FLAT FRAME RAILS, automatic transmissions with provisions for power take-offs, and new models designed for previously unfilled niches are part of the new F-Series that NTEA members previewed at the annual Truck Product Conference held September 15-16 in Dearborn, Michigan.
"This is probably the biggest news year that we have ever had for trucks that will impact your business," Ford's Jerry Mittman told the gathering of truck body and equipment industry professionals. "These will be the products you have been waiting for."
The new trucks reflect input received over the years from NTEA members. More recently, Ford and NTEA conducted measuring sessions this past summer to assist the aftermarket with the introduction of the 1999 Super Duty F-Series.
The entire F-Series over 8,500 pounds GVWR will be changing this year. They will be given a new cab and a new name-the Super Duty F-Series. No longer will the "Super Duty" name apply only to the F-Super Duty Class 4 chassis-a model that is being called the F-450.
Ford will approach the marketplace with two different trucks. The F-150 and the under-8,500-lb-GVWR F-250, carryover models next year, are geared for the personal-use market. With a different cab design, the Super Duty F-Series (gross vehicle ratings above 8,500 pounds) will concentrate on commercial applications.
"The Super Duty designation will be an umbrella term that covers the F-250, F-350, F-450, and F-550," explained John Goodman, project manager, heavy F-Series. "The idea is to distinguish the heavier trucks from the F-150 and the lighter version of the F-250."
Production will start January 5, 1998, and the trucks will be designated 1999 models. All Super Duty F-Series will be launched at that time with the exception of the 19,000-lb-GVW model. That truck will make its first trip down the assembly line in March.
The introduction of these new vehicles coincides with the 50th anniversary of the F-Series.
"Ford Motor Company has put the best people and a record level of investment into this product," Ford's Dave Tarrant said. "What does this mean to you? You will have F-250 pickups in every cab style with both box lengths, 4x2 and 4x4. You will have F-350 pickups with single wheels, both box lengths, and all three cab styles, 4x2 and 4x4. Dual-rear-wheel pickups will be available with short pickup boxes in some cases and long pickup boxes in all cases. They will be offered in all three cab styles, and in either 4x2 or 4x4 configurations.
"A pickup box delete option will be offered on all F-250s with 56" CAs and on all F-350 dualies with 56" CAs.
"An F-350 dualie will be offered in all cab styles and all drive systems--11,200-lb GVWR for gasoline and 12,500-lb GVWR for diesel models.
"The F-450 chassis cabs will get new crew cabs, as well as four-wheel drive availability. And the F-550 is a new model that will be offered in regular cab, crew cab, four-wheel drive, and two-wheel drive. This is a fantastic investment and a terrific opportunity, not only for Ford, Ford dealers, customers, and for the truck body and equipment industry."
Optimistic Outlook Ford plans to produce 300,000 Super Duty F-Series, up from 230,000 this year. Combine that with 500,000 F-150 and F-250 trucks, and the company expects to produce 800,000 F-Series trucks in the coming year.
"It was not long ago that we thought 500,000 was a good year," Mittman said. "You can see how the truck market has been booming."
The over-8,500-lb GVWR segment is the fastest growing part of the truck market, according to Gurminder Bedi, vehicle line director for the F-Series product program.
"That is why we have made a tremendous investment, both in terms of engineering and trying to satisfy niche needs," he said. "We expect the growth to continue."
Bedi based the expectations for growth of commercial truck sales on several factors, including forecasts calling for continued growth in the economy, more small businesses, and the decentralization of large companies.
Filling the Gap For years, the federal excise tax on trucks rated above 10,000 pounds GVW created a major gap between light and medium-duty trucks. While manufacturers have introduced models that fit between the light truck and medium truck markets, the Super Duty F-Series is almost a continuum to the Class 6 market.
"We have extensively expanded our product offerings in this segment," Mittman said. "We are offering more Supercab and crew cab products, and we are filling the gap between light and medium trucks with a real Class 5 product-the F-550."
