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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Fri, May 23, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


By ZORAN SEGINA It is eight-thirty in the morning. We are in Hollywood, California, in a parking lot right across the street from the Pantages Theatre. In the next couple of hours, Santa Ana winds will turn this January Monday into a seventy-five-degree summer day. We are squinting. The Capitol record building shines in the morning sun, and in the clear air Hollywood sign seems right across the street. Rick Fox of the Los Angeles Lakers just drove onto the outdoor stage a gorgeous yellow truck - a new 2004 Ford F-150. The new F-150 is a true world premiere. Ford guys tell us we are the first members of public to actually see it.

The first noticeable thing about the new truck is its much bolder, kind of in-your-face look. This look was achieved by widening the front and rear tracks more than 1.5 inches, opening the wheel wells to accommodate seventeen and even eighteen-inch wheels, and rounding the tops with protective plastic covers. In the front there is a wrap-around fascia with quad-circle-styled headlamps, a large bumper containing integrated fog lamps, two menacing tow-hooks complete the look. The truck is and significantly more appealing than the existing F-150 series. A customer can now choose different grille covers, and the one on the podium came with an H-style black plastic one which seemed more appealing that the standard mesh grille. The passenger compartment on the yellow truck has four doors. The inside is six inches longer than in the existing models. In the SuperCab configuration, that extra length means increased rear-seat comfort for three adults in the rear seat. For Regular Cab, it means a foot of secure storage space behind the seat. If you want fancy, SuperCab occupants can order rear door power windows, and even an optional power sliding rear window. Today’s customer wants to customize, and Ford is willing to help. From a basic 150 XL, the workhorse truck that gets the job done, and can be hosed-out when dirty, to the upscale Lariat. Here, you can get heated dual power leather captains chairs, brushed aluminum and steel floor shifter, wood-grain touches on the doors and instrument panel center stack and cream-colored gauges ringed in chrome to complement the chrome-ringed air registers and chrome door handles. Lariat's steering wheel has built-in controls for key audio and climate control functions. If this is not enough, go for an in-dash message center, electronic automatic temperature control and power-adjustable memory seats and pedals. You can add beige lower two-tone paint treatment, chrome bumpers and a unique grille, along with 18-inch bright aluminum wheels. F-150 Lariat interior We were not allow to sit inside, but a good look through the wide open doors revealed a gorgeous two-tone leather interior of black and brushed aluminum. Luxury leather seats, round vent openings, big steel and chrome shifter on a center console. A floor-mounted shifter, finally. The traditionalist types can still get one mounted next to a steering wheel. Designers created three different instrument cluster designs, which combine with other elements to give each series a distinctive look. For example, the FX4 cluster evokes images of classic aviation while the Lariat features that match other chrome interior elements, including the door handles.

The new F-150 has a modular overhead rail system that allows owners to customize interior storage options to suit their individual needs. The brushed aluminum rail system is integrated into the headliner and extends from behind the rearview mirror to behind the second row of seats. The forward end of the rail features a dome light console and a large storage bin module. The system, with integral power supply, allows owners to easily snap in additional modules, such as first aid kits, toolboxes, flashlights and two-way radio holders as they become available from Ford or the aftermarket. On XLT, FX4 and Lariat SuperCrew one can get a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. Behind the four doors there is a cargo box that comes in three box lengths - from five and a half to eight feet. The sidewalls are two inches higher, and the cargo space has more eyelets for hooks than a fishing boat. A tailgate is sturdy, but owing to a new standard Tailgate Assist feature - a spring system inside the latch - can be opened and closed without effort. At F-150's core is a boxed ladder frame with hydroformed front rails. Critical cross members are welded to the rails with a through-rail joint to prevent localized flex. Wide-footprint brackets attach the suspension, body and powertrain to the frame to maximize the strength of the attachment point. Ford says that the new body structure is improved by more than seventy five percent and works with the stiffer frame to ward off squeaks and rattles. A front suspension system uses coil-on-shock, long-spindle, double wishbone front suspension with cast aluminum lower control arms to reduce unsprung weight. Engineers added double ball-type joints instead of rubber bushings in the stabilizer bar system. The front shock absorbers are mounted inside the springs, allowing four-wheel-drive models to use coil springs instead of the traditional torsion bars. This design also moves the shock absorber closer to the wheel, which allows for more precise shock tuning. The truck still comes with rear leaf springs, but on the new model they are now three inches wide to help reduce sway during cornering and improve towing stability. Ford engineers placed the rear shock absorbers outside the frame rails. This should improve body lean and provide better control of axle skipping when the road surface turns into a washboard.

The recirculating-ball steering system used on the current F-150s was ditched in favor of a rack-and-pinion. The truck can be stopped by 13 inch-twin-piston caliper discs in the front and, now standard on all models, 13.7-inch single-piston rear disc brakes. The new F-150 offers two engine choices, a 4.6-liter or 5.4-liter, Triton V-8. The smaller engine gets 231 horsepower at 4,750 rpm and 293 foot-pounds of torque at 3,500 rpm. Ninety percent of this torque is available at 2,000 rpm for towing. Those power-hungry types will choose 5.4-liter Triton pumping 300 horsepower at 5,000 rpm and 365 foot-pounds of torque at 3,750 rpm. The new engine has aluminum cylinder head ö with two intake valves and one exhaust valve per cylinder. The transfer of power should be handled through a new 4R75E four-speed automatic transmission, which, Ford says, has been upgraded to handle the torque of the 5.4-liter engine. If this proves to be correct, Ford will have eliminated what has been generally known as the weakest link in the F-series powertrain. The maximum standard tow rating is 8,300 pounds, properly equipped, and the maximum payload capacity is 2,000 pounds. The optional Payload Group upgrades the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating to 8,200 pounds, raises the payload capacity to 2,900 pounds and the towing capacity to 8,800 pounds. Presentation is nearly over. Rick Fox has to go to practice, and wants to know whether he can take the truck. He is told he’ll get one once it gets into production. As Rick leaves the stage his shirt is ruffled by the wind. It is getting warmer. We are ready to leave. Meanwhile, two thousand miles east, in Detroit, it is thirty-six degrees Fahrenheit outside the pavilions housing the North American International Auto Show. There will be no outdoor presentations because no PR specialist would ever allow a Pistons player to stand for quarter of an hour in Detroit in January dressed only in shirt and slacks. They will have to unveil the new F-150 indoors. Later. When it comes to world premieres, nobody beats Hollywood.

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