Related: Automotive Engineering
Whatever you do, don't call it a "pickup box." Lincoln prefers you refer to it as "the biggest trunk in the industry." At 26.5 ft3, the Lincoln Blackwood's cargo area is 27% larger than the trunk found on the Lincoln Town Car. It's also one of the most luxurious. "We do have four tie downs in there that are rated at 500 lb each, and a cargo management system," says Blackwood chief program engineer Henry Brice, "but I don't think people will be buying it to haul around 2x4s." Good thing, too. The lumber would be tough on the stainless steel interior panels, and a tight fit in the 56.3 in. long, 49 in. wide, 15.9 in. tall bed.
"If you draw a section through the box," says Brice, "you'd find a clear cladding on the outside to provide protection from UV rays and car wash brushes. It's very similar to a clear-coat paint finish. Below it is the photo laminate that gives the appearance of Wenge wood, and this is attached to a thermoplastic panel which provides a structure for the laminate.
These are bonded to RIM panels that provide the structure for the side, and can be replaced as a unit if damaged. All of this is attached to a spaceframe that provides the structural rigidity we lost by not having a normal tailgate." (The Blackwood has side-by-side doors. Ford says they're Dutch doors, but by Webster's definition that's true only if the Blackwood has rolled over onto its side.) And that's just the outside. The inner panels are just as unique.
"A plastic tub liner attaches to the spaceframe and "protects against water and dust intrusion," says Brice. "Then there are the stainless steel panels that line the interior, including the storage bins on each door and side panel." The 0.32-in. stainless steel interior trim has protective rub strips, recessed LED lighting strips along the lower sides, and attaches directly to the plastic liner. Carpeting covers the floor. It's topped off by a powered, auto-reverse tonneau cover.
Brice explains as they worked to engineer this body structure they were committed to replicating chief designer J Mays' Blackwood concept vehicle "as closely as possible." Which led to a number of challenges: "This was the first time we used recessed LED lighting on this type of vehicle, and it required tight tolerances to stay faithful to the designer's intent.
Getting the power tonneau cover to meet our safety, quality, and reliability standards was another challenge," he recalls. "Then we had a box where there was no section end because we used center-locking doors instead of a single tailgate that locked on either side. Getting that to pass durability was a challenge, as was getting a good surface finish on the RIM panels. They are very large, very flat, and they have to survive through car washes, heat, cold, UV, and all the other stuff. It made for an interesting program."
The need for low NVH levels and tight tolerances, combined with the Blackwood's limited volume (less than 10,000 units/year out of Ford's Kansas City, MO, truck plant) and $52,500 price tag, meant Brice and his team could resort to some unconventional solutions.
To keep NVH levels low, the team decided to decouple the box from the frame, a process made more difficult by the reduction in rigidity that came with the inclusion of the side-by-side doors. By adding a square-channel spaceframe, the Blackwood engineering team was able to create a strong and dimensionally accurate structure that attaches to the vehicle frame via a pair of U-section steel members welded to its lower rails. "This torsion beam assembly helps isolate the box from the frame, and allows you to not put all of the bending the truck is experiencing through the box," says Brice. It also creates a container that is 2.5 times stiffer than a conventional pickup box, which means the all-important stainless steel interior panels can have much tighter tolerances.
"We have a building dedicated to the Blackwood at the Kansas City plant," says Brice, "where we do a number of operations, including decking the box. It comes to us as an assembled unit from Magna-Steyr, and is shipped to the assembly line as a single end item. The workers bolt it on, add the scuff plate, and the vehicle is sent to a special quality center where we check each and every Blackwood. A lot of work has been done to get the assembly to come together in a way that we like, because the design didn't give us a lot of margin for error." Which sounds like an understatement to us.