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Old 01-06-2003, 08:37   #1 (permalink)
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Ford's concept cars cater to three segments

Vehicles have motor heads, families, environment in mind

By Mark Truby / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- High-horsepower performance cars are hot again. Versatile family haulers have never really gone out of style. And environmentally friendly vehicles represent the future.

These automotive axioms guided Ford Motor Co.'s high-volume Ford brand in developing three concept vehicles for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Chairman Bill Ford Jr. unveiled them Sunday at Cobo Hall along with a film marking 100 years of the company's history.

For motor heads, Ford offers the 427, a slab-sided black and chrome machine that conjures images of the bad-boy American sedans of the 1960s. Ford made a high-performance sedan called the 427 back then. The new 427 unbashedly revels in Rat Pack-esqe nostalgia, with a 7.0-liter, 590-horsepower engine and a muscular grille.

"It's the kind of car that, when you drive it, makes it look like you are doing something wrong," said Ford design chief J Mays.

For the more pragmatic, family-oriented buyer, the company designed the Freestyle FX concept, which Bill Ford Jr. described as a "purpose-built crossover vehicle."

The show car is similar to the Freestyle sport wagon Ford will start selling in 2004.

The Freestyle FX show car uses a novel retractable rear cover to convert from a six-passenger wagon to utility vehicle with a small pickup bed.

"The Freestyle FX is a complete surprise box when you open it up," said Chris Theodore, Ford's head of engineering.

Ford's most ambitious and forward-thinking concept, the Model U, is packed with an array of future technologies. Ford hopes the Model U will lend credibility to its effort to become a more environmentally and socially responsible automaker, and that the concept will catch on. Predicted Bill Ford Jr., "The Model U will be the next Model T."

A small, boxy utility vehicle, the Model U is powered by a supercharged hydrogen internal combustion engine and a hybrid electric transmission. Ford used natural fibers to build the side panels. The cloth seats are upholstered with recyclable fibers. The Model U's canvas roof and carpet mats are made from materials that break down to biological nutrients.

The Model U is also a test vehicle for some of Ford's best safety technologies, including speech recognition software that can limit driver distraction. The vehicle also features pre-crash sensors and advanced night vision systems.

"Emissions, safety and fuel economy, but also green materials and processes are all key questions facing the industry," said Gerhard Schmidt, Ford's head of research and advanced engineering. "We believe the Model U addresses them all."


(Pic) John T. Greilick / The Detroit News
427
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Old 01-06-2003, 08:41   #2 (permalink)
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John T. Greilick / The Detroit News

Freestyle FX
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Old 01-06-2003, 08:43   #3 (permalink)
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John T. Greilick / The Detroit News

Model U
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Old 01-06-2003, 12:24   #4 (permalink)
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427: LIVING ROOM ON WHEELS?
TCC/1-6-03

Is the 427 a muscle car or a “living room on wheels”? It’s a bit of both, according to Ford’s design chief, J Mays. It has the room and interior comfort of such Fords of the past as the old Galaxie. But under the hood, the slab-sided sedan features a 590-horsepower V-10. The 427’s hot rod-style roof is about three inches lower than that of a conventional sedan of its size, but company officials insist that it would be quite buildable. In fact, they appear to be giving it serious consideration, perhaps as an alternative to another recent Ford concept, the Forty-Nine. Even if the new concept vehicle doesn’t make it to market, “We’ll be seeing powertrains like this in the near future,” said Mays. —Paul A. Eisenstein
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Old 01-06-2003, 12:26   #5 (permalink)
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FREESTYLE GOES CROSSTRAINING
TCC/1-6-03

Think of the Freestyle FX as “sort of an automotive Swiss Army knife,” said Mays. It began life as the CrossTrainer concept unveiled in Chicago last February, and will emerge as a production vehicle in 2004. The seven-seat, three-row crossover blends car-like ride and handling with popular SUV features, such as all-wheel-drive and “command seating.” It also boasts stability control, and traction control. The back two rows will fold flat and if you need extra room for cargo, a special roof panel slides forward with just the touch of a button, turning the Freestyle into the functional equivalent of a pickup. —Paul A. Eisenstein
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Old 01-06-2003, 12:28   #6 (permalink)
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MODEL U DRAWS FROM T?
TCC/1-6-03
The Model U could be the 21st-century equivalent of the Model T, Ford officials declared. This eco-minded vehicle boasts a number of unusual and creative features, starting with the slot design that makes the Model U the functional equivalent of a plug-and-play automobile. Simply slip the seats, radio and other hardware in and out. The powertrain is an internal combustion engine running on clean-burning hydrogen gas. “Practically everything inside and out is environmentally friendly,” noted Mays. Much of the Model U, he explained, is produced from agricultural products, such as the tailgate, which is made from soybeans. Even the vehicle’s oil comes from sunflowers. The seat fabric is “recyclable infinitely,” noted Bill McDonough, an expert on sustainable manufacturing, and an adviser to Bill Ford. While a vehicle like the Model U isn’t likely to reach production in the short-term, McDonough hinted that “it’s design signals the intentions” of Ford to move towards more environmentally friendly materials and designs. —Paul A. Eisenstein
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