Among the members of the F-Series Super Duty family, the F-250 and F-350 will have GVW ratings ranging from 8,800 to 12,000 lb. The Class 4 F-450 is rated at 15,000 lb, while the F-550 will be available with GVW ratings of 17,500 and 19,000 lb. The 17,500-lb GVWR model will be available in either 4x2 or 4x4 applications.
The F-350 chassis cab will be offered as a crew cab. It will come with a 176" wheelbase and rated at 12,500 lb GVW.
A new F-550 regular cab model will have a 201" wheelbase and 120" CA. It will be rated at 19,000 lb GVW.
Nuts and Bolts Here are some of the key features of the new Super Duty F-Series:
* Chassis cabs will have flat frame rails.
* The fuel fill will go through the frame, keeping the top of the frame rails clean.
* Four-wheel drive applications will be available in GVW ratings up to 17,500 lb.
* Customers will be able to specify automatic transmissions that can accommodate power take-offs.
* Compared with previous models GVW ratings have been increased throughout the product line.
* Four-wheel ABS will be offered.
* Four-wheel disc brakes will be standard.
* Engine choices will include the new 5.4-liter, a new 6.8-liter V-10, and 7.3-liter Navistar diesel.
* A new six-speed manual overdrive transmission has been developed.
New Frame The chassis will be built around a new frame. The frame has been designed as a two-piece section, according to Mike Cowley, frame supervisor for the Super Duty F-Series.
For chassis cabs, the frame rails are straight, with no obstructions on the top rail.
To make body installations easier, Ford will prepunch shear-plate mounting holes in the frame rails.
Fuel fill rates have been improved on all models, Cowley said, and will flow into redesigned tanks. Chassis cab models will come with a 37-gallon steel tank mounted behind the rear axle. A 19-gallon midship tank is optional. A new single, plastic midship tank will hold fuel for the pickup models. Long wheelbase models will be able to store 38 gallons, while the tank of the short wheelbase trucks will have a capacity of 29 gallons.
The F-450 and F-550 will come standard with 19_" wheels and tires. A new crank-up spare tire system for the F-250/F-350 pickup improves access and serviceability.
Rear ABS will be standard on single-rear wheel models. Four-wheel ABS will be optional on the single-rear wheel models and standard on dual-rear wheel trucks.
At present, Ford is not authorizing frame stretches. Frame extensions, however, will be permitted.
Greater Capacity Because of the sale of Ford's heavy truck business, the company has more resources to develop, produce, and support the Super Duty F-Series, Mittman pointed out.
"The heavy trucks are gone from the Kentucky Truck Plant, and we are putting light trucks in their place," Mittman said. "And we can produce more of these trucks than the ones they are replacing.
Ford also is increasing production capacity for diesel engines, crew cabs, Supercabs, and 4x4s-all of which have been in short supply in the past.
"We also have more people working in the area of light trucks," Mittman added. "Furthermore, we will be blending our medium trucks into the mainstream of the F-Series. This should further improve the sales of medium-duty trucks."
New Engines The Super Duty F-Series will be powered by the new 5.4-liter V-8 and 6.8-liter V-10, part of the new Triton family of engines. They are designed to produce higher horsepower and torque with reduced displacement, lower emissions, improved fuel economy, and with less noise and vibration.
The Triton engine family consists of the 4.6-liter, 5.4-liter, and 6.8-liter gasoline engines. They currently are available in the 1997 F-150, light-duty F-250, the Expedition, and the Econoline. They will be installed in the 1999 Super Duty F-Series.
The 5.4 liter engine is derived from the 4.6-liter truck engine with an additional 15.8 mm of stroke. The 6.8-liter Triton engine is a new V-10. It is derived from the 5.4-liter, but with two additional cylinders.
