You say the Ford Excursion and Hummer H1 are too small? The heavy-truck folks at International may soon have just the thing. The company made two debuts at the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) show, one of which was this medium-duty truck concept, trimmed out as the SmarTruck III.

Dressed in military garb, complete with a hydraulic-hybrid drivetrain, night vision, and Star Wars-grade weaponry, the SmarTruck III is the third military variant sponsored by the National Automotive Center (NAC), which is the Army's official link to companies like Ford, GM, and high-tech suppliers of top-secret military technology. The SmarTruck I, introduced three years ago, was a Ford Super Duty designed to explore light-duty troop support. SmarTruck II was based on the Chevy Silverado HD platform, centering on communication, microwave technology, and laser systems. Both were modestly modified platforms from existing civilian vehicles.

Now comes the SmarTruck III, based on a brand-new International platform, specifically designed to handle heavier-duty responsibilities. In addition to the SmarTruck III, International also took the opportunity at the SAE show to promote its commercial variant of the SmarTruck III--a monster-tough, open-fendered, big-shouldered crew-cab pickup.

The original idea for the SmarTruck III was to design a vehicle that meets military specifications, with development costs that could be spread over a high-volume vehicle sold to commercial and (possibly) retail customers through International's 1000 dealers. The concept truck places the mass-produced cab (two-door, four-door, and sleeper) from a Class-5/6 medium-duty chassis on a new and much lower-slung frame tailored to the 16,000-pound GVWR class. Lowering the truck allows it to be carried aboard military transport planes, and there are plans to offer the chassis with a heavy-duty four-wheel-drive system. We'd expect this platform could be popular with a few motorhome manufacturers as well.

Power comes from a new 4.5-liter V-6 24-valve common-rail diesel with twin sequential turbochargers, making 230 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. (This engine was originally planned for several Ford pickups, but was reconsidered last year when cost overruns became a significant issue.) International's Power Stroke V-8 turbo-diesel (325 horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque), currently an option in Ford Super Duty pickups, could also be available at a later date. In addition, an air suspension that can kneel three inches from its standard right height or be lifted four inches (from the standard ride height) to ensure better off-road capability (on exceptionally wide trails) will also be available, but we're pretty sure it won't be able to go where a Hummer H1 with gear-reduction hubs, central tire inflation, and ultra-high ground clearance can go.

As to physical size, when put side by side, the commercial variant of the SmarTruck III clearly stands head and shoulders above the biggest (and heaviest) Hummer out there. However, where the International concept truck trumps the Hummer is in cost (pegged in the mid-$60,000 range to start) and payload (we're guessing somewhere in the three- to four-ton range)--two very important categories. We expect, even when fully armored, this chassis will carry many troops, boxes of ammo, and high-tech cargo.

To date, agencies like the Border Patrol, Forest Service, and Homeland Security are interested. And as popular as these might be with the work-truck crowd, it's our guess more high-profile truck enthusiasts (like the "Governator") might show particular interest in these vehicles, too. We'll take ours in camo.

Specifications
International
(commercial variant)
General
Body styleCrew cab
EPA size classMedium-duty
Drivetrain layout Front engine, 4WD
Powertrain
Engine type VT245 V-6, cast-iron block, aluminum heads
Displacement, ci/L 262.3/4.5
Valve gear OHV, 4 valves/cyl
Fuel induction High-pressure SFI
SAE horsepower 230
SAE torque 540
Transmission type 5R110
Transfer case 2-speed
Recommended fuel Diesel #2
Dimensions/Capacities
Wheelbase, in 163.0
Length, in 246.2
Width, in 92.5
Height, L/M/H, in 79/83/88
Track, f/r, in 80/80
Ground clearance, L/M/H, in 6/10/15
Payload capacity, lb 7000
GVWR, lb 16,000
GCWR, lb 22,000
Towing capacity, lb 10,000
Chassis
Suspension, Front Ifs, Air Ride
Suspension, Rear Irs, Air Ride
Wheels9x20 Cast Aluminum
Tires 305r70/19.5
Fuel Economy, City/Hwy10/14 (Est)
Price
Base Price$60,000 (Est)


The commercial variant of the SmarTruck III could come in several body styles to meet the needs of the professional long-hauler and personal big-truck lover. For those looking for the ultimate fifth-wheel workhorse (certainly a few NASCAR teams are going love this), or just the biggest, baddest player on the block (several blocks?), International wants the business.

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