Industry days at the NAIAS are overrun with engineers bearing micrometers and rulers and digital cameras. You better believe they’ll be nine-deep around these displays showing some of the critical structural sections of the new Ford F-150’s “body in white” (an especially apt name, when the sheetmetal is aluminum).
This section through the roof rail above the rear door opening shows the varying gauges of aluminum; comparatively thin for the outer body, a seriously thick hydroformed tube that provides most of the structure and runs from the base of the A-pillar to the top of the D-pillar, and a thicker inner panel. That thing that looks a bit like a spot weld is a rivet. Much of the joining is via adhesive and rivets. The adhesive cures in the paint shop and the rivets hold everything in place until then. The spot-welds are mostly constrained to the pickup box floor.
Here’s cut through the base of the A-pillar near where the hydroformed tube mentioned above ends. Note how this tube’s cross-sectional shape varies from here to the B-pillar. Hydroforming allows this; extruding does not.
This is a view peering down into the door through the gap where the window will be. The door intrusion beam is still made of steel, and it’s barely visible farther down in the door. That top beam is aluminum and serves to prevent “oil canning” of the broad expanse of sheetmetal above the side-impact structural beam. Some old colleagues at Chrysler who checked all of this out opined that the need for thicker sections and beams like this force the window farther inboard than in their steel version, but I claim no personal ownership of that allegation.
Here we have a shot of the upper B-pillar, with the front door shown closed and the rear door removed so you can see a flat-tubular extrusion that is providing most of the B-pillar structure. It’s visible through a cutaway window toward the top of the shot. Extrusions are made like penne pasta—squirted out in a long tube and cut to length (then later bent in this case).
This shot shows a section of the lower cab structure in aluminum next to a section of a mostly high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel chassis frame rail. The steel frame also shaves 70 pounds while preserving the F-150’s capability.
Here are several sections of steel frame (black) and aluminum parts. That’s the base of a B-pillar in the right rear, a section of the roof structure near the center of the windshield header in front of that, and the aforementioned section at the bottom of the A-pillar in the center.
Check out all our coverage of the F-150:
Motor Trend: 2015 Ford F-150 First Look
Motor Trend: 2015 Ford F-150 Revealed
Motor Trend: Top 5 Things To Know About The 2015 F-150