Ford reenters tilt-cab market

Toby Keith says hello.

Well… He said, “Howdy,” to me and shook my hand. And since I was attending the Ford press conference at the Mid-America Truck Show in Louisville when I met him, I think we can safely assume that his greeting was intended for all Equipment World readers out there. (And yes, the rumors you’ve heard are true: Toby’s a really big guy.)

Ford flew the country superstar in for a few hours to help introduce the company’s new LCF tilt-cab commercial truck line to the automotive press and Ford dealers from around the country. The LCF (which stands for “Low Cab Forward”) is designated a 2006 model, and marks Ford’s reentry into the tilt-cab truck market since it sold its commercial trucks division to Freightliner in 1998 (that line of trucks became the basis for DaimlerChrysler’s Sterling brand). A non-compete agreement signed as part of the Freightliner sale has expired, and Ford is once again free to sell commercial-grade trucks in North America. The new LCF was developed as part of Ford’s Blue Diamond joint venture with International, which will market it as the CF Series medium-duty truck.

“The low cab forward segment is one of the fastest growing niches in the commercial industry, with sales up almost 50 percent in the last decade,” notes Joe Castelli, Ford Division commercial truck director. “With its ‘Built Ford Tough’ heritage, the LCF is designed to answer an unmet customer need with a viable, new alternative in what for Ford is a highly incremental market segment.”

The Ford LCF is an all-new vocational truck. It will go into production next year as a 2006 model.

Power Stroke diesel paired with five-speed automatic transmission
The new trucks will go on sale in early 2005. Ford will begin taking orders later this year. The LCF will be offered in Class 4 and Class 5 configurations, with gross vehicle weight ratings of 16,000, 17,999 and 19,500 pounds. “The Ford LCF is designed for and built in North America,” says Frank Davis, vehicle program director, pickup trucks and commercial vehicles. “It offers exceptional maneuverability through dense traffic and the agility to park and load in confined areas. That gives it a competitive advantage over other tilt cabs sold here, but designed for Asian markets.”

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Those advantages start with the engine, Ford says. A 4.5-liter Power Stroke V-6 diesel is the standard engine for both the Class 4 and 5 versions. It delivers 200 horsepower at 3,000 rpm and 440 foot-pounds of torque at 1,850 rpm. Ford says this Power Stroke engine is more powerful than its nearest competitor and is the only V-6 diesel engine currently offered in the Class 4 and 5 tilt cab market.

The Power Stroke engine is mated to Ford’s proven TorqShift five-speed electronic automatic transmission. This engine debuted in 2003 on F-250 through F-550 Super Duty diesel trucks and features diesel-optimized gear ratios, higher capacity pumps for improved cooling, robust components for severe applications and simplified shift controls. The TorqShift is designed to allow lower engine idle and torque converter lockup speeds for improved fuel economy.

The standard powertrain also features a Tow-Haul mode to assist drivers towing loads up and down steep grades. Going uphill, the powertrain controller automatically adjusts the transmission’s shift points to keep the engine in its maximum power zone without gear hunting. Going downhill, a tap on the brakes automatically downshifts the transmission to help slow the truck. An optional power take-off can be spec’d to run specialized equipment.

Wide range of frame and axle options doesn’t compromise maneuverability
Ford is also claiming best-in-class maneuverability for the LCF, even though the shortest LCF wheelbase is 4 inches longer than its leading competitor’s. The truck’s chassis is based on Ford’s proven Super Duty design and features strong cross-members joined by Huck bolts for added integrity and longevity. According to Ford, this is the strongest tilt-cab frame currently available with a resisting bending movement (a key strength indicator) metric of 416,000 pounds.

The LCF will be offered with four axle-to-frame choices, five cab-to-axle options and five different wheelbase lengths. This range of configurations will accommodate many vocational second-unit bodies, including multi-length van and dump truck units, stake trucks and utility vehicles. In addition, the LCF features a U.S. industry standard frame width of 34 inches to better accommodate a wide range of vocation bodies.

To further reduce downtime, Ford will outfit the LCF with a choice of fuel tank capacities, depending on wheelbase and configuration. These options will include a standard 40-gallon tank located at the rear of the axle and between the frame rails, an optional 35-gallon, side-mounted tank or dual side tanks with a capacity of 70 gallons.