Tricked-Out Trucks

May 11, 2006
Stylists and engineers are exploring new ways to personalize pickup trucks, the best-selling type of vehicle in the U.S.

Senior Editor

The market for the Roush F-150 skews toward males, just like the market for pickup trucks in general. But Roush does turn out supercab versions, so the trucks can accommodate families.

The supercharger Roush puts on its F-150 is legal in all states and meets California CARB regulations regarding air quality. Better yet, even nonintercooled versions add 112 hp and 137 lb-ft of torque.

A natural-gas-burning sixcylinder engine can take the Bedouin up to 155 mph. Electronic and mechanical governors stop the Swiss concept vehicle from going any faster.

It takes just 10 sec to convert the two-seat, sporty Bedouin into a cargo carrier. The roof folds into the rear wall of the passenger compartment and the floor of the cargo bed.

The Roush F-150 sits a bit lower than a stock truck, thanks to a tuned suspension.

Twenty-inch tires and dual side exhaust distinguish the Roush F-150

Millions of pickup trucks are sold in the U.S. every year, and many of those buyers want more than what the auto companies offer in terms of styling and performance. Truck buyers also want to personalize their rides and add a bit more power. One company that caters to these trucking enthusiasts is Roush Performance Products Inc., Livonia, Mich. (

Roush has a long-standing relationship with Ford, maker of the all-time best-selling truck, the F-150. So with over 900,000 F-150s sold last year, it was a no-brainer for engineers at Roush to choose it as the truck they would work their magic on. For 2006, Roush has three F-150s: Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3, offering something for every level of truck lover.

Stage 1 is strictly a cuttingedge styling exercise with upgraded tires, wheels, and exhaust. It includes body-colored bumpers, chin spoiler, and a hood scoop with a black, carbonfiber insert that contributes to the more aggressive look.

Twenty-inch chrome wheels carry tires from Cooper Tire, the firm that owns Mickey Thompson Tires. "We're just moving into a relationship with Cooper and our chassis and tire & wheel engineers are working with its designers to develop new tires and wheels for us," says Ryan Byunn, parts marketing manager for Roush.

A dual-exhaust system with Roush tips can exit the truck's rear or side, and adds more than cosmetics. The system contributes 10 to 15 hp by decreasing backpressure. It uses mandrel bends and a straight-through muffler. And the muffler generates an exhaust note that "pushes public tolerance levels," Roush says proudly.

To completely Roushify the truck, there is special badging on the windows, fender, and tailgate, along with embroidered floormats. Roush engineers can transform F-150s with any bed, cab, or chassis option into a Stage-1 truck.

Are you sure this is a pickup?

Engineers at Rinspeed Design in Switzerland morphed a 4 4 Porsche 996 Carrera from a two-seat sports car into a sleek, four-seat pickup truck. Dubbed the Bedouin, the concept car is meant to show off the versatility of multipurpose vehicles and the imagination of Rinspeed engineers.

In its sports-car mode, the Bedouin clearly shows its Porsche 911 heritage. But those familiar with the Carrera will notice that the roof, which is made of aluminum, is a bit flatter and the rear fenders are a bit fatter. The bigger fenders make room for working air inlets that help cool the twin-turbocharged, six-cylinder Boxer engine.

The four-valve Porsche engine is modified to burn natural gas, a clean-burning fuel that consists almost entirely of methane. The 3.6-liter engine cranks out 420 hp at 6,000 rpm and 423 lb-ft of torque at 2,700 rpm. That's enough to take the 3,600-lb vehicle from 0 to 62 mph in 5.9 sec. Electronic and mechanical governors limit the top speed to 155 mph.

The transformation from sports car to truck begins at the push of a button on a remote. It starts two electric motors that turn twin jackscrews to lift the entire roof. The front part

of the roof folds, becoming the rear wall of the "cab," while the rear-roof section transforms into the truck bed. The tailgate, also electronically controlled, can be lowered to extend the bed by about 18 to a total of 72 in. According to Rinspeed, the bed can carry cargo or serve as a "modern tent." Mechanisms that raise and lower the roof are all hidden in the thicker sidewalls.

The Bedouin also carries milled, all-aluminum tailpipes on a stainless-steel exhaust system, chrome-plated LED taillights and flexible side-marking LEDs, and a prepreg composite body. The body sits about 6 in. higher than a stock Carrera, thanks to an Eibach suspension with adjustable ride height and firmness. A progressive-rate Wandfluh steering system lets drives go from full left to full right with only a half-turn of the steering wheel.

For Stage 2, the goal was to add better handling on top of styling upgrades. Here Roush leveraged its close ties to Ford, getting early looks at F-150 chassis and calling on experiences it had beefing up the SVT Lightning, a Ford concept truck based on the F-150 that made it into limited production. Roush ended up with performance-tuned suspensions for both 4 X 2 and 4 X 4 F-150s. Both suspensions lower the front end by 2 in. and the back by 3 in., giving the truck a more level stance.

Roush engineers' idea of better handling equates to a more stable ride with less lean in the turns but no loss of comfort or smoothness in the ride. "Jack Roush, the company owner, is a stickler on suspensions," says Karges. "He will not let us turn out a harsh or stiff-riding truck or car."