The three engines have a distributorless ignition system and platinum-tipped sparkplugs that help make it possible for the engines to go 100,000 miles between tune-ups. Coil-on-plug ignition eliminates sparkplug wires on the 5.4-liter and 6.8 liter engines.
A failsafe coolant strategy protects the engine from catastrophic coolant loss. A six-quart capacity oil pan and oil cooler reduce oil temperatures and improve lubrication, particularly in heavy-duty applications.
PTOs and Automatics One of the truck body and equipment industry's most frequent requests has been an automatic transmission that can accommodate a power take-off. Ford has that with its new 4R100 automatic, a four-speed, electronically controlled transmission that is new for the 1999 model year. Designed to be used with the new family of Triton engines, the transmission will be offered for use on Ford trucks that have GVW ratings above 8,600 lb, according to Richard Obermeyer with the 4R100 design department of Ford powertrain operations.
Ford developed the PTO capability in partnership with Dana Corporation and Muncie Power Products.
The 4R100 automatic transmission will have a PTO opening on the left side. With the exception of overdrive, the 4R100 transmission provides power to the PTO through all gear ranges, including neutral and park. The PTO drive gear is rated at 120 ft-lb for continuous operation and 170 ft-lb peak.
The transmission can handle up to 500 ft-lb of torque and 5,000-rpm shifts. Minimum engine speed is 1200 rpm for the diesel (with auto ramp-up). Gasoline engines will require a throttle kicker.
The 4R100 will have nonstandard features, including the six-bolt PTO opening and the transmission shift cable.
A blunt-cut wire labeled "PTO circuit" will run to the center of the dash, facilitating the wiring of a dash-mounted PTO lamp.
Alex Jowa, supervisor of Modified Vehicle Engineering Quality Programs and Body Builder Advisory Service, stressed that PTO capability on the 4R100 transmission is something that will have to be ordered with the truck. Converting a vehicle that does not have the PTO opening on the 4R100 will be difficult and expensive. And while the 4R100 will be offered on both the F-Series and the Econoline, the PTO option will be available only on the F-Series.
Six-Speed Manual Ford also is introducing a six-speed manual transmission, the M-6. The new gearbox will have a standard six-bolt SAE opening.
PTO openings will be located on both left and right side of manual transmissions used with gasoline engines. The M-6 transmission, mated with the 7.3-liter diesel, will have a PTO opening only on the left side.
Like other Ford manual transmissions, the M-6 will use synthetic lubricants.
PTO provisions are standard on all manual transmissions, but they are a purchased option on the 4R100 powered by the 6.8-liter gasoline engine and the 7.3-liter diesel.
Ford will route the exhaust along the right side, which is why the PTO port is on the left side of the transmission, Jowa said.
Auxiliary Power Ford also provided details on using belt-driven pumps to power hydraulic systems. Among the information presented:
* Clutch-pump installations will be allowed on all 7.3-liter Super Duty F-Series and E-Series applications.
* Clutch pumps mounted on gasoline engines will require the purchase of an engine bearing support bracket. This bracket, purchased separately, will be required if Ford is to endorse the installation.
* Maximum capacity of the driven pump is 17 gpm, producing a maximum of 70 ft-lb of torque.
* The outload angle of the crankshaft extension pulley must be 35 degree on gasoline engines. M10 studs are recommended to attach the pump bracket.
Ford will offer an auxiliary idle speed control module for diesel applications. A module with remote control capability will be available in August.
Snowplow Installations With the introduction of the Super Duty F-Series, the company has expanded the lineup of four-wheel-drive trucks that the company will approve for snowplow applications, according to Ford's Doug Smith.
Snowplow prep packages will be available on F-250s, F-350s, F-450s, and F-550s in all cab lengths-regular cab, Supercab, and crew cab. Engines that can be used for snowplow applications will include the 5.4-liter and 6.8-liter gasoline engines and the 7.3-liter diesel.
