At January's Detroit Auto Show, Ford swiped some thunder from General Motors' unveiling of its new pickups with the Ford Atlas concept, a mockup of what a future version of the Ford F-Series could look like. Today, Ford pulled back the curtain on its thinking a bit by showing some of the ideas that went into the Atlas, including early sketches for two radically different ideas of what an American pickup should be.
The drawing above shows one early concept nicknamed "Bullet Train," which would have instantly fueled speculation that Ford was considering putting its truck line on a car-like unibody chassis, as it borrows the Aston Martin-ish grille and swept aerodynamics of every modern Ford car. On the other end of the spectrum, Ford designers imagined a boxy truck that might have once passed for a Hummer concept, which they dubbed "Locomotive," and which had far more influence on the final Atlas look:
Other rejected ideas included building a tray inside the tailgate to haul tools or a first-aid kit; solid wheel covers to improve aerodynamics and LED spotlights at the top of the cab for the bed. The most striking of the rejected designs would have made the windshield sweep up into the roof in a U-shape.
That Ford puts this much energy into truck design at all marks it as different; the new Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra hitting dealers in a few months offer many features, but a sense of style isn't one of them, while Ram and Toyota have offered variations on the same themes for years. A new F-Series pickup won't arrive until 2015 at the earliest, and Ford's previous experience with overstyling its trucks backfired among customers, but there's nothing written in stone that a pickup has to look like a silver box on wheels.