Silver Creek: Where Ford Tortures Its Trucks and the Competition's
By: Mike LevinePosted: 06-23-07 14:21 PT
© 2007, Video Courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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If General Motors has one of the slickest surfaces on Earth for testing vehicles, than Ford Motor Company must have one of the roughest.

At Ford's Arizona Proving Ground (APG), its F-Series pickups are driven over 50 miles of torturous terrain specifically developed to shake, twist, rattle and batter the trucks.

One of the test tracks is called 'Silver Creek'. It was described in a Ford press release late last year as the following:

"Silver Creek combines two extremely rough roads. One section of the route has 15 distinct types of chuck holes while the other is made from broken pieces of concrete."

According to Charlie Tegarden, Ford durability engineering supervisor, "Silver Creek is foot-for-foot the roughest man-made durability test road in the world."

Ford recently showed us video of a 2007 Ford F-150 running Silver Creek, along with comparative footage of the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado and 2007 Toyota Tundra over the same course. All are four wheel drive.

The movies are dramatic. The first (above) shows each truck serially. The second (below) shows them in parallel. Each truck enters Silver Creek at 28 miles per hour - near the upper boundary for maintaining control. Pay close attention to the driver's hands on the steering wheel when the camera pans to the cab as the rapid fire torsional forces expose any weakness in suspensions, frames, and body components.

The F-150, now three model years old, seems to do best overall. It's followed closely by the Silverado.

Both the F-150 and Silverado have fully boxed frames that are more resistant to twist than the Toyota's partially-boxed C-channel chassis. The F-150's advantage versus Silverado appears to come from rear shocks that are mounted outboard from the frame rails - a setup that provides better leverage against axle movement than the Silverado's inboard mounted shocks. The result is much more jounce seen in the Chevy's rear axle. Front suspension performance appears to be in favor of the Silverado's new independent coil spring setup but the Chevy suffers cosmetically as its fuel filler door opens and shuts from all the bouncing.

Bed movements in the F-150 and Silverado are relatively limited though, compared to what's seen in the Tundra. The rear of the Tundra's cargo box flexes and twists violently as the front gouges the back of the cab. There are portions of Silver Creek where the frequency of severe bumps causes an especially large degree of torsional resonance to show in the bed's sides.

So how does the unrealistic surface of Silver Creek relate to what these trucks might encounter in the real world? At some point in time almost every pickup is going to be overloaded or stressed past its operating limits, even if it's only for a few seconds. Its engineering for these types of events that make for really tough trucks.

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