Ford Hid Six F-150 Prototypes in Plain Sight
It’s a rare occasion when an automaker can test a prototype out in public without getting snapped by somesuch automotive paparazzo. That Ford was somehow able to test six F-150 prototypes with aluminum-alloy cargo boxes by simply putting them in the hands of fleet customers for the better part of three years has to be some kind of record achievement in the ways of stealth.
Related: 2015 Ford F-150 Unveiled in Detroit
Back in 2011, three of Ford’s longest tenured fleet customers each took delivery of two F-150s that, unbeknownst to them, were equipped with high-strength aluminum-alloy cargo boxes. After three years and more than 350,000 real-world miles on the job, the prototypes passed with flying colors.
“Our customers demand the highest levels of toughness and productivity – so we wanted to test the truck outside, in the harshest conditions and in the hands of real customers – with no limits,” said Larry Queener, program manager for the new F-150. “But we did not want these customers to know what was different. So, when we gave them the prototype vehicles, we told them to use the trucks like their other hard-working Ford trucks, and we would be back to follow their progress.”
The six F-150 prototypes were put in the hands of the Barrick Gold Corporation in Elko, Nevada; Walsh Construction in Holtwood, Pennsylvania and Birmingham, Alabama; and Regional utility in North Carolina. The prototypes were put through their paces as they drove through mine pits before and after blasting, at a hydroelectric dam, a highway interchange construction site, and up mountain roads and across overgrown roads for meter readers.