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|Spied: 2012 Ford Mid-sized Pickup|
|Written by Mark Fletcher|
|Wednesday, 26 August 2009 11:33|
It pays to have your camera at the ready and your SD card empty. While driving from Phoenix to Kingman, Arizona, Automotive Traveler magazine contributor Mark Fletcher spied a group of vehicles that stood out in the crowd. Did Mark snap photos of a new, mid-sized Ford pickup?
The two odd looking vehicles, absent of all vehicle nomenclature but wearing Michigan manufacturer license plates were heading north towards Las Vegas. They were being led by an F-350 SD with a large fuel tank in the back--apparently diesel--and a U-Haul rental trailer in tow, the U-Haul typical for future vehicles testing. Both 4-door pickups were disguised with 3 to 4-inch raw sheet metal extensions above the crown of each front fender. They also had A-pillar disguises that mated to the hood. I believe the stock-looking hood was higher then normal in order to accommodate the diesel engine being tested. The size of the single tail pipe would represent a 4- or 6-cylinder configuration, but the way the caravan took the mountainous route at a consistent 75 miles per hour the latter was most probable. No black soot was visible at any time.
I spoke to the drivers at a quick stop in Wikiup, Arizona and discovered the drivers of both were engineers doing calibration testing. The interiors on both vehicles were similar other than one being right-hand drive, signifying that the vehicle, whatever it was, was designed for markets outside North America. Both had stock-looking gauges with radio pods on a naked skeleton. Both steering wheels had tape over the oval center insignia. Additional aftermarket gauges were present as were ATK instrumentation and Panasonic CF-29 Toughbooks hooked up thru the vehicle bus for data acquisition and calibration adjustments on the fly. (How do I know this? I work for Panasonic in the Toughbook division.) Add in a few communication radios and the cockpit was semi crowded.
The rear fender flares at first appeared to be unfinished and possibly add on disguises but on closer inspection they matched the inner fender openings. I suspect that this came from another vehicle and wasn't representative of what would be used for the final production version as the tailgate was not as wide as the cab and the cab's rear window was higher than Fords current offering, giving it almost a South American utilitarian look. Even the rear tailgate handle differed between the two vehicles as did the tow hitch on the right-hand-drive unit. What was interesting is that when I caught up with the engineers they made little effort to dispel my notion that it was diesel-powered, something especially important for vehicles sold outside North America.
What was I looking at? As the vehicle appeared visually bigger than Ford's current, long-in-the-tooth Ranger, either the Ranger is about to grow up in its next version, due in 2012, or Ford is coming up with a true mid-sized competitor to Dodge's Dakota and Toyota's Tacoma. What do you think? Judging by what has been posted elsewhere on the web, it's almost certainly the crew cab version of a global mid-sized pickup, and rather than calling it a Ranger, perhaps Ford will bring back the F-100 name? The Ranger production is scheduled to end sometime in 2011; expect to see this truck at some point in the second half of 2011 as an early 2012 model.