From Steel to Aluminum
Aluminum was not the first choice for Henry Ford, designing his first car in 1896. Several years later his Model T, affectionately referred to as Tin Lizzy, was fashioned from vanadium alloy steel, offering superior strength. This first Ford vehicle was self-starting, much like its inventor. Ford’s first truck followed in 1917, based off the Model T and named the Ford Model TT. The truck had a cargo capacity of one ton, which was no small feat for that era.
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right. – Henry Ford
The Ford F Series trucks were introduced in 1948, and the company reveled in its success for many years. Today’s Ford F-150 allows for as much as 3,270 pounds of maximum payload with the Heavy-Duty Payload Package. As an innovative company, Ford debuted the aluminum body F-150 to a skeptical public, inviting claims from rival manufacturers that it was no longer a serious contender in the pickup market, as real trucks have steel beds.
F-150 owners have always considered their vehicles real trucks. And the introduction of aluminum offered increased benefits: https://duramagbodies.com/aluminum-revolution
- Less fuel consumption (better gas mileage through 45-50% lower weight bodies)
- Fewer miles driven (impacts gas and labor) through higher payloads
- Less annual maintenance – No rust or repaint
- Less wear and tear on the truck chassis by being 45-50% lighter than steel bodies
- Higher truck resale value. Rusty steel bodies actually reduce resale value
- Aluminum bodies almost always carry longer warranties
Don’t find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain. – Henry Ford
Aluminum – From Cans To Cars
Aluminum beer cans originated in 1959. And perhaps it was at a Ford company picnic that the idea of using it for the F-150 body bubbled up. When the decision was made, the company was sure that it would not compromise their foundation for available best-in-class payload. They knew that the Ford F-150 would maintain the ability to haul what its owner needed to for work or play.
By using only high-strength, military-grade aluminum in the body and high-strength steel in the frame, the F-150 would continue to be rated the number one pickup truck.
Ford officials said that, from the earliest meetings around the F-150’s aluminum-heavy redesign, they focused on engineering it to be as repair-friendly as possible. The front apron tubes, for example, were pulled out farther for easier access. Repairing them on the previous-generation F-150 involved a time-consuming teardown of the vehicle’s A-pillar and removal of the instrument panel. And, they made the truck more modular. So if you bash the front-right corner of your new F-150 into a concrete pole in a parking garage, you might be able to replace just the affected section, rather than the whole front fender.
One Expert Carries Weight
Consumer Reports finds that the price to fix the aluminum body of a new F-150 pickup is similar to what it costs to repair the steel-bodied version, providing you take your truck to a shop like Keri Coach Works, certified by Ford in aluminum repair.
If you have a little dent, pretty much any body shop can bang it out, fill it with Bondo and repaint it for you. But when you have to replace full panels, welding aluminum is a lot different than welding steel. Maintaining an investment in your F-150 requires taking it to a certified body shop, like Keri Coach Works, if you need repairs.
Becoming A Certified Repair Shop is an Investment in the Customer
To weld aluminum, Keri Coach Works needed to purchase expensive, new equipment and get special training to use it. This equipment costs between $30,000 and $50,000, with some of the expense offset by a Ford rebate of roughly $10,000.
To earn Ford Certification, Keri Coach Works new equipment included:
- A rubberized curtain to separate aluminum repairs from work on steel vehicles because aluminum dust can ignite and explode if cross-contaminated with steel dust
- A dedicated aluminum metal inert gas welding system
- Hand and power tools designed specifically to work with aluminum
- Dent extraction system contain a dedicated aluminum stud welder, heat gun, pyrometer and hammers
- Dedicated aluminum wet-mix air filtration system
Ford also offered training to use this new equipment. And they lowered the price of the aluminum body parts, making many of them less expensive than comparable steel parts.
Ford’s collaboration with repair shops, like Keri Coach Works, was a proactive approach to ensure repair costs for the F-150 did not increase due to using aluminum. When, as an F-150 owner you choose Keri Coach Works for expert repair, you can sing along with Glen as you breeze down the open road.
I Love My Truck: Glen Campbell