The fine-tuning involves new front coil springs, a larger, solid front-stabilizer bar, and specially valved shocks, along with a redesigned leaf spring in the back. The stabilizer bar cuts down on body roll while the valving, which changes the damping factor on the shocks, makes the suspension firmer for better control. The result is that the truck can handle 0.89 gs of lateral acceleration, a characteristic more common in exotic sport cars than trucks.

"The trick is getting all the components to work together," says Byunn. "You wouldn't want to change out just one, like the shocks, for example, without changing the rest to balance it. That's what tuners and aftermarket companies do. And we would never put lowering springs on a truck. They might lower the center of gravity and let the truck corner faster, but it will also degrade the ride. Unless you balance the shocks, bars, weight, springs, struts, and all the chassis, along with the tires and powertrain, you won't get a suspension that works to its maximum potential in terms of ride and handling."

Though they don't have numbers yet on how the new suspension performs, Roush engineers are confident it will meet and exceed buyer expectations. One good sign is that the 2 4 version maintains the same turning radius but was significantly faster going through the team's slalom course after the upgrade.

Stage 2 also includes a bodycolored spoiler on the rear, as well as oversized side skirts and wheel flares for more street appeal.

For real under-the-hood performance, Stage 3 bolts a supercharger onto the 5.4-liter, threevalve Triton engine. Roush engineers chose a supercharger rather than a turbocharger because it gives drivers more power and torque right off idle. There is no lag. The roots-style supercharger adds 6 psi of boost, which translates into 112 hp and 137 lb-ft of torque. This gives the vehicle a total of 412 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque. And if you opt for the intercooled supercharger (about $700 more), you get 33 hp more. In race tests, the Stage 3 F-150 outran the latest version of the SVT Lightning, despite being 800 lb heavier. OEM-level calibration and skills let Roush blend boost, fuel, and spark to get performance gains without leaving the drivetrain susceptible to damage.

According to Roush, adding the supercharger does not change mileage figures, if you don't change your driving habits. "Unfortunately," quips Clark, "I don't think we've ever found anyone who doesn't get a heavier foot when they get the blower."

Go big or stay home

The MXT, the military version of the CXT, is the smallest of International's monster XT trucks. It is only 7 ft tall, or 4 in. taller than a Ford Excursion or Hummer H2

The CXT from International takes a truck designed for severe service, the International 7000, and puts it in the hands of everyday (and well-heeled) consumers.

If keeping up with the neighbor's truck is your overriding concern, then the CXT from International Truck & Engine Corp., Warrenville, Ill., is the behemoth for you. Standing 9-ft tall and 21.5-ft long, the CXT was originally planned as a commercial vehicle. International thought it might sell 50 or so last year when it was introduced. Then some conspicuous consumers such as actor Ashton Kutcher and pro-basketball player Jalen Rose decided they had to have one and the truck soon became a status symbol, a very large one. By the end of 2005, International was on track to sell between 500 and 1,000 of the $93,000 trucks ($115,000 with all the options).

The CXT, billed as the largest production pickup truck, is built on the same platform used for cement mixers and dump trucks, so consumers can get versions with a tilting and dumping bed. The 7.25-ton truck can haul up to 6 tons in the bed and tow up to 22 tons (but the hitch costs extra).

Powering all this is a 7.6-liter in-line six-cylinder diesel engine with 300 hp and 860 lb-ft of torque. The engine boasts an electronically controlled turbocharger with adjustable vanes that optimize boost across the entire operating range. An Electro-Hydraulic Generation 2 fuel system lets the truck run on diesel, jet A, JP-8, and B-20 bio-diesel. There's even a five-speed automatic Intuitive Shift transmission and on-demand four-wheel drive. And although the truck carries four-channel ABS and air brakes sized to stop 13-ton loads, an optional exhaust brake built into the turbocharger supplies up to 150 bhp and an optional engine brake generates 275 bhp. On the downside, the truck gets about 7 to 10 mpg, but it does have a 70-gallon gas tank.

On the inside, CXT's air-ride-equipped crewcab has seating for five. Go for the options, and you can add a flat-panel TV, DVD player, leather, air-suspension seats, satellite radio, back-up assist, a navigation system, walnut-burl trim, and custom paint schemes. As International says, "For drivers who want to make a statement, this is how to broadcast it."

For those who don't want to make quite such a large statement, there's the International RXT. International brought it out ahead of schedule in response to consumer demand for the CXT. The RXT is only 8-ft tall but the same 21.5-ft long, and costs between$70,000 and $90,000. It weighs 2 tons less than the CXT, tipping the scales at 10.5 tons, and can only carry 5 tons in the bed and tow up to 11.5 tons. It can be equipped with a 9-ft cargo bed or, if you wait until this fall, with a tow body perfect for hauling horse trailers or race cars.

International also makes an MXT, a military version only 7-ft tall, and a concept XT vehicle they call ProjectXT. ProjectXT features twin glass roof panels, a spoiler on the back of the roof, and a streamlined cargo bed that does not have wheel wells.

Just imagine what Roush could do with an XT truck.

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