Ford Powerforce F-150

[Powerforce F-150 ran countertrend at this auction, bringing “only” $58,750 with commission ($50,000 hammer) against its $20-35,000 estimate, a hammer premium of 43% over the high estimate. In any other auction a result of nearly 1 1/2 times high estimate would be headline material but today in Dearborn it was the norm.]

Christie’s Auction of Unique Design Prototype and Concept Auto Show Models from the Ford Motor Company Collection
Ford Powerforce F-150

Bright Red, Black leather
The forms of the automobile long ago diverged down separate paths depending upon how they were used. Limousines, roadsters, station wagons and sedans historically shared common chassis while being adapted in both coachwork and equipment to the specialized needs of different customers, but fifty years ago that wasn’t true of pickup trucks. There were F-1s and F-2s for light and medium duty respectively. Heaters were extra. So were interior armrests. Pickups were utilitarian vehicles for farmers, ranchers, carpenters and deliverymen.

Oh, my, hasn’t that changed. The pickup is now the largest-selling segment of the North American vehicle market and with increasing volume the pickup, like the automobile before it, has been able to support derivatives aimed at vertical markets. Ford’s designers and engineers have constantly explored the boundaries of “pickup” with concepts like Powerforce.

Introduced at the 1997 Chicago Auto Show, Powerforce is big and bullish, the super-Super Duty Ford Tough pickup. Any onlooker who doesn’t see the flaring nostrils of Taurus flanking Powerforce’s giant chrome “bull bars” doesn’t know the meaning of “anthropomorphic.”

J Mays, vice president of Design for Ford Motor Company, singles out Powerforce for special mention saying, “The F-150 Powerforce set up a generation of design dna for [Ford] trucks.”

Andy Jacobson, Ford’s Director of Design for trucks at the time, observed recently that Powerforce “was made a little ‘larger than life’ in all directions. We raised it up in the air to be the ‘biggest.’ We then added what looked like ‘rocker panels’ but were in fact steps so that one could actually climb up into it. We added a tail gate that was hydraulically activated so even though it was ‘way tall,’ you could still load things into the bed. … It was so tall it would be a challenge to see things close to it, [so] we deepened the amount of the sideglass in a ‘drop belt’ below the normal truck beltline in the doors for better visibility.

“The ‘headache’ rack was specially designed to accommodate the dual exhaust system, reminiscent of ’big rigs.’ The wheels [8-lug chromed 2-piece 19″ Boyd Coddington alloys] were a unique design for Powerforce as well as the tires [355/55R-19s with a unique CNC-cut knobby tread]. The bed featured ‘diamond plate’ panels for extreme serviceability.”

Designed under Dennis Reardon’s direction by Grant Garrison, Powerforce was developed on a computer-based Conceptual Design Rendering System that allowed it to be viewed, moved, zoomed in any way, then translated directly to CNC toolpaths to create the clay model, an early example of the ever-shortening path from concept to reality.

Powerforce bristles with thoughtful details. The silver painted oak bed floor is joined by polished aluminum bed strips held down with the black oxide flathead cap screws used in machine tool fixturing. Projector-style headlights behind aerodynamic smoked plastic covers are complemented by low-mounted projector driving lights below the bumper. The front illumination is matched by a pair of projector-style bedlights inside the “headache” rack and sequential LED front and rear turn signals. Matte grey cladding complements the brilliant Red exterior paint and protects wear areas along the bed edges. The Black interior is standard Ford pickup, but features leather bucket seats in contrast to an F-2’s leatherette bench, and has a bright Red leather covered steering wheel. Pickups have come so far.

Elaborate measures were taken in Ford Truck’s design of Powerforce to assist the driver in managing this “larger than life” concept. The exterior mirrors are multi-functional with two mirrors – flat and wide angle – to help the driver see around Powerforce’s exaggerated dimensions and reduce blind spots. Illuminated signals built into the lower mirror surface display turn, brake, hazard and reverse function indicators that are invisible to the driver but are clear to motorists in adjacent lanes. A backup proximity warning activates automatically when reverse is engaged to alert the driver to obstacles.

Powerforce featured Ford’s 6.8-liter Triton V-10 engine which, even with all four wheels pulling, would make those giant tires earn their keep with its 410 lb-ft of torque coming on-stream at a barely-rotating 2,750 rpm.

Ford’s 1997 Powerforce concept is presented in show-quality condition. Its paint is fresh, its chrome and diamond plant is unblemished. The interior, other than the red leather steering wheel which shows the effect of show-goers’ fingers, is essentially as-new.

The Powerforce concept is a unique combination of intimidating presence and user-friendly demeanor, a precisely targeted vertical niche that, even five years old, still resonates as a sound and considered execution of its designers’ vision and the increasing importance, and fragmentation, of the North American pickup market.

Click here to return to the Ford Concepts index.

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