On the 2009 F-150

When you've been building them for 60 years, you get darn good at it. Especially when you build them to work hard.

Fast forwarding to October, 2008, and there's the 2009 F-150. Beyond the sheet metal and under the hood (there's now a base 248-hp V8), there's been a significant change in the complex of facilities used to produce the F-150: now there are two plants.

That was then.

Actually, there once was an F-1. It was introduced in January, 1948, and launched the post-war truck lineup for Ford. The truck had a standard 95-hp six-cylinder engine under the hood, an engine that was shared with passenger cars launched the previous year. There also was an optional V8. The F-1 initially went into production at assembly plants in Norfolk, VA, and Atlanta, GA. Then, because of its popularity, expanded to 14 other plants. The F-1 represented a $1-million investment (about $9 million in today's dollars) for design and tooling. That design remained until 1952, when the second generation was introduced. The '09 is the 12th generation.


This is now.

Fast forwarding to October, 2008, and there's the 2009 F-150. Beyond the sheet metal and under the hood (there's now a base 248-hp V8), there's been a significant change in the complex of facilities used to produce the F-150: now there are two plants. The Dearborn Truck Plant in Michigan and the Kansas City Assembly Plant. But consider this, as well. Ford invested $148-million in the Dearborn Truck Plant. This was invested in things such as laser welders in the body shop for joining the roof and body-side panels to the roof structure; a New Model Quality Center in the plant to assure the capability, capacity, personnel, and product; and flexible automation in the paint shop. Ford invested $110-million in the Kansas City plant, as well. Part of this investment, for example, was for 24 clearcoat-applying robots in paint, as well as for extending the box line in final assembly to accommodate the addition of such things as a cargo management system and tailgate step (which also occurred in Dearborn). That's a long way from the $1-million of 1948.


Complex without complexity.

One of the challenges of producing light trucks is that there tends to be a whole lot of variants to meet customer demands. More so than is the case with passenger cars. In the case of the '09 F-150 there is a broad level of choice: 7 trim series; 35 configurations (3 cabs, 4 box lengths/styles, and the 7 trims); 13 exterior colors; 13 wheels; 4 running boards. Something for everyone, from the entry XL that starts at $21,320 to the top-of-the-line Platinum that starts at $41,415. [Photo: Sam VarnHagen/Ford]


Inside addition.

While it might seem that with a big box in the back, inside cargo capability wouldn't be all that important. Yet the SuperCrew model has a mechanically articulated second-row seat that flips up and folds against the back of the cab, thereby exposing a flat floor. The cab has been increased by 6 in. The result is the ability to handle objects 47.9-in. tall inside the vehicle (behind the first row there is 57.6-ft3 of space). But nothing was taken for granted—"might seem" didn't cut it. Explained chief engineer Matt O'Leary, "Before we started working on the new truck"—and during the development of the vehicle, there were more than 1,000 engineers, designers, researchers, and other personnel working on the project—"we continued the conversation with people who use these trucks every day for work and play. We went to their ranches, their jobs sites, and their homes, making sure we crafted features that would improve their ownership experiences and, really, their lives." Overall, there are more than 30 storage spaces on the interior. (And in the back, there are box sizes of 5.5 ft., 6.5 ft., and 8 ft.; the maximum width between the wheels is 50 in.; and the inside box height is 22.4 in.)


Stronger is better.

The 12th generation F-150 features a fully boxed frame, and uses high-strength, hydroformed steel components, side rails and cross members that pass through the rails that result in a 10% increase in torsional rigidity. The use of high-strength (and ultra-high strength) steel in the F-150 helps contribute to an overall weight reduction of as much as 100 lb. The front suspension, double-wishbone short- and long-arm and coil-over shocks, is an improved version of that used for the '08 Expedition. The Hotchkiss-type rear suspension, like the previous-generation F-150, has the rear shocks located outboard of the frame rails. The leaf springs are 6-in. longer than those previously used. On those rails are affixed the powertrain selections: a 4.6-liter, two valves-per-cylinder V8 engine and a four-speed automatic; a 4.6-liter, three valves-per-cylinder V8 and a six-speed automatic; or a 5.4-liter, three valves-per-cylinder V8 and a six speed automatic. And when configured to the max, there is a towing capacity of 11,300 lb. and a payload of 3,030 lb.