Stylists and engineers are exploring new ways to personalize pickup trucks, the best-selling type of vehicle in the U.S.
Are you sure this is a pickup?
Engineers at Rinspeed Design in Switzerland morphed a 4 4 Porsche 996 Carrera from a two-seat sports car into a sleek, four-seat pickup truck. Dubbed the Bedouin, the concept car is meant to show off the versatility of multipurpose vehicles and the imagination of Rinspeed engineers.
In its sports-car mode, the Bedouin clearly shows its Porsche 911 heritage. But those familiar with the Carrera will notice that the roof, which is made of aluminum, is a bit flatter and the rear fenders are a bit fatter. The bigger fenders make room for working air inlets that help cool the twin-turbocharged, six-cylinder Boxer engine.
The four-valve Porsche engine is modified to burn natural gas, a clean-burning fuel that consists almost entirely of methane. The 3.6-liter engine cranks out 420 hp at 6,000 rpm and 423 lb-ft of torque at 2,700 rpm. That's enough to take the 3,600-lb vehicle from 0 to 62 mph in 5.9 sec. Electronic and mechanical governors limit the top speed to 155 mph.
The transformation from sports car to truck begins at the push of a button on a remote. It starts two electric motors that turn twin jackscrews to lift the entire roof. The front part
of the roof folds, becoming the rear wall of the "cab," while the rear-roof section transforms into the truck bed. The tailgate, also electronically controlled, can be lowered to extend the bed by about 18 to a total of 72 in. According to Rinspeed, the bed can carry cargo or serve as a "modern tent." Mechanisms that raise and lower the roof are all hidden in the thicker sidewalls.
The Bedouin also carries milled, all-aluminum tailpipes on a stainless-steel exhaust system, chrome-plated LED taillights and flexible side-marking LEDs, and a prepreg composite body. The body sits about 6 in. higher than a stock Carrera, thanks to an Eibach suspension with adjustable ride height and firmness. A progressive-rate Wandfluh steering system lets drives go from full left to full right with only a half-turn of the steering wheel.
For Stage 2, the goal was to add better handling on top of styling upgrades. Here Roush leveraged its close ties to Ford, getting early looks at F-150 chassis and calling on experiences it had beefing up the SVT Lightning, a Ford concept truck based on the F-150 that made it into limited production. Roush ended up with performance-tuned suspensions for both 4 X 2 and 4 X 4 F-150s. Both suspensions lower the front end by 2 in. and the back by 3 in., giving the truck a more level stance.
Roush engineers' idea of better handling equates to a more stable ride with less lean in the turns but no loss of comfort or smoothness in the ride. "Jack Roush, the company owner, is a stickler on suspensions," says Karges. "He will not let us turn out a harsh or stiff-riding truck or car."
The fine-tuning involves new front coil springs, a larger, solid front-stabilizer bar, and specially valved shocks, along with a redesigned leaf spring in the back. The stabilizer bar cuts down on body roll while the valving, which changes the damping factor on the shocks, makes the suspension firmer for better control. The result is that the truck can handle 0.89 gs of lateral acceleration, a characteristic more common in exotic sport cars than trucks.
"The trick is getting all the components to work together," says Byunn. "You wouldn't want to change out just one, like the shocks, for example, without changing the rest to balance it. That's what tuners and aftermarket companies do. And we would never put lowering springs on a truck. They might lower the center of gravity and let the truck corner faster, but it will also degrade the ride. Unless you balance the shocks, bars, weight, springs, struts, and all the chassis, along with the tires and powertrain, you won't get a suspension that works to its maximum potential in terms of ride and handling."
Though they don't have numbers yet on how the new suspension performs, Roush engineers are confident it will meet and exceed buyer expectations. One good sign is that the 2 4 version maintains the same turning radius but was significantly faster going through the team's slalom course after the upgrade.
Stage 2 also includes a bodycolored spoiler on the rear, as well as oversized side skirts and wheel flares for more street appeal.
For real under-the-hood performance, Stage 3 bolts a supercharger onto the 5.4-liter, threevalve Triton engine. Roush engineers chose a supercharger rather than a turbocharger because it gives drivers more power and torque right off idle. There is no lag. The roots-style supercharger adds 6 psi of boost, which translates into 112 hp and 137 lb-ft of torque. This gives the vehicle a total of 412 hp and 502 lb-ft of torque. And if you opt for the intercooled supercharger (about $700 more), you get 33 hp more. In race tests, the Stage 3 F-150 outran the latest version of the SVT Lightning, despite being 800 lb heavier. OEM-level calibration and skills let Roush blend boost, fuel, and spark to get performance gains without leaving the drivetrain susceptible to damage.
According to Roush, adding the supercharger does not change mileage figures, if you don't change your driving habits. "Unfortunately," quips Clark, "I don't think we've ever found anyone who doesn't get a heavier foot when they get the blower."