When we first saw the Ford Atlas Concept at the Detroit auto show, we were instantly impressed with the fresh look of the truck. While Ford stressed it's only a concept, much of it seems realistic enough that it could be put on a production vehicle. Where did Ford's inspiration come from for this concept? Ford released information and sketches that led to the finished concept, and it turns out elements of the Atlas were created to emulate purpose-built machines -- specifically, a locomotive and a bullet train.
There were several drawings of the Atlas, but the final concept was designed to bring together the best aspects of both trains: the aerodynamic, modern smoothness of the bullet train and the tough, rugged, angular boxiness of the locomotive. It seems like the two are polar opposites, but they work together quite well in this concept. And that combination shows that the appearances of both types of trains reflect what each one does -- just like the Atlas. The idea behind the concept is that it's aerodynamic and stylish, yet that doesn't compromise its capability.
The next sketches Ford revealed showed the mindset when they were looking at storage, the windshield, the wheels, and lighting. Early on, the idea had been to store emergency items, such as a first-aid kit and tools, within the tailgate's wall. Instead, however, the designers concluded that a storage solution might resonate more with truck people, so instead they showed the tailgate step/cargo cradle combination.
The windshield originally used a single piece of glass that began in the traditional windshield location, then ran along each side of the roof, split in two. It would function as a moonroof, keeping the center of the roof available for securing cargo. Instead, they went with a more practical choice that included tiedown locations.
An early sketch showed wheels that had complete surfaces, a nod to the desire to improve aerodynamics, but Ford says that design, "while practical, is not a match for the Atlas," so the company went with the Active Wheel Shutters instead.
Finally, there was the debate about cargo lighting. Truckmakers know that people use their trucks after sunset -- whether it's to put a bike back in the bed after a ride in the desert, putting tools in the truck after a long day's work, or simply looking for something in the truck bed after dark -- so it considered the best way to offer smart lighting solutions. One plan had been to use a set of wide, roof-mounted lights to illuminate the bed; we like the final version, with cool blue lighting in the bed walls.
This isn't the first time Ford has been inspired by trains when designing concept trucks. It also came out with the Super Chief Concept a few years ago. We've liked both results; trains seem to be great inspirations for Ford.