It's a simple rule: If you want to be big, you have to act big. And Ford's new Mighty Tonka F-350 concept truck should, literally, be as big as it gets. Every year, before the major auto shows, just about every manufacturer attempts to dazzle the world with its most recent technological triumph: "Here's the amazing new vehicle we'll have next year!" Sometimes, depending on the product, it gets the attention it wants; other times, the attention it deserves.

In addition to the bright, shiny new pickups and SUVs on the turntables, manufacturers show off their wild side in the form of concept vehicles. These autos are more like testbeds of what could happen years down the road. Some concepts look so futuristic, you fully expect a rocket motor underhood, while others are only thinly disguised next-generation prototypes that have engineers and marketing people standing at the back of the crowds, nervously listening to show-goer comments.

This year, Ford came to us early in the process, wanting to know what we thought about a new concept truck it'd be showing at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this year. What we discovered is that Ford is using this behemoth Mighty Tonka F-350 concept dualie as a testbed for far-out as well as real-world technology that could make it into the next-generation Super Duty, tentatively slated for an '05 debut.

The Look
Nothing says dramatic like bleached, eye-burning yellow, but there's something almost soothing here. Smooth, clean lines walk the delicate balance between striving for ultra-modern, while keeping a traditional Ford-truck look. Pat Shiavone, Tough Truck design director in charge of how Rangers, F-150s, and Super Duties will look in the future, says, "We know this isn't an easy walk to make--staying true to our heritage, while still trying to push the envelope." A huge front hood, with swollen chrome grille teeth make the Mighty F-350 look bigger than a 1-ton. Medium duty in height and width, the overall length of this concept is shorter than a Super Cab long-bed F-350 pickup. Much of the drama comes from the 22-in. custom rims and almost 40-in. agricultural-looking tires. The absence of a B-pillar in the cab allowed designers to create a completely new side look, again keeping lines smooth and clean. Doors oppose each other when open, almost a full 90*, allowing for easy ingress and egress. Likewise, the highish ride height automatically drops, bleeding off all the air inside the air suspension when any of the doors is open, making for a much easier step-in to the massive pickup. Also, a fold-down drop-down step flips out from the body when the door is open to give passengers even more access to their seat of choice.

The F-350 show truck has dual rear wheels, but doesn't have a bed with the typical bulging flares to accommodate the extra width. Instead, the bed and truck have extra width making it appear like a single rear-wheel pickup; however, all four massive rear tires sit underneath. The only tip-off are the two protruding fenderwells inside the truck bed. Lost bed space isn't an issue since this concept is designed for a fifth-wheel trailer. What looks like a polished billet-aluminum fifth-wheel hitch, mounted on four rugged frame mounts, could pass for a modern sculpture. Other appreciated exterior details are the four, giant, chromed tow hooks that look well suited for military use.