Ford Puts Next-Gen Super Duty Through Deep Freeze

McKinleyClimaticLab_AB_17 II

By Aaron Bragman

Four 2017 Ford Super Duty pickup trucks sat idling in the icy chill, diesel engines ticking over quietly. Frost covered their windows, grille covers and much of the black camouflage cladding that covers their all-new bodywork. A few frozen, slippery steps away sat three more Fords soaking in the insanely cold subzero temperatures, and behind them were a few dozen 2017 and 2018 prototypes, hidden from the prying eyes of the media.

The thermometer read minus 22 degrees, but this wasn't the wintery depths of Minnesota or Siberia, nor were we even outdoors. Believe it or not, this was August in the Florida Panhandle, and just a few feet outside the thick airlock doors to this cavernous, 55,000-square-foot aircraft-hangar-sized room, it was 98 degrees with an equal level of humidity.

I was visiting the McKinley Climatic Laboratory, the biggest climate-testing complex in the world, nestled safely on the Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Fla. Ford invited me here to see just how its fuel engineering development group works to ensure that your new gasoline or diesel pickup will fire right up if you live where such temperatures are a regular occurrence in the winter months. The four prototype Super Duty pickups on hand were a regular cab, a crew cab and two chassis cabs, all clad in black vinyl inside and out to prevent us from getting a good look at what they're going to look like when they're unveiled next year.

The lab is fascinating. Built in the 1940s, it has five climate chambers that can be roasted at more than 165 degrees; cooled down to minus 85 degrees; filled with fog, rain, a couple feet of snow, salt spray or anything in between. It can simulate just about any climate condition on the planet, and nearly overnight can be made to simulate a different one.

"When you compare what it would cost a company like Ford to send vehicles and engineers all over the world over the course of a year to test all possible conditions versus what it costs to just rent our place for a few weeks, the advantages are clear," said Dwayne Bell, the longtime chief of the McKinley Climatic Lab.

Ford brings down more than 70 vehicles for a three-week period, packs them all into the big chamber, and tests cold starts and fuel flows from minus 40 to 20 degrees. The lab's work is about 50 percent testing for the U.S. Department of Defense, everything from airplanes to tanks to helicopters, and 50 percent commercial customers like Ford for cars or General Electric for jet engines. It's popular, too — the MCL runs 24/7 and is booked nearly solid for the next three years.

Ford brings more than 50 engineers to Fort Walton Beach from all over the world for the three weeks that it has the chamber every summer. It's used primarily by the gasoline and diesel fuel development groups, testing 13 formulations of gasoline alone for cold-start performance. While components can certainly fail at such extremely low temperatures and harsh duty cycles, Ford learns more about controlling fuel volatility from its time in the chambers than component longevity.

"The main thing we learn is about the best way of controlling things," said Rich Shimon, a Ford powertrain calibration expert.

Check out the gallery of photos below for more chilly August photos of the Florida Panhandle. photos by Aaron Bragman


McKinleyClimaticLab_AB_22 II

McKinleyClimaticLab_AB_16 II

McKinleyClimaticLab_AB_20 II

McKinleyClimaticLab_AB_21 II

McKinleyClimaticLab_AB_09 II

McKinleyClimaticLab_AB_10 II

Super Duty Freeze 5 II

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McKinleyClimaticLab_AB_15 II

McKinleyClimaticLab_AB_27 II

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McKinleyClimaticLab_AB_28 II

McKinleyClimaticLab_AB_13 II



The Superduty is the one truck that has suffered zero reliability issues. I had a Superduty and never has been in the shop a single day, not even for an oil change. At 400,000 kilometers, the oil still looks brand new

don't remind me of what is coming in 3 months! :(

Instead of renting this expensive warehouse, why not just hire Mr. Freeze?

cool to see. Ford is really good at showcasing their extreme testing practices. Give the consumer a real boost of confidence. I don't get why the other manufacturers don't show us their testing procedures?

Our tax money at work... wonder if they have fans for the wind chill effect ?

@dave, they do have fans. TFl has the video up on this story.

-30°C? Sounds very Canadian.

Not good enough--they should do real world testing in a cold climate, not a simulation.

Here is an anecdotal reason that actually applies to Ford.

My brother was stationed in Texas and got orders to JBER in Alaska--and for whatever reason, had to drive up there in the dead of winter. I have had a Subaru for my daily for quite awhile and so does he. I told him to get real snow tires and a block heater before he went.

On the trip up there, a number of people caravanned just in case something when wrong. There was a guy with a brand new Ford--I don't recall the make. That had to pay huge $ to get a tow truck in the middle of nowhere since (if I recall) the air intake box was poorly designed and as it was driving, snow/ice was getting built up and caused some sort of failure.

In short, just sticking vehicles in a big room that is cold doesn't mean squat compared to the real world... .

