Towing those trailers is the raison de etre of the F-450 pickup. Its appeal is obvious, leaving us to wonder why Ford didn’t offer a pickup bed on the F-450 chassis cab previously. After all, aftermarket companies sold the trucks with pickup beds, right?
Aftermarket companies don’t have the same durability requirements for their products that Ford Motor Co. has, replies Reyes.
The problem was that previous F-450s used industry-standard straight frame rails 34-inches apart to accept various aftermarket beds. Pickup-type beds won’t survive mounted on narrow frames because of the twisting forces that have greater leverage on the narrow mounts. “The box wouldn’t survive our durability cycle,” Reyes explained. “You couldn’t distribute the loads properly over the box on the narrow frame.”
Ford’s solution was to redesign the F-450’s frame to spread wide aft of the cab, providing a secure platform for the bed. But now the wide frame rails ran too close to the massive commercial-duty axle used on the F-450.
One of the benefits of those axles is the huge brake assembly. But over suspension’s range of travel, the mounting heads on the large brake calipers could contact the frame. “This isn’t a drop-in axle,” he said. “We are pushing the limits on the size of the components you can put in a traditional pickup.”
The solution was to use half-height mounting bolts to shave some space on one side of the problem, and to design some indentations in the frame for extra clearance on the other side.
A pickup truck touch is the use of a mid-mounted fuel tank, leaving space out behind the axle to carry the spare tire. Also at the rear of the truck is an innovative step ladder build into the tail gate that folds out to make it easier to climb into the truck’s bed.
A quick tug on the ladder extends it from an open tailgate, and another motion snaps a grab-handle into its upright position. The ladder looks like the kind of thing that manufacturers have been co-opting from the aftermarket in recent years, but nothing like this existed before.
Ford’s engineers got the idea when a couple of them spotted a removable step installed on a tailgate at the annual SEMA show. Looking at the tailgate, which they knew to be hollow, they started plotting ways to use that space to house a deployable step.
A couple customer clinics found strong interest from truck owners, who even said they liked the step enough to switch from competitor’s trucks to get it, so Ford aggressively pursued the idea. While the step looks a little flimsy, the company says it will hold 1,000 lbs., so do not fear additional stops at Waffle House will render it unusable.
Like the F-450’s bed, more effort went into the step than its appearance might suggest. “It was just a matter of working through bugs, and improving the weight, smoothness, life expectancy,” Reyes said. Additional testing found a grab-handle was a must, and the team went through five different versions of that. The step itself is designed to OSHA specs, so professional users should be satisfied if their employees use the device.
Bed extenders have been around for years, but they have always been intrusive when not in use, so Ford developed the Super Duty’s new collapsing bed extender to fold completely out of the way. “Customers said, ‘Get it out of my way,’” said Reyes. “If you look at it, the problem became one of simple geometry.”
Simple maybe, but Ford is the first to solve this particular problem. Another folding component is the Super Duty’s outside mirrors. The truck has the industry’s first power extending and folding mirrors. This lets drivers easily slide out mirrors on both sides when towing, and not only retract them for regular driving, but even fold them both in for parking in tight spots.