There was a time in this country when exploration and expansion were intimately tied to the tracks of the American railroad. Although those days are long gone, Ford's latest concept attempts to capture some of the rugged optimism, super luxury, and ultimate strength in the form of the F-250 Super Chief. Named after a famous mid-20th century passenger train that ran between Chicago and Los Angeles (sometimes called the Train of the Stars), the Super Chief is a design exercise that could hold a few hints about the next-generation Super Duty.

In an attempt to combine the legendary styling cues of the past with a host of modern technology, the Super Chief incorporates the look and feel of a classic train, while adding several other transportation-themed design cues, at the same time offering a completely unique powertrain.

The Super Chief is able to run off hydrogen, ethanol, and gasoline up to E85--called the Tri-Flex fuel system--all using a supercharged 6.8-liter SOHC 30-valve V-10. This concept's drivetrain is designed to address the question of how we move toward a hydrogen economy before we have a fully functioning infrastructure in place. Commonly acknowledged as the ultimate clean fuel of the future (emitting only water vapor from a tailpipe), hydrogen is the most abundant element on Earth and can be manufactured anywhere in the world. However, manufacturing facilities and refueling-station networks don't exist and could take, by some accounts, over 30 years to complete. This "hybrid" system (a single engine using several fuel sources at the same time) could be the interim technology we need.

The hydrogen fuel system will have its own separate storage system, consisting of the three safety-sealed high-pressure tanks with a combined capacity of 11.2 kilograms, enough for approximately a 150-mile range. Two tanks are located inside the framerails, forward of the rear axle. The third tank is located between the cab and the bed, above the framerails. The tanks add about 300 pounds to the vehicle's curb weight. Thanks to Ford's experience with flex-fuel vehicles and hydrogen-run E-450 commercial vans, the Super Chief's powertrain is completely functional, able to comfortably switch between fuel sources at the flip of a switch.

Inside, designers have taken the Super Chief in a less-obvious direction. "The Super Chief pays tribute to the bold optimism that's part of the American character," says Peter Horbury, executive director of design, Ford North America. "We've taken upscale appointments and translated them to a truck in a way that's distinctly American." The roomy interior--accomplished by removing almost two feet from the eight-foot bed and extending the cab--is paneled in American walnut, brushed aluminum, and brown leather. As if that weren't enough, the entire roof is glass with wood and leather slats, just like that of an old observation rail car. Viewed from above, the cab's flooring is identical with that in the bed--the cab floor appears to continue through to the truck box. The seats are more like lounges, rather than German-dentist-chair chic.

Outside, the Super Chief echoes aeronautical cues from the likes of a P-51 Mustang, nautical styling from elegant boats like Chris-Craft motor yachts, and its namesake, the Santa Fe Railway's Super Chief train engine.

How much of this radical design will make it into the next F-250? Our guess is very little, but the powertrain technology may be something we see sooner rather than later. If anything points in a clear direction, it'll be the interiors. Plenty of truck buyers want more luxurious interiors and amenities, and that isn't lost on truck builders. Whatever fuel prices do, or however fickle buyers' tastes evolve, there will always be people who need to tow, haul, and work. And they'll want choices. Look for more from Ford in the future as the next Super Dutys show up near the end of this year.



Ford F-250 Super Chief
General
Location of final assembly Ford Design Concept
Body style 4-door, 6-pass
EPA size class Extra large
Drivetrain layout Front engine, 4WD
Powertrain
Engine type 90° S/C V-10, iron block, alum heads
Supercharger boost (hydrogen only), psi 18.0
Bore x stroke, in 3.55 x 4.16
Displacement, ci/L 415/6.8
Valve gear SOHC, 2 valves/cyl
Hydrogen horsepower, hp @ rpm 280 @ 4250
Hydrogen torque, lb-ft @ rpm 400 @ 3250
Gasoline horsepower, hp @ rpm 310 @ 4250
Gasoline torque, lb-ft @ rpm 425 @ 3250
E85 horsepower, hp @ rpm 310 @ 4250
E85 torque, lb-ft @ rpm 425 @ 3250
Transmission type TorqShift 5-speed auto
1st 3.11:1
2nd 2.22:1
3rd 1.55:1
4th 1.00:1
5th 0.71:1
Reverse 2.88:1
Recommended fuels Hydrogen, regular; unleaded, or E85
Dimensions/Capacities
Wheelbase, in 175.0
Length, in 265.0
Width, in 92.2
Height, in 78.7
Track, f/r, in 80.0/80.0
Fuel capacity, gal 29.0
Fuel range Hydrogen, mi 150; Gasoline, mi 336; E85, mi 241
Chassis
Construction Ladder frame
Suspension, f/r IFS, twin-coil monobeam/live axle, leaf springs
Wheels 24x12.0-in alloy
Tires Goodyear custom design
Combined average fuel economy Hydrogen, miles per kg 13.6; Gasoline, mpg 12.0; E85, mpg 8.6

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