The F-350 Supercab will be approved for snowplow installations if powered by the 5.4-liter gasoline engine. The F-450 and F-550 models will be offered with either the 6.8-liter V-10 or the 7.3-liter diesel packages.
To qualify for Ford's snowplow prep package, trucks must be ordered with the snowplow prep package (option code 86M) which includes the highest front gross axle weight rating (GAWR) offered on that particular model. Also included will be auxiliary rear springs, 750-cold-cranking-amp battery systems, and 130-amp alternator systems for trucks with gasoline engines.
Common Parts Ford will use the same basic front frame throughout the Super Duty F-Series line, enabling the same snowplow mounting system to be used on almost every eligible truck. One exception is the wide-frame F-250 and F-350 models. On these trucks, a stabilizer bracket that also is used on 4x2 models may need to be removed.
Ford worked with the NTEA snow control committee to design permanently mounted hardware for the new F-Series.
"This effort culminated with crash tests to evaluate airbag performance," Smith said. "We want to make sure that these airbags are not set off prematurely and that they do go off at a particular speed. It is important that modifiers use this information to show that their own designs are able to meet federal certification requirements."
Things to Consider Miscellaneous areas that snowplow installers must consider:
* Ballast may be used on Styleside pickups. In the past, Ford has not recommended the use of ballast on these particular vehicles.
* Accessory reserve capacities will still apply on vehicles rated at or below 10,000 lb GVW.
* Front-end alignment. The Ford body builders book will contain specific instructions designed to maintain the alignment of trucks equipped with snowplows.
* Headlight aim.
* Electrical connections and circuits.
* Placement of controls. Ford is sensitive to where snowplow controls are placed. They should not be mounted in areas where the head or knees would strike them as a result of a frontal collision.
The F-150 and F-250 models will be carryover this year. However, a snowplow prep package will take the place of the heavy-duty services package. Like last year, snowplow installations will be limited to the long-wheelbase regular-cab models only. Plow weights will be limited to 500 pounds on F-150s and 700 pounds on F-250s.
Medium-Duty Update Ford has taken its last orders for its heavy-duty trucks, and will manufacture the last of its orders by the end of this year, Ford's Tom Steckel reported. Freightliner will begin manufacturing the Louisville, Aeromax, and Cargo models under its new Sterling Truck subsidiary as early as January.
At the same time, Ford will introduce two new Super Duty models-the F-450 and the F-550.
In March, Ford will introduce the 1999-model F-800 medium-duty truck. It will be available only as a diesel model. Two GVW ratings will be offered, 26,000-lb and 33,000-lb.
"Over the years, we have offered a wide range of GVWs," Steckel said. "But we find that customers concentrate their orders around only two GVWs. They want a 26,000-lb GVW to avoid the CDL (commercial drivers license) and 33,000-lb to avoid having to pay federal excise tax."
The Cummins mechanical diesels (ratings of 175 hp and 190 hp) will be offered first. The Cummins electronic diesels will be offered later.
Both manual and automatic transmissions will be offered, as will air and hydraulic brakes.
"We know the options will not satisfy all needs, but we know we will be able to satisfy most needs with this product," Steckel said. "We in the medium truck business are dedicated to the commercial customer, and we plan to be around a long time."
Alternative Fuels Dave Tarrant provided an update on Ford's lineup of vehicles powered by alternative fuels. This year's offerings will include:
* An electric-powered Ranger pickup.
* The F-250 pickup and Econoline vans and wagons fueled by natural gas.
* F-Series bi-fueled propane pickups.
* The F-Series bi-fueled natural gas pickup.
* F-Series and Econoline dedicated natural gas vehicles.
* E-Series Econoline bi-fueled propane and natural gas vans and wagons will be available in the spring of 1998.
"None of these vehicles are over 8,500-lb GVWR, and they aren't mainstream players in the truck body and equipment industry-yet," Tarrant said. "But we know from our market-development work that our customers are crying out for alternative-fuel vehicles with GVWs over 8,500 pounds."