Tacoma#7 Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee#10 Ford F-250
Phoenix/Mesa (AZ)#1 Chevrolet Silverado C/K Series#6 Ford F-150#8 Nissan Frontier#9 Toyota Tacoma
Denver (CO)#1 Honda Accord#3 Jeep Cherokee#6 Ford Explorer 4x4#7 Ford F-150
St. Louis (MO)#1 Oldsmobile Cutlass#8 Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee#10 Chevrolet Silverado
Dallas (TX)#1 Chevrolet Silverado C/K Series#5 Chevrolet Suburban#7 Ford F-150#8 GMC Sierra#9 Jeep Cherokee
New York (NY)#1 Toyota Camry#9 Jeep Cherokee
Baltimore (MD)#1 Honda Accord#4 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Atlanta (GA)#1 Oldsmobile Cutlass#4 Chevrolet Silverado C/K Series#6 Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee#10 Ford F-150
Chevy Silverado: No. 1 with truck thieves.
Ford F-150: Popular choice for Grand Theft Auto.