The Ford Atlas concept that debuted at the Detroit auto show demonstrated the Blue Oval's vision for the next-generation F-150 pickup truck. Ford shared several early design sketches to give us a behind-the-scenes look at the concept truck's development process.
Initially, Ford had two very different ideas for the basic shape of the Atlas concept. The Bullet Train idea (pictured at top) was for a radically shaped, supremely aerodynamic truck with styling influenced by the Ford Evos concept. Like Japan's famed high-speed trains, the cab was composed of smooth curves and a dramatically swept windshield. On the other end of the scale was the Locomotive concept. Bulky, blocky, painted brown and equipped with big tow hooks, that version was rugged and utilitarian but lacked the aerodynamic chops of the Bullet Train. The Atlas concept is essentially a halfway point: efficient and smoothly contoured, but with muscular and blocky shapes.
Another design idea involved a windshield that extended onto the roof, creating a panoramic sunroof effect. As seen at right, the design would have left a central metal panel to allow for carrying heavy loads, even while keeping the dramatic styling. Despite the visual appeal, Ford eventually decided it would be more practical for the Atlas concept to offer a full-width metal roof.
Designers proposed a slide-out, lockable tray that fit between the truck's frame rails below its bed. While the sensible option would have allowed working owners to store tools, a first-aid kit, and other accoutrements, Ford decided truck buyers would be even more interested in carrying items like lumber or kayaks. So the Ford Atlas concept bowed with an electrically powered cargo cradle that allows for transporting long loads resting on the cab roof and cradle.
Knowing that customers who use their trucks for business often work before sunrise and after sunset, Ford considered installing bright spotlights to illuminate the Atlas concept's bed. Designers decided, however, that a modern truck would look more impressive if it had lights integrated into the walls of the truck bed, illuminating it from within. On the Ford Atlas concept, those lights are electric-blue.
In order to reduce drag as much as possible, which helps improve fuel economy, Ford experimented with more aerodynamic wheel designs. Early designs called for fully enclosed wheels, but while they aced wind-tunnel tests, Ford was unhappy with the appearance of the covered wheels. The Atlas concept split the difference with active alloy wheels. At low speed, shutters between the spokes open for a more stylish look, while at high speeds the shutters close to reduce drag.
The next-generation Ford F-150 pickup truck will likely adopt some elements of the Ford Atlas concept's design. Expect to see it debut next year as a 2015 model.