One of the concerns that some people have expressed about the forthcoming Ford F-150 pickup is that whether it is the same type of material used for some military vehicles or not, the fact that aluminum is being used for the body might mean that it isn’t up to the sort of abuse that light trucks generally get.
So Ford engineers went to town on testing the vehicle. As Pete Reyes, F-150 chief engineer put it, “We challenged the team to torture the truck harder than any F-150 before it.”
They built a special test rig that twists and turns (up, down, side-to-side, and length-wise) the truck in seven directions. Five days on that was equal to the abuse of 225,000 miles.
They took it out to their proving grounds in Romeo, Michigan, where it suffered abuse like the Silver Creek durability course, that has one section with 15 types of potholes and another section made with broken pieces of concrete. Driving 500 miles on that is equivalent to 20,000 miles on real roads. They ran it up grades. They ran it over twist ditches. They ran it over gravel. They ran it through salt baths and even used an acidified spray.
But the test that really put the aluminum to the test is that they dropped 55-gallon drums into the bed of the truck on an angle so the rim of the drum would impact the bed. Adjustments to the bed were made as required so that the truck can deal with the kind of things that it is likely to encounter in real-world situations (which will no dobut include everything from gravel loads to 55-gallon drums), probably within a few hours of someone's new 2015 F-150 rolling off the lot.