They do both. Duh. Ram also does it.

Two quick points. The lab earns money from commercial testing. Not every test can be done real world. That's not how the real world works. Companies from all over the world are using it and you have to reserve time a year in advance. So like Hemi said you have to do both. Here is an article from 2004 that discusses Ford and Goodyear using the facilities for the first time...

From the 04 NYT article:
Researchers say laboratories like Eglin's offer many advantages over testing outdoors, including the consistency and repeatability of weather conditions, a necessity for scientifically valid results. Also, it is cheaper to rent the Eglin facility, even at $15,000 to $30,000 a day, than to ship cars to distant destinations like New Zealand, Mr. Doyle said.

I do hope the technicians and engineers performing the testing remove the black camouflage cladding.

The cladding would significantly impact any of the test results, particularly if the engines are operating.

The camouflage would act as insulation retaining the heat within the vehicle.

Scott N,
This article is just that, an article or media hype.

Ford did use the same tact with the new aluminium F-150, look at the outcome.

The outcome was Ford generate much false anticipation on how well the new aluminium F-150 would perform.

In the end the consumer realised the new aluminium F-150 couldn't deliver on Ford's hype, ie, FE, suspension dynamics and refinement, etc.

You would think Ford would of learnt it's lesson, but apparently not.

Good to see them testing all varieties of there vehicles in these lab situations. I remember being in Al at 30f below ambient and when I started my 7.3 and the noises the thing made were amazing.... Hard to believe that at temps that with your first breath freeze the snot in your noise.... And that diesel started.

I remote started my 6.7 psd at 20f below and it started amazingly compared to my old 7.3.... No strange noises like the older diesels. Heck my work 2009 6.7 cummins (RIP) makes some real strange noises at single digits but doesn't struggle to start. These cold weather tastings only improve a product and allow design changes and such even in the middle of summer. How anybody can be critical of this testing is just amazing.... Those are the brain dead type of people that gm panders to with there aluminum and steelhead cage commercial.

Being in Ak not al

@beebe other manufacturer's also conduct Extreme Cold Weather Testing in real environmental conditions outside and not so much in a warehouse, though this measure is also a good way to evaluate the trucks sustainability, it's also good to be outdoors pushing this measure to it's full extent under 4 feet of snow or higher along with the extreme cold also!!

I agree with Big Al from OZ.

@can crusher, seems like you are the only one. Says a lot about you.

My money says the 2017 SD takes many design cues from the current F150, both inside and out.

As for getting Mr. Freeze...I can't believe that would even be brought up. That movie shouldn't even exist. Hey, wait! That's what most of the message boards on this site need Mr. Freeze: "EVERYBODY CHILL!" :)

Someone mentioned the reliability of the SD. If you look at it, the new Powerstroke has, whether you like it or not, been very solid for Ford. And the SuperDuty is the only truck that has the ENTIRE powertrain built in-house. Ram has the Cummins engine; GM has the Allison transmission and Isuzu Duramax. Ford builds its transmission and motor.

cool to see. Ford is really good at showcasing their extreme testing practices. Give the consumer a real boost of confidence. I don't get why the other manufacturers don't show us their testing procedures?

Posted by: beebe | Aug 15, 2015 10:58:06 AM

You just don't see them on PUTC.

Guts, Glory, J2807, Best in class Ram.

The King of Beasts!

-30°C? Sounds very Canadian.

Posted by: Warazawanga | Aug 15, 2015 12:54:37 PM

Ram trucks are Canada's longest lasting trucks by a long shot.

ENTIRE powertrain built in-house. Ram has the Cummins engine; GM has the Allison transmission and Isuzu Duramax. Ford builds its transmission and motor.

Posted by: lray801 | Aug 15, 2015 6:53:24 PM

Where are the truck frames for the F 150 made?

Those are the brain dead type of people that gm panders to with there aluminum and steelhead cage commercial.

Posted by: Scott | Aug 15, 2015 2:15:35 PM

Ya, lets just ignore the fact they tested the steel vs aluminum ford f 150 and crashed them into each other and the aluminum suffered MORE damage. We would have to be brain dead right?

Stay thirsty. lol

@shemalev8, you know all about being brain dead now don't you. Stay brain dead my friend.

@Iray801, The GM Duramax is built by Duramax LTD (wholly owned by GM) in Moraine, OH. GM used to own Allison. Where is the 6.7 Powerstroke built? To the best of my knowledge, the Duramax is the only engine that is dyno tested before it is installed in a truck.

Oops! Isuzu still owns 40% of Duramax LTD. But GM did all the development on the LML and the 4.5L that never went into production due to bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy we the people paid for. GM was going all aluminum but that bankruptcy that we the people paid for stopped that. Now they make fun of FORD. Ain't that the pot calling the kettle black. I want my tax money back for saving this sorry company my Cousin died for. Never be another gm product in my driveway for sure. Just pure GARBAGE.

