Hello once again Everyone.
I was going to try posting this in the DCN Truck Stop Group.
Yet I just couldn’t seem to get any of the images to show up.
So I’m posting this thread in here … then everyone who wishes to
can see it. This was truly an amazing piece of automotive engineering.
On Florida's Sunshine State Parkway in November 1965,
(I was just 10 years old) my dad and I saw this rig up close.
To this day, no other truck has ever compared. Well … not yet.
An experimental concept ... the likes of which hasn't been seen since.
These are rare pics of its first prototype cab (no upper grill-opening).
The twin-trailers shown here were also the project's test-run units.
Here is the test-run transport ... shown here as it left Ford's
research facility, on its way to an early turnpike trail-run.
The big day of its introduction to Ford's VIPs, and to the press.
Here it is making its public debut, at the 1964
New York World's Fair, just prior to its second trial-run.
Here are some press-release photos ... check out the interior.
By 1964, approximately half the 44,000-mile Interstate Highway System
within the United States was open for use. Nearing completion decades later,
it would link nearly all American cities boasting a population of 60,000 or more.
In response, the U.S. Department of Commerce recommended the easing of
length and load restrictions for commercial transporters. That decision motivated
truck manufacturers to envision a suitable vehicle for the on-coming '70s, and beyond.
Ford Motor Co.’s answer was the show-stopping, breath-taking Gas Turbine prototype.
A giant long-distance, super-transport unveiled in 1964, the truck was also affectionately
dubbed 'Big Red', owing to its monstrous size and the color that accented the front rig,
as well as its matching twin custom-built trailers.
Among Ford engineers and designers, 'Big Red' was more than just a wild daydream,
they deemed it to be a 'working fully operational prediction' of things to possibly come.
From the leading edge of the front rig, to the rear tip of the second trailer, the combined
length of this dream hauler measured 92 feet. It caused a sensation wherever it traveled.
Some states even required special permits before 'Big Red' could drive through, due to
possible low-ceiling-clearance issues, requiring Ford to build the fiberglass cab in
two separate sections over a super-strength steel and alloy substructure.
A 600-hp turbine power-plant propelled 'Big Red', offering a 600-mile cruising range from its
280-gallon fuel capacity. At full capacity, the engine could pull 180,000 pounds, which was the
combined weight of tractor, trailers and cargo. These capacities were amazing for their era.
With virtually two engines in one, 'Big Red' was able to operate with only half the
power-plant running. Then when called upon, the driver could direct 80 horses for
refrigeration, cabin-comfort, or other requirements. At the push of a reset button,
the full 600 hp would be available, directed to wherever the drive system required it.
Test drivers reported that the turbine power-plant was completely noiseless and produced an
odorless, non-toxic exhaust, the hot air produced being safely vented 14 feet above traffic.
Drivers also commented upon the ultra-smooth ride, even cruising between 70 and 80 mph.
This was also due to the full air-bag suspension and telescopic shocks at all wheel locations.
Guaranteeing that the three redundant brake systems (employed to reign in this behemoth)
would be fail safe, the brakes would pulse-lock automatically if the air pressure dropped to
below minimal safe levels. This advanced system preceded anti-lock developments.
To enter the two-man cabin some 13-feet above traffic, the driver pressed a switch on the cab
at ground level. This simultaneously opened the air cylinder-operated door, and lowered the
electric motor-driven retractable ladder, thus enabling the drivers to reach the colossal cockpit.
Once inside, the ladder would then stow away automatically beneath the floor, the door would
close and the interior would be lightly pressurized, then lit with soft-glow lighting.
With its 6-foot-6-inch-high ceiling, the co-driver could walk around the cabin and make use
of the built-in refrigerator, electric oven, washstand, three spigots (all together, dubbed the
'crew-support-station'). There was also a clever disappearing private toilet enclosure,
which featured its own innovative electronic waste-incinerator.
Placed in front of the driver was the single pedestal-based dashboard and its steering wheel,
as well as its eight instrument gauges. Housed above the pilot’s panoramic tinted windshield
were six small tachometers to monitor the turbine. Large foot-control pedals were mounted
flush with the floor, and the driver had the option to shift manually with column-mounted
controls, or let the Allison eight-speed gearbox work automatically. Ford management assured
that all driver controls were somewhat similar to other conventional trucks. Enough that this
would enable familiarity with the operation of 'Big Red', easily mastered by any big-rig driver.
Positioned above the co-driver's immense front windshield was a television set and separate
climate-control operations for that side of the cabin. Designed not to distract attention, the
small television had power-adjustable vertical slats blocking the driver’s view of the screen.
It was envisioned many years ago that sleek giants like 'Big Red' could travel day and night,
rarely leaving the interstate thruways, except for driver changes, releasing trailers, or fueling
at service-terminals placed within the right-of-way, or near the thruway interchanges. Each
trailer could then be connected to smaller rigs that would more easily negotiate local streets.
The Gas Turbine itself would be back on the thruways, continuing on its high-speed journey.
After its debut in 1964, 'Big Red' made several cross-country runs. This proved that it had
cost-efficiency surpassing diesel operation. Though nothing like it was ever mass-produced,
this 'truck-of-tomorrow' gave Ford the opportunity to demonstrate their spirit of progress.
What a daring visionary spirit it was, as communicated by this stunning super-transport.
Original text-edit appearing in Future-Times documentary
on behalf of FORD Motor Company Engineering Group.
Text re-edited and re-formatted by Jeffrey A. Roberts,
... nimbusGLOW Creations ...
All images courtesy of FORD Motor Company Archives.