Ford rolls out new chassis, powertrains

THEY aren't exactly Blue Diamonds in the rough.

Ford showed off the first fruits of its Blue Diamond joint venture with International Truck & Engine by presenting its new F-650 and F-750 trucks to those attending the NTEA Truck Product Conference.

The chassis enter the market as a multifaceted model lineup, with a variety of cab choices, wheelbase selections, and regular production options.

“With Blue Diamond, we have been able to radically expand the spec range to create permutations of trucks some people have never seen before,” said Dave Tarrant, chief nameplate engineer. “We have tried to eliminate the need for special order by giving you everything you need up front.”

The new F-650 and F-750 look very much like today's medium-duty truck. It has the same basic cab design as other F-Super Duty models, but it is mounted on a modified version of the International NGV chassis.

“We want to create synergies to maximize capabilities between International and Ford,” Tarrant said. “Combined, we have the ability to do the most for you at the lowest cost. It is important that we do that, because the world is consolidating commercial trucks, and there is a lot more competitive pressure.

“With International and Ford working together, we have efficiency for engineering, product procurement, and manufacturing. The two companies have cooperated in making Blue Diamond products, and we have learned from each other.”

Decisions, decisions

The new truck will offer the new 6-liter Powerstroke diesel in addition to traditional International, Cat, and Cummins engines — including the new Cummins ISB Echo engine.

Allison automatics will be standard, with a variety of five-, six-, and seven-speed manuals. A choice of two-speed axles also will be available. Four exhaust systems will be offered (right-hand horizontal is standard).

A variety of frames are available, including straight and kick-up versions, made of 80,000- or 120,000-psi steel, with optional double-channel in F-750 models similar to the frames Ford used on the LT-9000. Integral and bolt-on frame extensions are optional. Frame components that do not need to be removed are Huck-bolted. For example, the rear suspension components are not Huck-bolted, but the center frame crossmembers are.

Air suspensions are available as regular-production options in every rating with air or hydraulic brakes.

Additional choices

The introduction of the F-650 gives the customer a choice of two different trucks with comparable GVW ratings. The F-550 will be more car-like, a little longer, a little less maneuverable than the new medium-duty low-profile. Advantages of the medium-duty model include more ruggedness, maneuverability, and greater selection of powertrains.

“Our research has told us that at 20,000 pounds GVW, half of our customers want one kind, and half want the other,” Tarrant said.

Ford's heaviest F-Series models will offer one standard and two optional body builder wiring packages and a choice of alternators up to 270 amps.

The new F-Series chassis will come with a variety of packaging options for batteries, air tanks, and fuel tanks. Tarrant illustrated by pointing out that a regular cab model can be configured with three batteries, air tanks, and 70 gallons of fuel and still accommodate an underbody scraper.

E-Series chassis cabs

New chassis also are coming in the Ford E-Series. For the first time, Ford is offering chassis cab models for the E-350, 450, and 550, according to Scott Dorn, E-Series program engineer.

The chassis cab design is accomplished simply by enclosing the normally open rear portion of the company's cutaway chassis. It can be ordered with or without a rear window.

CA dimensions for the E-350 chassis cab will include 80, 100, and 118 inches and wheelbases of 138, 158, and 176 inches. The E-450 will be available in all but the 138-inch wheelbase.

For the E-550, chassis cab models will be offered in wheelbases ranging from 159.5 to 233.3 inches and CA dimensions of 90 to 164 inches.

The 4R100 four-speed automatic overdrive will be used on all models, regardless of engine selection.

Other E-Series changes include:

  • A low-profile fuel fill is standard on cutaway chassis and stripped chassis.

  • A new lineup of mirrors will be offered, and customers who want an aftermarket rear-view mirror will be able to order E-Series vans without one.

  • Frames will be e-coated, eliminated the wax coating of previous models.

  • Firestone tires have been replaced with Michelins.

  • In November, Ford will introduce an E-550 school bus prep package.

  • Roof marker lamps will be an option on E-550 chassis cabs.

Powertrain changes

Engine and transmission changes also have been implemented at Ford. A new 6-liter diesel will replace the 7.3-liter PowerStroke engine, according to Bill Ickes, chief program engineer for F-Series Super Duty. The new engine produces 325 horsepower and 560 ft-lb of torque, yet it is approximately 8% more fuel efficient than the 7.3.

Scheduled for introduction early in 2003, the engine will meet 2004 diesel engine emission regulations, Ickes said, reducing nitrogen oxides 20-30% compared with its predecessor. The overhead valve design has four valves per cylinder. Other features include turbocharger, charge air cooling, and direct injection.

Along with the new engine, Ford is introducing its Torqshift five-speed automatic transmission. The electronically controlled transmission will include a tow-haul mode for improved shift control and — after the vehicle tops the hill — reduced wear on the brake system as the engine absorbs more of the brake load.

The transmission has increased torque capacity at the PTO gear (180 lb-ft, compared with 120 lb-ft for the previous 4R100 automatic transmission). The bolt pattern is the same as the 2002 model.

The engine and transmission are designed to have a 250,000-mile service life. Helping extend the service life of the transmission are an improved cooling system and an upgraded system for filtering the transmission fluid.

Ickes added that crew cabs are continuing to gain popularity among commercial truck customers. Sales of four-door Ford trucks have more than doubled since 1992.

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