@ShemaleV8, Ford truck frames are made in Kentucy. Yes its a Mexican owned company but made in America. Where does your recalled and bought back rams come from??

Here is some of Fords All American Trucks doing some extreme towing. Although Ford wasn't on the American index. ;-(

Where is your ram made??

@ shemalev8, you really seem to be hooked on fire. Maybe that's why you had to finish paying for your Mustang. Insurance companies don't like to pay for fires that were helped along. What you hiding??

@Trucknuts, My Ram was assembled in Warren Michigan.

ENTIRE powertrain built in-house. Ram has the Cummins engine; GM has the Allison transmission and Isuzu Duramax. Ford builds its transmission and motor.

Posted by: lray801 | Aug 15, 2015 6:53:24 PM

The Big three have companies that supply parts.
Ford's 2015 F150 frame is built by a supplier. NOT FORD. For example. Ford and up until recently Chevy used Chrysler owned NP transfer cases and transmissions for many years as another example. The list goes on Dana axles,Borg Warner, bosh, etc... etc...

@shemalev8, what are you trying to prove. Your ram was made in America but where do they make them now?? Just a simple question you won't answer. Where do brand new ram trucks come from???? Where is fiat located? Just answer these 2 questions and quit avoiding it. Just stop your stupid crap.

Tell me hemiv8! Where do they make rams at today?? Brand new rams come from where?????

Truckcrazy I want my tax dollars back from they hunk of crap the kills people by fire know as Ford junk Motor Company!

"Of those, Ford sold the most, with $15.9 billion."

Yup Ram never catches fire eh!!

and look at this ram... doing nothing but cruise and it self combusts.. hahahahaha

HEMIV8- All manufacturers have issues with their trucks. Ram is no better then anyone else.

Oh and Truckcrazy let not forget bout the other 14 billion JUNK Ford Motor Company took!

"Ford Chief Executive Officer Alan R. Mulally also asked Congress for a “credit line” of up to $9 billion in case the economy worsened.

In other words, Ford was for government bailouts before it was against them.

Although Ford did not need money from the $80 billion bailout program, Ford did receive $5.9 billion in government loans in 2009"

Truckcrazy I want my tax dollars back from they hunk of crap the kills people by fire know as Ford junk Motor Company!

"Of those, Ford sold the most, with $15.9 billion."

Posted by: johnny doe | Aug 16, 2015 5:44:47 PM

If you read the second to last paragraph in your link Johnny you will see that it has been paid back.

Johnny doeboy, seems like you are as stupid as hemiv8. Ford didn't take the money but gm sure did. Obummer motors. Ford took money for future development just as any manufacturer can do. Ford didn't file bankruptcy and take our money like gm did. Seems like you and hemiv8 must be related as you both seem to suffer from the same form of stupidity. One day you may learn to just shut your pie hole but I doubt it. When it comes to you looks like you just can't fix stupid.

Truckcrazy You should shut your pie hole you circle j*&rking idiot , I just showed where Ford took 29.9 billion taxpayer money that they aint paid back yet if ever.

It's not GM fault the taxpayers got ripped off, its Rum dumb Obumers fault. They choose to sell GM shares at a lost! Obummer probably called your dumb a#$ up to get that idea to sell at a lose, cause your both pretty god damn retarded!

Wow, some people are truly ignorant. Since when did the federal reserve have anything to do with taxpayers? Ford paid back all loans, Gm stiffed the American taxpayer out of billions and they're still doing it today. Only a moron would defend such a crooked company.

I work on Eglin AFB and drive past the climatic chamber every day and I saw when the temps inside were in the negative temps and i said to myself I wonder what there testing now, well now I know.

Wow, some people are truly ignorant
Posted by: Tom | Aug 16, 2015 7:48:22 PM

What does that make you Tom? How is it GM's fault that the government didn't wait to sell their shares at a better price DUR TA DUR!

Don't cry Ford boys. Looks like you can sure dish it out but you can't take it. Maybe you all should learn how to shut your traps.
Been posting for 3 years and I just keep responding to ignorant comments from folks that talk out of their @$$. Mostly Ford boys trying to sell me a ford. I keep telling them I already owned one. :-( Famous for Fires.

Stay thirsty boys. Just look at who stirs it up. People who stir the $#!^ should have to lick the spoon. ;-)

Keep running that 1955 pushrod/lifter engines Chevy boys.LOL

@Chuck Taylor, What's wrong with Chevy V8's?

How dumb you are johnny doehole and shemalev8. Probably the dumbest 2 on here. Pretty sure of it. That's bad.

to say the opposite of Big al from outside the US, good job Ford, goes to show you how they do the best when it comes to testing, the SD has great track record, good job Fod again

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